Thirty-five years after Tarrant County hired its first county administrator, it’s now looking to hire its second.
Longtime administrator G.K. Maenius announced his upcoming retirement June 8. He will leave his post in September. So far, the county hasn’t made any final decisions on how it will choose Maenius’ replacement, but commissioners said in a June 20 meeting they’ll review a list of potential recruitment firms July 11.
“(We’ll) try to set up a quick meeting with whoever we choose to discuss parameters and how to move forward,” County Judge Tim O’Hare said.
Multiple residents spoke about the importance of casting a wide net in the search for a new county administrator at the June 20 meeting. Fort Worth resident Jackee Cox told commissioners that a national search would help find the best candidate to take over the position, which oversees a $900 million operating budget and helps guide county employees. The primary function of the county administrator is to oversee and implement directives from commissioners.
“It has been said by many that this man is irreplaceable,” Burleson resident Merl Glasscock said.
“That’s not true, by the way,” Maenius quipped as laughter echoed through the chamber.
Glasscock echoed Cox’s sentiments about a national search and said the next administrator should be someone who is experienced in managing large operations.
Fort Worth resident LaVonne Cockrell referenced concerns over recent county hiring and appointment processes. In recent months, the county has selected both a new elections administrator and a new Tarrant Appraisal District board member. Both selections were controversial; one of the finalists for the elections position had previously sued the former elections administrator, and the new appraisal board member was O’Hare’s campaign treasurer.
“Citizens are concerned that G.K.’s replacement might look like a political selection,” Cockrell said. “Citizens want and deserve an experienced person in every position — elected, hired or appointed.”
In an interview with the Report, commissioner Manny Ramirez said momentum is on the county’s side — it just needs to find someone who can keep business on the right track. If the county can hire someone who can do half as good a job as Maenius, he said, it will have succeeded.
“I’m very confident that there are folks that will come in that don’t have politics on their mind, that will do a great service to the county,” he said.
Ramirez referenced the power-makeup of county government, which differs from local cities like Fort Worth. Cities frequently have a ‘strong city manager,’ meaning that most decisions are made by the city manager and then approved by the council. The county’s commissioners have much more authority, he said, and the next county administrator needs to be able to work with everyone on the court to accomplish county business.
“The position is really unique in that it’s not a political position, but you work for politicians,” Ramirez said. “And it takes a very skilled business person with very good diplomatic skills to ensure that you can navigate in that environment.”
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