Thompson says St. Croix County is meeting its missionPat Thompson has a year and one-half on the job as St. Croix County’s first administrator charged with overseeing its various departments and managing a five-year strategic plan.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Pat Thompson has a year and one-half on the job as St. Croix County’s first administrator charged with overseeing its various departments and managing a five-year strategic plan.
“The board set an aggressive strategic plan,” Thompson said during a conversation in his office at the Government Center in Hudson last week.
“We will continue to keep an eye on the bottom line so the budget doesn’t get bigger and the county’s portion of the tax bill doesn’t increase,” he said.
Thompson acknowledged the mission to provide core services to county residents is a challenge with the state and federal portion of the budget not increasing and a stagnant economy. “We need to be careful and keep the budget in line,” he said.
Thompson is encouraged by the county’s AA-1 bond rating, one step below Moody’s highest rating of AAA, and indicator of fiscal responsibility.
It is an adventure managing the department to fulfill the mission of the board, he said.
“It’s important for the board to define its priorities and provide core services such as public safety, transportation, planning and health and human services (HHS),” the administrator said. “We have to provide core services.”
With the relocation of HHS staff, vacating the HSS building and the sale of surrounding land this month, the Health and Human Services model with have to be redefined, he said.
The challenge also includes preventing over expansion and keeping staff increases to a minimum by implementing cross-over duties among departments.
Shaping a new atmosphere of a “results only work environment,” is a mission of the board that might be characterized as an extreme cultural shock to the perceived normal workings of government.
The program has taken on the anachronism of P4P (pay for performance) which drastically changes the traditional tenure-driven method of advancement and compensation tied to years of service.
“It’s a more efficient way to provide service, by challenging ourselves to develop a better way of doing things,” said Thompson.
The new philosophy hopes to do away with the standard workplace response, “We’ve always done it this way,” he said.
Admittedly, it’s a cultural change that will have to be developed over a period of time.
Thompson hopes to establish an environment where anybody working at any level in any department can introduce an idea that will improve efficiency of service and save money and be recognized for it…. “To reward innovation with compensation in a collaborative environment,” he said.
Putting that plan totally into practice may be akin to pushing a boulder up a hill without the use of hands but the ultimate result aims for employees to look at their jobs differently, always keeping an eye on service and costs.
Thompson said with the new approach to the workplace in mind, the “best and brightest” will be sought out for what few hiring opportunities arise.
”I think we have a dedicated workforce. We want to build on that,” he said.
Thompson, 53, has worked with county governments large and small over the past 30 years.
“This county board has a sense of community. When making decisions (supervisors) come together as a board and make decisions on what is best for the county. It is much less partisan than in the larger counties I have been in,” he said.
Taking the job in St. Croix County filled a desire to return to the home state for the Stevens Point native. “The county board gave me the opportunity to do things and the authority to do the job,” he said.
Thompson and his wife, Mary, have five grown children including two daughters in Madison, a son in Menomonie, a son in St. Bonifacius, Minn., and their youngest son at home with them in the town of Troy while he attends WITC.
He was hired in June of 2011 on a two-year contract that will be up next June for a salary of $135,000 with bonus incentives each year. He previously served as administrator for Hamilton County, Ohio, which included Cincinnati, a position that paid $220,000 a year.
The opportunity to switch to an administrator form of government presented itself when Chuck Whiting, the former county administrative coordinator, resigned in late 2010 to take a position as the Faribault, Minn., city administrator.
The board voted 10-5, with four supervisors absent, June 7, 2011, to accept Thompson and the administrator form of government.