Process to find replacement for Zacharias could be complicated by upcoming commission elections, says county chair

Jay Senter - December 15, 2017 8:09 am
County Commission Chair Ed Eilert said the process for finding a replacement for Hannes Zacharias may be complicated by the fact that four of the sitting commissioners are up for reelection next year.
County Commission Chair Ed Eilert said the process for finding a replacement for Hannes Zacharias may be complicated by the fact that four of the sitting commissioners are up for reelection next year.

By Roxie Hammill

County Manager Hannes Zacharias will get up to $1,500 a month to cover medical costs as well as a six-month severance pay of $110,000 once he leaves the county payroll in January. The Johnson County Commission Thursday unanimously voted the monthly payment for 18 months or until Zacharias finds full-time employment. The commission also set a new salary, cell phone and car allowances for Deputy County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson while she serves as interim county manager.

The action was the next step required since the commission voted two weeks ago not to renew Zacharias’s contract. Although there was an outpouring of support for the manager last week, the commission couldn’t muster the votes then to reconsider that decision.

Providing medical payments to a departing county manager is not unusual, said Commission Chairman Ed Eilert. The 18-month period allows Zacharias help with medical expenses until he reaches age 65, if he hasn’t found another employer by then. Eilert said the amount is comparable with what’s charged individuals to continue their plans under COBRA.

Postoak Ferguson will jump two pay grades while she serves as interim county manager. Her current salary of $193,752 will become $219,520, just a bit less than Zacharias’s current salary. In addition, she’ll see an increase in her cell phone allowance from $60 to $85 a month, plus she’ll receive a car allowance of $600 a month and a $500-per-month retention incentive that is reviewed every two months.

The county will conduct a nation-wide search for a new manager, but it won’t get started until the January 4 commission meeting, he said.

Commissioners will face some time considerations as they begin that process, he added. Previous searches for a mental health director and auditor, for example, have taken four to six months had cost from $18,000 to $32,000. Much of their considerations will be done while also writing the 2019 county budget.

The process will be complicated further by the fact that next November, four commissioners – a majority, including Eilert – are up for re-election, Eilert said. Knowing there is the possibility of turnover on the commission could affect the candidates willing to apply, he added.

It’s still too early to know what changes, if any, the commission will put on its definition of the ideal candidate. Typically, search firms interview each commissioner and then come up with a profile of the type of person the county is looking for, he said.

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