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County looks to appoint Jane Klekamp as interim administrator as search for O'Malley's successor begins

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As La Crosse County begins the search for its next administrator, board members have tapped associate administrator Jane Klekamp to serve as interim leader.

The Executive Committee approved the appointment of Klekamp at its meeting Wednesday morning. The appointment will need to be approved by the full La Crosse County Board next week.

Jane Klekamp

Jane Klekamp

Current La Crosse County administrator Steve O’Malley publicly announced his plans to retire earlier this week after 19 years. He plans to work full time through the end of May, and officially retire sometime in August.

Klekamp has served as the county’s associate administrator since 2015. Prior to that she was the manager of the county’s Justice Support Services beginning in 1995.

Steve O'Malley

O’Malley

Officials said that Klekamp was up for the job, having already played the role of administrator many times when filling in for O’Malley.

“She definitely has the experience in the office to fill the position,” La Crosse County Board chair Monica Kruse said.

Supervisor Randy Erickson said, “I think we’re in good hands.”

Monica Kruse

La Crosse County Board chair Monica Kruse

If approved by the full board, Klekamp would become interim once O’Malley pumps the brakes on working full time, likely near the end of the month.

Having an interim administrator in place will allow the board a more flexible timeline to find O’Malley’s permanent successor, a process that is beginning now.

Staff will post the job description and opening and will focus on finding candidates for the position.

Randy Erickson

La Crosse County supervisor Randy Erickson

The La Crosse County Board will act as the hiring manager for the position, and the Executive Committee will be the group to recommend the candidate. The full board will need a majority vote to officially hire the selected candidate.

O’Malley served as the county’s first administrator after the role was created in place of a coordinator.

Supervisor Kevin Hoyer recommended on Wednesday that the full board reassess whether the administrator is the right position for the county.

Kevin Hoyer

Currently, the state allows counties to choose between three options for its leadership position.

An administrative coordinator — the role the county had in place prior to O’Malley — is an appointed position which has the least amount of power of the three. It plays a similar role to a county board chair, and helps coordinate county matters, but not supervise.

The position La Crosse currently employs is an administrator. This is an appointed position who has some power, including overseeing and supervising departments, county staff and the annual budget, but works alongside the board, not on top of it.

Finally, there is a county executive. This is an elected position with broad power over departments and the board, including veto power. It’s a role that can be compared to the mayor of a city in relationship to a city council, or a governor to a state legislature.

“I’m not suggesting we change,” Hoyer said. “But I’m suggesting that this is a time that we look at possible differences that would likely improve upon what we have.”

Kim Cable

Supervisor Kim Cable cautioned against changing the position.

“I think our county has come so far under the administrator role and the work of Mr. O’Malley, that to go back to a lesser role could potentially be harmful to the county,” Cable said.

County board members will get a chance to review the job description of the position. An exact timeline for filling the role has not yet been set, but is being worked on.

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