It was a time of first impressions.
Peter Herlofsky Jr., Michigan, and Timothy Houle, Pillager, the top two candidates for the Crow Wing County administrator position, had a chance to make an impression Thursday -- an impression they hope will guarantee them the opportunity to serve in this county.
They met with county officials and residents at the Holiday Inn to get to know the community. Those present included Crow Wing County commissioners; Sue Beck, county welfare director; Martyn Schmidt, county assessor; Thomas Cowell, land commissioner; Duane Blanck, county highway engineer; Lew Hudson, Brainerd School Board member; Keith Pohl, county soil and water conservation district; and Dick Beeson, Thirty Lakes Watershed District.
County Board Chairman Terry Sluss said the Crow Wing County Board will decide Tuesday during its meeting which candidate is the best for the job. Then the board's negotiating committee will bargain the salary. Herlofsky currently earns $91,000 a year as county administrator in Calhoun County, Mich., and Houle earns about $64,300 as Morrison County coordinator.
"Experience is the number one thing," said Sluss. "We need someone who can be a mentor. Both candidates are very qualified."
Sluss said the 30 to 35 people who attended Thursday's open house for the candidates were evenly split on whom they favored.
Herlofsky has worked as the county administrator for Calhoun County, Mich., since 1993. Calhoun County has a population of 140,000 and is managed by a seven-member board. He worked with an Enhanced 911 system and a $40 million jail and court complex (he completed the jail within budget). He also worked in Champaign County, Ill., as a county administrator with a 27-member board.
Herlofsky worked in Saudi Arabia as a budget and cost manager. He worked for an industrial city with a population of 25,000 and in 1989 it had an operating budget of $1 million.
Herlofsky grew up in Minneapolis so he is familiar with Minnesota. He worked for Stearns and Rice counties and worked on overall planning, personnel, budget, labor relations and legislative programs. He also worked as an assistant city manager in Crystal and a planning assistant and senior engineering aide in Fridley. When Herlofsky worked in Fridley he knew Crow Wing County Commissioner Jim Hill, who worked then with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
In 1968, Herlofsky graduated with a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Minnesota. In 1992, he earned a master's in business administration at the University of Illinois.
Herlofsky and his wife Georgene both were raised in Minnesota. Their two children live in the state, so the two travel to Minnesota about five times a year. This is the main reason why Herlofsky would like to take on the position in Crow Wing County.
"It is more convenient to plan holidays and it would be a change of scenery," he said. "I enjoy Minnesota counties, some people find them more difficult, but I find them to be more progressive and the setting is pleasant."
Herlofsky said he has the background to do the job, but it is the county board's decision to make.
Houle has been the county coordinator for Morrison County since 1994. He is responsible for overall labor relations, budgetary process, leadership and legislative goals and the county's purchasing and building maintenance functions.
He also worked as a market area resource manager and field team leader at the Star Tribune. He worked with an annual budget of $30 million. He administered complex policies and procedures on hiring, progressive discipline and termination. He also participated in long-range strategic planning.
Houle serves as president of the Minnesota Association of County Administrators in St. Paul. He works with the board of directors to plan, implement, evaluate and participate in training and developing opportunities to enhance the professional standard and performance standards of the administration of county government in the state.
Houle earned his bachelor's degree in public administration in 1985 at Hamline University. He also had a special emphasis on English writing, political science, public speaking, philosophy and ethics. He is currently pursuing his master's in public administration.
Houle lives with his wife Lynn and their two young children south of Pillager.
Houle said he has seen the changes in Crow Wing County for the past 20 years and has seen the challenges and that is why he'd like to work for the county.
"I don't like living in the comfort zone," he said. "You (a county administrator) need to be cut for this kind of work and I thrive on it.
"I know the history of the area, the trends and the local legislatures. I have worked with the public and private sectors and I prefer the public."
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