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Sauk County continues to mull county administrator decision after virtual forum
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Sauk County continues to mull county administrator decision after virtual forum

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The Sauk County Executive and Legislative Committee did not choose among the final four candidates for the newly created county administrator position during its meeting Thursday.

Tim McCumber, who oversees the selection committee, said the county would need to review the contract and proposal it would offer to the person they hire before making a decision.

The meeting came after inviting the final four candidates to tour the county, engage in interviews with county department supervisors and answer roughly 30 minutes of questions gathered from local officials and staff posed by McCumber during a public forum Tuesday.

Candidates shared their experience, noted how they would prioritize budgets and shared their thoughts on Sauk County.

Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Jason Hake, who grew up in Wisconsin Rapids, told a room of roughly 15 county board supervisors about his frequent visits to Sauk County for recreation. Hake had previously worked as the senior financial manager of Portage County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and master’s degree in business administration at Viterbo College.

He focused largely on his most recent work with the county nursing home facility and its transition to contracted oversight by North Central Healthcare through a “quasi-government entity” spanning three counties. As for budget priorities, those are largely dependent on the values of the county. Hake said he would approach his work with utmost integrity.

“One thing I pride myself on is always doing the right thing,” Hake said. “I don’t make rash decisions. I like to look at things starting with an analytical perspective, knowing that numbers don’t always tell the full story, but begin a conversation.”

Hake said he consistently works to ensure county officials act in the most responsible way to answer to the taxpayers, referring to budgetary decisions as the most “challenging” aspect of the job.

Shawano County Administrative Coordinator Brent Miller has been in county administrative roles for the last 22 years. Miller said he would strive to ensure the county remains as transparent as possible, noting his dislike of closed session meetings.

“I think we need to keep the public as informed on issues as we can to make sure they understand what the issues are,” Miller said.

Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the former Mount Senario College of Ladysmith. He also retired from the National Guard after 11 years and received a bronze star for combat operations in Afghanistan.

Martin Shanahan had served as the Joliet, Illinois city corporation counsel until May, when the city counsel dismissed him from the job. That was his second time being removed from a position with the city; he had also been dismissed from the position of interim city manager in June 2019.

During the forum, Shanahan focused on his expertise as an attorney and his desire to bring his understanding of law to local government, which he said he is “very passionate about.” He said early in his career at a private law firm practicing municipal law, he enjoyed one of the first board meetings he attended.

“I became immersed in local government, so much so I liked it,” Shanahan said, adding that he doesn’t want to return to municipal law. “...This is what I want to do, I want to do administration.”

He spoke to specific financial details in the state of Illinois, like pointing to its higher taxes than Wisconsin, and specific budget decisions he referred to as “controversial” that he made during his career at the city level.

Travis Mortimer, assistant county administrator of Charlotte County in Florida, began in his position in 2019. Mortimer served as a Navy engineer for 22 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in the same field from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Mortimer focused on his background in overseeing infrastructure-based departments within the government over five years, but also his desire to improve personal engagement.

“For me, it’s pretty easy to identify a problem and then come up with a menu of potential solutions,” Mortimer said. “And as an engineer, I see the most efficient ways to go from where we are and where we want to go and get there in a straight line. But leading in local government really requires a human touch, requires us to sometimes have to meander, not take that most direct, shortest or cheapest route.”

Mortimer echoed the need for transparency as Miller did, noting that “as a default position, I don’t trust government,” which means disclosing as much information as possible is the best option for him as a county administrative official.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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