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Crow Wing County considers changes to management culture

Crow Wing County continues leadership training series and movement to change how it manages performance.

“It’s part of our organized effort to move the county towards a more performance management culture,” Administrator Tim Houle said. “Regardless of whether pay is tied to performance, which is of course subject to union negotiations, we want to create a performance management culture that is one of a high performing organization, one that’s nimble, creative and dynamic. So how do we go about doing that?”

To do that, Houle said they are looking at core areas — drive for results, customer focus and knowledge of total work systems. Measures of performance include the more obvious such as hitting revenue and expense budget goals. But Houle said goals also include keeping people out of nursing homes and looking at how long it takes to plow snow from roads.

“These are things we can actively measure,” Houle said. And he said delivering on those objectives can cascade down to the team level and even down to individual employees.

Houle said the three main components are: objective measures of performance; core competencies representing the county’s values in conducting business; and project-oriented annual goals. Another part of it, Houle said, is having performance conversations in real time and having the annual evaluation as a summary instead of waiting until then to talk with employees.

At the end of the update, Commissioner Paul Thiede said something in Houle’s remarks made him think about a news story of a school district in New York ending Christian and Jewish holidays, except a union-negotiated holiday.

Houle said that comment really made him wonder what he said. “What the heck did I say? I certainly didn’t want to go down that path.”

In other business, the board:

Approved staff changes. Sheriff’s department Lt. Heath Fosteson was promoted to jail administrator, effective April 1. Darnel Carlson was promoted from jail administrative sergeant to assistant jail administrator. Kara Griffin was hired as a social worker. Anne Soberg was hired as an assistant county attorney.

Proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Authorized an agreement with the state for the county’s 2012 annual county boat and water safety providing $67,763 in grant funding.

Approved sending Houle and Chairman Doug Houge to the Transportation Alliance 41st annual Washington Fly-In in June in the nation’s capital. Commissioners said the trip, typically with the county highway engineer and the board chairman, is beneficial in getting time with Minnesota elected officials, particularly regarding transportation needs and issues. Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said the trip was really about relationship building. She noted seeing other counties attend and benefit with help to finish projects.

“Frankly, I want my Christmas stocking filled, too,” Nystrom said.

The county’s highway engineer, Tim Bray, is deployed to Afghanistan and not expected to return until late summer. Rob Hall, acting highway engineer, said with staff filling in and with the construction season just getting started, he felt he should stay here. Houle will go in his place.

Established a priority list of bridges eligible for state funding. The list includes bridges on: Melinda Shores Road and Dream Island Road, both in Crosslake; Cullen Road and Hazelwood Drive, both in Nisswa; 30th Street in Daggett Brook Township; County Road 122 over the Little Nokasippi; Gull River Road in the First Assessment District; Koering Road in St. Mathias Township; and on county highways 23, 3, 10, 36 over Daggett Brook, Pelican Brook, Cedar Brook, Little Pine River and Mud Brook. Plans are to complete the construction work on County Highway 3 this summer over Pelican Brook. The Gull River Road project is planned for construction in 2013. Cullen Road plans are in the design stage.

Authorized a cost share agreement with the city of Nisswa related to the Highway 18 realignment. Estimated construction cost is $1.4 million. The total city construction cost share for Nisswa is $286,906 for the new alignment. After subtracting $83,069 for federal funds, the estimated city construction cost is $221,895. The county cost for the project is $638,254.

Learned there were multiple people interested in serving on the Extension Committee. Nystrom appointed Dona McEnelly. But an at-large appointment is available. Another interested candidate is Doug Johanson of Baxter. Nystrom said the county has never had this much interest in the committee.

The board met in a closed session for labor negotiations.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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