Op/Ed by Tom Davis: Leading by Example

Regarding the county budget, it seems everyone is in an all-fired hurry to move forward before learning from past mistakes. But without stopping to contemplate those lessons, our economic future holds no better outlook than our past. We all know this, yet there still appears to be no appetite for introspection. So here’s what needs to be done:  

After six years of upside down budgets, epic fights between departments and a staff that appears to be on the verge of mutiny, Mason County needs to consider hiring a County Administrator. Candidates for the position should come by recommendation from a reputable head-hunter firm and not affiliated with anyone or any agency in Mason County.

The purpose of this suggestion is to bring fresh eyes, ideas and relationships to what has become an untenable budget process. If the county is ever to find its way out of the conflicting tangle of management styles and ideas it will need to bring in a professional with a broad range of operational experience in the various departments he or she will oversee.

But such people do not come cheap, and to offset the cost I am suggesting each Commissioner reduce his or her salary by 20%. This is reasonable because time necessary to perform the mandated duties of the job will be greatly reduced with an Administrator on board. And speaking of time, the time to start doing commissioner salary reductions is now. Here’s how and why:

Commissioners need to adopt a resolution that freezes the salary of incoming Commissioners at 20% below the 2018 budgeted level of $82,366. This is the ideal time to do this because, while Commissioners cannot reduce their own salaries, they do have the authority to reduce the salary of incoming Commissioner, so long as they do it in the year preceding the election. The current Commissioners will then donate back to the county 20% of their 2018 salaries for each year of their remaining term. They will also need to eliminate the now unneeded position of Support Services Director and return the current holder of that position to his previous post of Budget Manager and make the appropriate salary adjustment. Such actions will reduce the Current Expense budget by approximately $140,000, about what it will cost to hire a good County Administrator.

An alternative would be for the county to hire an outside contractor to serve as a temporary administrator, though for no less than three years. While this would save money in the long term, it is unlikely to assure the truly independent recommendations necessary to put us back on solid financial ground.

So the question is, will the Commissioners lead by example or does restructuring, budget cuts and sacrifice end at their office door?

Tom Davis, Shelton