You never saw elected officials run faster from the concept of a city manager – or in this case a county manager – than the Linn County Board of Supervisors.
The board this year has been enlarged from three to five members, and the three veterans are eager to hire an executive assistant to replace Mike Goldberg, who became the county’s emergency management coordinator earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Brent Oleson and Ben Rogers, the two new supervisors, want to study the issue to see, in part, if there is a need for the job now that there are five supervisors instead of three.
At a board meeting Thursday, Oleson said all the three veterans, Lu Barron, Jim Houser and Linda Langston, wanted to do was hire a county manager -– not unlike Cedar Rapids’ city manager .
“You don’t want to call him that or pay him that,” Oleson said. But that, he said, is what you want.
Langston and Houser couldn’t have leaped to respond more quickly. There was no way, they said, they would ever consider hiring a county manager.
Langston said county government wasn’t designed for such a creature.
On Friday, Oleson said he wanted no part of a county manager either: “Quite the opposite, extremely the opposite,” he said. But he added that he feared the three veterans were “inadvertently” sliding in the direction of a county manager.
Oleson is suggesting that it might make sense to hire an individual on contract to provide strategic and legislative services and see how that works. Or maybe the supervisors don’t need anybody in that slot, he said.
Let’s take some time, Oleson said, “rather than fall into the mindset that we just hire a new person.”
Rogers also said he’d like some more time to study and discuss the matter.
The three veterans on Thursday said they’d give Oleson and Rogers until next week.
Langston said the issue was speed. She said the supervisors already had had a two-member committee look at the position. And she said there is a sense that county government is “falling behind” with the Goldberg position empty.
Houser put it this way: “I’ve been totally lost without that position being filled.” “The longer we wait, the more behind we get,” he said.
Barron called the empty slot “a key” one upon whom the county’s department heads have depended on as a go-between between themselves and the board.
In a spirited exchange, Oleson suggested that he didn’t know what the parameters of the job were, to which Houser countered that he knew the parameters well.
Oleson appears determined to have a colorful debate: “For some reason they need a wet nurse. And they’re used to that,” he said Friday.