Columbia County officials teeter on the great precipice of decision, as the group now begins the search for a new county manager. It will be a challenging decision, one that will affect the future of our county for many years into the future. Will the board step up or flounder?
It was good to see the county appoint David Kraus as interim county manager Thursday night. He is a solid stopgap, an experienced assistant county manager who has operational experience in several county departments. He is even-keeled. He’s a known entity and he will keep the county on course in the short-term. Kraus is a good man.
The attitude and comments from several elected commissioners have been somewhat disturbing. Several of these statements revealed there is an overwhelming urge to take the easy road and promote from within. At least one commissioner even named names of local candidates. One was adamant to search nationally; another mentioned a larger search, but obviously leaned toward an internal candidate.
Internal may turn out to be the best option, but to make this a priority without testing the waters to see who might be out there looking for an advanced career in county management, is the wrong move.
Hiring from within without exhausting every option to find the best candidate who is a fit for our county could be a devastating mistake. It is certainly short-sighted.
The county should consider hiring a headhunter with experience in these types of searches. We don’t need a $100,000 investment on a consultant to take the next 9-12 months to experiment with candidates. Just hire a headhunter with experience and get the job filled in a reasonable timeframe, hopefully by the end of the year. A hungry candidate looking for the next step in their career will not take long to evaluate our opportunity and either jump at the chance or decline.
If government management is a passion, who wouldn’t want to move to Lake City and hit it big? There is a blank slate for smart growth and development. With the right aptitude and application, a new county manager could spark this growth by improving the county’s utility infrastructure at any of at least four red-hot sites primed for development. Relations with the city, the utilities provider, has never been better. Home building is strong, our quality of life is unmatched and people will continue small migrations here — or our young people will stay here — and improve our tax base if they have decent-wage, career-track employment that allows them income quality to buy a home and raise a family.
Through the years, the county commission as a whole has a reputation as a group of micro-managers. If this perception isn’t changed immediately, not only will we not attract the proper candidate, we’ll be doomed to nothing more than the status quo.
County commissioners, individually, want what’s best for the county’s future. As a group, sometimes the synergy is derailed. Columbia County is a great place with unbelievable potential. The residents, the taxpayers, the business owners already in place here are paying for and deserve a better future.