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Nobles County to enter into negotiations for administrator

Thomas Johnson

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to proceed into negotiations with Minnesota native Thomas Johnson for the county administrator position.

Johnson, who currently serves as managing director of the Eagle County Public Works department in Eagle, Colo., was still in Worthington Wednesday when the decision was made and met with county board members following their decision. He remains in contract negotiations with Springsted, the firm hired by Nobles County to help in the administrator search process, and has yet to formally accept the offer.

Interim Nobles County Administrator Vijay Sethi said commissioners met with the three finalists for approximately one hour each Wednesday morning, during which time the candidates gave a 10-minute presentation on their management style and how they would address the current situation in Nobles County. After the presentation, each was asked a series of 13 questions.

David Unmacht, the Springsted consultant working with Nobles County, will meet with Johnson to discuss the contract and salary. Sethi said the 2012 pay range for the administrator position is $88,302 on the low end to $116,970 on the high end. There would be a salary alteration because of a budgeted 1.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment for 2013.

Sethi is hopeful Johnson will accept the contract offered and said commissioners could ratify a contract at their next board meeting on Jan. 22, if the offer were to be accepted. Johnson needed to give at least three to four weeks notice to his current employer.

Johnson was given the nod over fellow candidates Charles Kell, administrator for the village of Little Chute, Wis., and Janice Fransen, Jackson County Coordinator, although Sethi said all three of the finalists were "extremely strong."

"Any one of those three could have easily stepped in to do the job, which makes it so difficult," Sethi said. "Then it became a matter of who, among the three, would be the best fit for Nobles County."

Johnson has served as the public works managing director in Eagle County since January 2007. Prior to that, he was a facilities management director with the county for six months. A native of St. James, he earned his bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and his master's in manufacturing systems engineering from the University of St. Thomas.

He was senior project engineer for The Engineering Alliance in St. Paul from 1989-1991, and then worked in several different roles with Rosemount Inc., in Chanhassen from March 1991 through June 2006.

"His management style is very collaboration-oriented," Sethi said. "One of the key considerations was his personality and how it would blend and fit into our current structure in Nobles County."

If Johnson chooses not to accept the offer, Sethi said the decision would come back to the board, and they would discuss once again the other two finalists.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.