Commissioners advised to focus on personality, not experience, in search for new county administrator

By Ralph Echtinaw

County commissioners set the salary range for a new head honcho so low that experienced administrators are unlikely to apply, said Walsh Municipal Services CEO Frank L. Walsh.

“It’s a very difficult recruitment world out there,” Walsh said. “The market is substantially higher than the salary level that I was provided with.”

“One of the last things I encourage you to look for is experience, because people with experience are going to be out of our league.”

Walsh Municipal Services CEO Frank L. Walsh

“Well, that’s never going to happen,” Walsh told commissioners. “Because if you have six years of county experience at this level, and you have a master’s degree, you’re making well north of $101,000. You’re up in the $130,000 range.

“One of the last things I encourage you to look for is experience, because people with experience are going to be out of our league.”

Three candidates already

Nevertheless, Walsh found three interested parties who know what the salary range is, live within 35 miles of Ithaca and have “some county experience.” He said he may find one or two more before the Feb. 17 deadline.

Walsh will return after the deadline to discuss the applicants with commissioners in a closed session.

If an applicant agrees to an interview “everything else from that point forward is public,” he said.

Commissioners would then set interview dates for applicants. Walsh would conduct reference checks, and a new administrator could be hired by March 17. “If you don’t have your administrator by St. Patrick’s Day the train went off the tracks,” he said.

Personality is important

Walsh encouraged commissioners to focus on personality when interviewing applicants.

The nuts and bolts of being the county’s chief administrator can be learned on the job, he said, but “I can’t teach them to get along with people.”

He urged commissioners to “focus on someone who’s going to get along with you (and other county officials).”

“I’m looking for people who have that pleasant personality,” he continued. “If you know how to treat people, you could be a county administrator. And that’s the focus.”


Walsh advertised the job opening on “several social media outlets,” with the Michigan Association of Counties and with the Michigan Municipal League. But two of the three interested parties were found by him alone. 

“I’m out there representing Gratiot County, trying to get you the best candidates I can,” he said. “And I don’t get that if I sit home in my La-Z-Boy not making phone calls and sending out emails.”

Outgoing County Administrator Tracey Cordes, 63, announced her retirement last month after six years on the job. Her last day is Feb. 28.

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