The St. Croix County Board of Supervisors took a step toward a change in management at its regular June meeting Tuesday night and name a county administrator.
Pat Thompson, 52, was awarded a two-year contract by a 10-5 vote after a period of discussion in which some supervisors said the county was paying too much for the job.
Thompson's base salary is $135,000 a year with incentive bonuses that could bring him an extra $15,000 each year. He most recently served in a as Hamilton County administrator in Cincinnati, Ohio, a job that paid $220,000.
"I'm really a Wisconsin native, Thompson said when he was introduced to the board. "I grew up in Stevens Point. Deep in my heart, where the most important decisions are made, felt a sense of loss missing what was happening in Wisconsin."
Supervisors Fred Horne, James Stauffer, Lorin Sather, Steve Hermsen and Linda Luckey, each voted against the hiring of Thompson.
Sather, Horne, Stauffer and Hermsen each expressed concern with the approved salary.
"How can we afford this," said Stauffer. "I don't think it something we should be doing at this point."
"We've taken the position as a board to ask (county) nursing home employees to take a cut. We can't afford this," said Horne.
"We are in extraordinary times," said Sather, "We aren't giving anybody raises, we just can't afford it.
"We can't afford not to hire a person like this," countered Supervisor Roger Rebholz. "We can get somebody for less and we'll get what we pay for."
"We should not quibble over $135,000 and the bonus, it will be well worth it if we get delivery," said Supervisor Buck Malick. "I don't begrudge the man the money at all."
Supervisor Sharon Norton-Bauman said that each of the final three candidates was offered $135,000 salary. "This is not a job for a beginner. It's not for on-the-job training," she said.
Thompson will oversee a pay for performance structure for non-representative employees plan the board approved by a 13-2 vote Tuesday.
Four board members were absent including Esther Wentz, Karen Meyer, William Peavey and Robert Shearer.
Thompson reflects on "coming home"
Thompson was at the government center Tuesday morning to prepare for the new job and took time out to reflect on the pathway that brought him back to Wisconsin after an eight-year absence.
"It's like coming back home, it feels good," Thompson said.
He has a slew of relatives on both sides of the river and was staying at a brother-in-law's house in Minnesota while getting situated.
"The pay is the big issue," said Thompson, "I'm happy to be back home. If I do a good job, it will be recognized by the board."
Chuck Whiting, who was hired as county administrative coordinator in 2000, resigned last year to take a job as Faribault, Minn., city administrator Jan. 1. The job paid $114,000. In the meantime, the board voted to shift the position from administrative coordinator to a county administrator system.
Thompson, 52, brings 25 years of experience in county government to the table.
He was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Stevens Point where he graduated from Pacelli High School in 1977. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science, economics and Spanish in 1981 at UW-Eau Claire and a master's degree in public administration from UW-Madison in 1982.
His work with Wisconsin municipalities is broad ranged. He served as assistant to the mayor of Madison 1982-1983, operations and budget manager for Madison 1983-1990, administrative coordinator for Dunn County in Menomonie 1990-2000 and administrator for La Crosse County in La Crosse 2000-2003.
"I wanted to work in a big county," he said and from 2003-2006 was county administrator for Jefferson County in Golden, Colo., west of Denver.
He said he was recruited for the job with Hamilton County in Cincinnati in January 2006.
Thompson was one of three finalists among 55 candidates for the St. Croix County job. He was the consensus candidate by the interview committee, said board chair Daryl Standafer.
Thompson and his wife, Mary, have five grown children ranging in age from 21-29. Three live in Wisconsin and two live in Minnesota. They also have three grandchildren. Mary, who grew up in Hastings, happens to be a Viking fan, Thompson's heart is with the Packers which probably makes Sunday afternoon in the fall interesting at their house.
Mary is currently in Cincinnati overseeing the sale of their house before joining Thompson in St. Croix County.