Keep bar high for new county administrator

As predicted, Trumbull County commissioners voted 2-1 this week to hire Mike Matas to fill the new combined position of Trumbull County administrator and purchasing director.

Commissioners Dan Polivka and Mauro Cantalamessa approved the hiring, with Frank Fuda voting no.

Matas was the Lake County budget director and is Cortland resident who served on the volunteer Trumbull County Budget Review Committee that last year recommended the position’s creation.

Not only was the successful candidate and this week’s vote predictable, but so was the salary — at the very top of the $67,000-to-$95,000 range recommended by the county’s human resources director.

Now what we think will be predictable to our new county administrator are the challenges that he will face in attempting to bring the county in line with all the ideas his Trumbull County Budget Review Committee made to commissioners nearly a year ago.

The group made hefty recommendations last June that have included places to cut — like renegotiating county labor contracts to eliminate all taxpayer contributions to Ohio Public Employee Retirement System contributions; to prevent employees from cashing out their unused sick and vacation time upon retirement; to require employees to work 8 hours per day, rather than the current 6.5 hours per day; and to revise health care coverage. Undoubtedly, none of these tasks will come easy.

That’s evidenced by this month’s Trumbull County management fact-finding loss in a labor contract dispute with county 911 dispatchers. But since Matas became intimately aware of these personnel issues when he served on the Budget Review Committee, we expect that he will be well-prepared to begin tackling them.

The committee, of course, also made more than a dozen other recommendations, including creating a purchasing director and county administrator positions.

In announcing the hiring this week, commissioners promised they will create a matrix with goals for Matas. The goals will call for evaluations after three months, six months and at the end of his first year. We will be watching carefully for an outline of those goals and the rubric to measure his performance. We expect the goals to be clearly defined, far-reaching and challenging.

We are confident taxpayers agree that the hiring will be justified only after it is proven that countywide savings accomplished under Matas’ leadership surpass his annual $95,000 salary.

According to Polivka, this position will pay for its salary and save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars “over the course.” (The course of what? He remained vague on that.)

Either way, we call on commissioners to demand that savings worth far more than his salary should be accepted.