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Lewis legislators hope for strong manager despite limited response

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators still are hoping to find a strong county manager, despite a dismal response to their help-wanted ads thus far and a looming deadline for applicants.

“We’re expecting someone who will work well with our department heads and have accountability with them and legislators,” said Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan.

As of Wednesday morning, only four applications for the post has been submitted, from county and noncounty residents, he said.

Resumes will be accepted through Monday, with further information available by calling the county Human Resources Department at 377-2061.

County Manager David H. Pendergast will retire April 30 after five years at the $84,000-per-year post. He was chosen by legislators in March 2008 from a field of 47 applicants.

Despite the limited response this time around, Mr. Tabolt said he was encouraged by the quality of candidates, although he was not certain that all of his colleagues would be as enthused.

One of the challenges for the new county manager will be to work with 10 legislators who have diverse backgrounds and opinions, he said.

“That’s been the history of this group, and it probably won’t change with the next election,” Mr. Tabolt said.

Because of that, the chairman said he hopes to get input from all of his colleagues to review applications and ultimately select their top candidate.

“As soon as they’re all in, I’ll be getting the legislators together to do interviews,” he said.

Legislator Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham, is slated to be in Florida for the rest of the month, but Mr. Tabolt said he hopes to keep him involved in the process, possibly by teleconference.

The chairman said he is encouraging other legislators to take a preliminary look at the applications this week to help expedite the process.

After reviewing the resumes Wednesday, Legislator Patrick F. Wallace, R-Lowville, said only that the candidates have a “broad range of management experience.”

Responsibilities for the county manager position include strategic planning, developing quality initiatives, implementing programs and policies, submitting reports and recommendations to the Legislature, managing contracts, overseeing department managers and serving as the county budget officer.

Mr. Tabolt said he is personally looking for a candidate who would have an “aggressive attitude” toward boosting economic growth and recreational activities.

The semi-retired crop farmer and logger said that he had been impressed by Mr. Pendergast’s prior experience at farm-related agencies and that he would like to see another manager with some type of agricultural background.

“That’s naturally important to me,” Mr. Tabolt said.

While not eager to serve long as acting manager once Mr. Pendergast retires, Mr. Tabolt said, he is willing to do so if it means ending up with a good manager.

“I’d rather have the right fit than just offer it to anyone,” he said.

However, Mr. Tabolt added that he would “really love to have somebody ready to go before budget season begins.”

Mr. Pendergast has said he would be willing to come back to help with the transition, if needed.

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