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Winona County plans to offer job to admin finalist

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Michael Collard is in line to become the next Winona County administrator.

The Winona County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday agreed to tentatively offer the position to Collard, provided he clears the usual paperwork and background hurdles. Most commissioners spoke highly of Collard, saying he has qualities that would benefit the county and that he answered questions well in interviews.

Commissioner Marcia Ward, though, was strongly opposed to offering him the position, saying she had concerns with how Collard left a previous job as a human resources director in Sheyboygan, Wis.

“There’s something there in his past that was not acceptable with me,” Ward said.

According to the Sheboygan Press, Collard left his position in early January 2013, with the county administrator at the time describing it as a private personnel issue. Collard was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday. The circumstances surrounding Collard’s exit are unknown, though he was hired shortly afterward by nearby Winnebago County, also as a human resources director, where he currently works.

Ward admitted during the meeting she didn’t investigate the situation other than reading news reports.

“I didn’t need to do any more research when I saw that,” Ward said. “It’s enough of a negative.”

Some commissioners seemed surprised by the information and questioned its relevance.

“So without putting any facts behind it, you’re assuming?” commissioner Steve Jacob said.

“We don’t know the circumstances,” commissioner Marie Kovecsi added.

With all commissioners but Ward supportive of Collard — commissioner Greg Olson said he was “apprehensively supportive” — the board offered the position, but said they will want to ask more questions when additional background information comes in.

Ward brought up the idea of starting the search over, which she has suggested before, but didn’t find support. Jacob said it would consume more county resources and would require a convincing reason.

“The process costs time and money to a lot of people,” Jacob said. “Unless there’s a clear reason… I don’t feel comfortable with reposting.”

Olson agreed.

“We’ve gone through a process,” Olson said. “(Collard has) scored well in the process. He’s answered all our questions, has come out favorable.”

Comments from commissioners were otherwise positive. Olson said he initially had a few concerns, but after chatting with Collard in a private conversation he was “comfortable” with making the offer. Commissioner Jim Pomeroy said he was supportive. Jacob said he was “enthusiastic about the candidate” and thought he would be a “great fit.” Kovecsi said Collard has qualities she felt were important and helpful for the county.

“I would support him,” Kovecsi said. “His answers were direct, very thorough, and what we were looking for.”

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of the story stated the county had offered the position to Collard. The county board agreed Wednesday to offer the position, but as of Thursday had not formally done so yet.

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