Grays Harbor County creates administrator position

Consultant to begin recruitment process, but commissioners aren’t required to make hire

The Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously created a new county administrator position and determined the duties of the role that will soon oversee county operations and policy as consultants begin the search for the right candidate.

The county administrator position was created with a new ordinance derived from powers granted by state law that allows county boards to delegate some management duties and corporate powers to an administrator.

In the last six months, county staff and GMP Consultants have worked to specify which duties an administrator might take on. The county hired GMP in June to assist with writing a job description that commissioners approved on Tuesday after several minor edits.

With a clear idea of the authority an administrator might have, the firm will craft a position profile and begin to actively recruit an administrator, a process that could take three months, said GMP founder Greg Prothman.

County governments generally operate under two structures: council-elected executive, where voters choose an official with some kind of veto or legislative power, much like the mayor of a city; and council-appointed administrative, where county commissioners pick an administrator to streamline coordination between departments and make recommendations, but who has no legislative authority. Grays Harbor County uses the latter.

A county administrator would have authority over all county departments, the power to negotiate agreements as a representative of the county and manage county finances within the budget approved by the board of commissioners.

According to the ordinance passed Tuesday, the board would retain authority over ordinances, proclamations and resolutions, all quasi-judicial matters including public hearings and all matters involving claims.

The board’s Tuesday action created the administrator position and added it to the organizational chart but does not require that the board hire one.

Grays Harbor County’s 2024 budget, which was adopted in December, accounted for $174,000 yearly county administrator salary, plus about $70,000 in benefits, said county budget analyst Andi Harland. Harland said that number was generated from a salary survey.

In county board discussions regarding the county administrator position, cost has been a point of contention.

Commissioner Vickie Raines has said she is not opposed to hiring a county administrator, and supported creating the position on Tuesday, but said during budget discussions that the position is a “luxury,” especially as the county seeks to crawl out from a $3.1 million budget hole and wanted more specifics about the return on investment for the position.

Raines couldn’t be reached for further comment on Tuesday.

Commissioners Kevin Pine and Jill Warne hope the management skills of a new county administrator will streamline county functions and save money. Pine said on Tuesday that officials from Lewis County, which hired an administrator in 2023, have already reported efficiencies and savings in their operations. According to Warne, Mason County has had similar successes with their recent hire.

“Moving to professional leadership like this will have a lot of benefits that will begin to emerge as time marches on,” Prothman said on Tuesday.

Harland said that since the administrator salary is budgeted for a period of 12 months, any time that elapses in 2024 without putting the position on the payroll will result in a budget savings.

Prothman said GMP will soon craft a position profile and begin recruitment for the job on a national scale, with extra emphasis on a dozen or so Western states. The ordinance states a new county administrator does not need to be from Grays Harbor County but will have to become a resident within six months of taking the job.

“We have to try to find the needle in the haystack,” Warne said Tuesday, adding, “We don’t want to hire just to hire, we have to find the right person.”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or