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County narrows admin search to 2, but may consider starting over

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Winona County Administrator Finalists mugs

Michael Collard and Patry Oman

Two finalists for Winona County's administrator position will move on to a new round of interviews next month.

Questions are emerging from commissioners, however, about whether the county should complete the search -- or throw it out and take a second try at hiring a new leader.

After reviewing results of reference checks, the Winona County Board of Commissioners Tuesday decided to ask candidates Patry Oman and Michael Collard to return for interviews in January with the board and department heads. A third finalist, William Reynolds, was pulled after not receiving full support from the board.

"It’s important whoever we choose have full support of the board," commissioner Greg Olson said during the working session Tuesday. 

Commissioner Steve Jacob said he wouldn't support Reynolds -- who was fired from a previous city administrator job following concerns that he failed to properly release or respond in a timely way to requested public records, and in one case released a document regarding a harassment complaint that contained sensitive information. A judge later threw out the public-records case, and Reynolds was up-front with the board about his history.

Commissioner Marcia Ward suggested she may not support either of the two remaining candidates, though she agreed to do a second interview with both Collard and Oman. She would rather repost the position and get a new pool of candidates, she said. 

"Several candidates have good qualities but they don’t have everything I”m looking for," Ward said. "I don’t want to train anyone for the job."

Olson agreed, saying the remaining candidates didn’t give him "that wow factor," but that maybe the second round of interviews will. 

Commissioners Jim Pomeroy, Wayne Valentine, and Jacob, on the other hand, all said they believe Collard and Oman to be well-suited for the job. 

"I think we have at least two very qualified candidates here," Jacob said. "I wouldn’t look to repost." 

Part of the lack of unanimous support comes from some commissioners looking for different styles of administrators.

Ward said she is looking for someone who could "hit the ground running" and would have the experience without needing to be molded into the position. Jacob said he would prefer someone who could grow into the position and learn to work with department heads, rather than someone who has developed a set administrative style after many years of experience.

Jacob said his concern would be that kind of administrator could dominate the county and prove to be inflexible. In the months the board has been searching for a new administrator, Jacob has consistently advocated for the position to hold less authority and power and work more directly with the county board.

"I want a team player," Jacob said.

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