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Who will be the next Becker County Administrator?

County Administrator candidates

Two final candidates for the Becker County Administrator position now await the verdict of who gets the job after a final interview with the commissioners Wednesday morning.

Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen is in the running, as is Ron Moorse, city administrator for Afton, Minn., which is located east of the Twin Cities and is home to nearly 2,900 people.

A third candidate, Robert Bezek, an engineer for FEMA, dropped out of consideration after commissioners denied his request to do the final interview online, via Skype.

On Wednesday Tangen and Moorse met separately with the commissioners at the Becker County Courthouse for an hour-long interview.

Cass County Administrator Bob Yochum facilitated the interviews, asking each man a series of 13 questions.

Both described their leadership style as "collaborative," touting teamwork and relationship building as their ways of implementing change while striving for efficiency.

During the questioning, Moorse drew upon his experience as a city administrator, citing several examples of problems or situations he's handled while in his position, which in many aspects is similar to that of a county administrator.

"When I think about how to improve efficiency, I think about what are the opportunities to collaborate with other jurisdictions -- are there opportunities to collaborate with the city?" said Moorse, citing police collaboration both in Arden Hills and Orono between the county and city.

"We got a lot better service at a lower cost than if we tried to do it alone," said Moorse, who talked about building trust as a foundation for change.

Tangen, however, had the advantage of being able to point out his strong ties to county employees and department heads, local lawmakers and the community.

"Since I came here in April of 2002, I've had nothing but opportunities, cutting my teeth in management under Brian Berg who was a passionate administrator, and I can't tell you how many things I've learned from him," said Tangen, who also talked of his commitment to the community as he's coached youth baseball, basketball, taught Sunday School and is involved in Habitat for Humanity, the Masons and Kiwanis, among other things.

"I've continued to develop my professional career through duties in Becker County -- I feel like I belong here," said Tangen, who also gave examples of how to improve efficiencies in Becker County, including changes in mileage and travel reimbursement and the possibility of combining related departments.

"We're looking for leadership and organization," said Board Chairman Larry Knutson, as Commissioner Gerry Schram added, "We would like focus, someone who can focus and carry tasks through to completion."

The administrator position has been open since September of last year when Tom Mortenson stepped down under fire after less than a year on the job.

"Looking from a distance, Becker County has quite a bit of turnover both in their board and their administration," said Yochum, "so my sense is they're looking for some stability and some tenure."

Although commissioners expressed interest in getting the position filled as soon as possible, Knutson ultimately made the call to wait until the regular April 10 meeting, allowing them to talk to county department heads, review the candidates' background and simply "think about it."