Grand Forks County Commission forms committee to decide future of county administrator role

Jan. 30—GRAND FORKS — Members of the Grand Forks County Commission on Monday agreed to establish a committee to decide whether to create a new position of county administrator or reclassify the job responsibilities of the existing role of director of administration

The committee will be comprised of four members — commission members Bob Rost and Dave Engen, Grand Forks County State's Attorney Haley Wamstad and Michele Thiel, county director of human resources.

In a statement read to commissioners, Tom Ford, county director of administration, expressed his desire for a reclassification of his duties, a process he says he's undergone multiple times in his nine years of employment with the county.

"I'm not suggesting a restructured county administration," said Ford. "What I have requested is simply a review and reclassification of my job to accurately document the duties, expectations and responsibilities that I perform, and have been performing since I was reclassified to county director of administration. I have filled four different roles since 2014, and have been reclassified three times as my position consistently evolves into what it is today. This is simply a request to reclassify for what I hope to be the final time."

Rost praised Ford's work, while expressing the need to revise Ford's job description to reflect the additional responsibilities he has undertaken.

"Mr. Ford has done and continues to do a lot for this county," said Rost. "He currently does more than what's on his old job description. I think a lot of what has happened at (Grand Forks Air Force Base), Grand Sky, our relations with the Pentagon, has all come to fruition because of him. Our committee will sit down, look at the things Mr. Ford does, and see if we can come up with a job description that would fit the administrator position."

Rost also said any new job description relating to the position will not bestow oversight of county department heads on Ford, a stipulation Ford himself requested.

During public comment, former City Council member Terry Bjerke said the distinction between reclassifying Ford's position and creating a new position of county administrator is important. If commissioners decide on the latter, Bjerke said the job must be opened to outside candidates.

"If you're opening a new job up, it is clearly improper to not take applications," said Bjerke.

Engen said that regardless of what action the commission decides to pursue pertaining to Ford's position, they will not be giving him additional responsibilities.

"Last year, I asked Mr. Ford to write down the duties he's performing, and to tell us what he's doing now that he wasn't doing a few years ago in order to get a more accurate job description," said Engen. "We're not suggesting adding more responsibilities to his position."