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Gonzalez moves into role as County Administrator

By: C&K Trowbridge


Recently, the Franklin County Graphic sat down to speak with the new Franklin County Administrator, Mike Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hired in April with a 2 to 1 vote of the County Commissioners and has since been training under Interim Administrator Duane Davidson. Gonzalez fully took over the reins this month.


Gonzalez grew up in Miami, Florida, worked in journalism most of his professional career, and married into Washington State. His journalism work began in radio and has taken him to many locations across the country. He may be a familiar face, as he worked at KAPP-KVEW for a number of years, in broadcast journalism. He told our staff that he enjoyed business journalism the most, getting to share the stories and passions of entrepreneurs.


How does a journalist move into the role of County Administrator? Gonzalez shared that he wanted to go into management, so he moved away from journalism. He worked in management roles at both, the Franklin County PUD and the City of Pasco. When he saw that Keith Johnson, the County Administrator, was leaving, Gonzalez pursued the opportunity. However, the county moved to hire Davidson. When the position opened again, he re-applied and was hired.


“I’ve always liked government, but always covered government from the outside. My first journalism job was as the city beat reporter,” Gonzalez shared, “when this opportunity came up, I decided I was gonna go for it. It was an interesting process, though.”


Gonzalez shared some insight into what the county is dealing with currently. At this time, the county is working on their Strategic Plan which includes establishing a Strategic Growth Committee.


The county has re-established the HAPO Center Advisory Board and currently has a request out for proposals for professional management of the HAPO center.


A topic close to our readers is the work taking place within the N. County Fire Districts. The county has been working to purchase new fire trucks with ARPA funding to support the efforts of these volunteer crews.


Since coming into the role, Gonzalez has created new social media pages, and a blog, on the county website to provide more transparency to the residents that he and his departments serve. He will also be partnering with the Franklin County Graphic to put out a new column highlighting what’s going on in the county offices.


Gonzalez expressed one goal of his is to start a North Franklin County Advisory Council made up of business owners, farmers, and passionate citizens to bring the rural county’s concerns and ideas into the courthouse for decision making by the county. If you would be interested in serving in this capacity, feel free to reach out to his office (mrgonzalez@franklincountywa.gov). In fact, Gonzalez shared that his office is always available for citizen comments, ideas, and concerns to be addressed.


There are a number of items of concern that have been topics of discussion at recent commissioner meetings from property assessments to the Office of Public Defense and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office staffing issues. Gonzalez encouraged concerned citizens to contact the Assessor’s office at 509-545-3506 and/or file an appeal so that your concerns can be addressed.


Gonzalez shared, “It is hard to find defense attorneys,” while speaking of a variety of reasons, including the limited budget within Franklin County, and losing good attorneys to Benton County where they can get paid more.


The question arose as to the difference between Benton County and Franklin County’s budgets. Gonzalez explained that Benton County has twice the population as Franklin County, and has more commercial businesses (property tax/sales tax) than Franklin County which affords them more revenue base. If you look at Benton County - they have Costco, the Mall, various department stores, and restaurants which Franklin County doesn’t have. In Franklin County, the biggest businesses are Ag related, from farms to industrial manufacturing and processing.


Franklin County is the number one county in the state for increased population growth. This poses its own concerns, Gonzalez said, “Growth means a lot more citizens need our services. It puts pressure on the court system, our Assessors Office has to keep up with new developments, and our jails get stressed with inmate numbers that aren’t safe for our corrections officers.”


“Because of Tim Eyman’s 1% sales tax increase limit, counties don’t have the robust budgets of a city like Pasco. The other thing that’s happened is our wages haven’t kept pace with growth. We are heavy agriculture across Franklin County and our retail sales tax numbers are nowhere near Benton County, so it makes it challenging to pay wages that are competitive with many of the entities we compete with for labor,” Gonzalez stated, “With all that being said, we still provide great service while running extremely lean.”


Gonzalez expressed that the commissioners’ meetings aren’t always a true reflection of the courthouse as politics come into play with elected officials and butting of heads. As the county administrator, Gonzalez doesn’t have any assigned leadership over elected offices, however, he does oversee non-elected department heads and staff. He said, “The staff at the county and the county departments are doing good work for the citizens they represent”. On the political side, he added, “With the politicians, I’m always gonna try to maintain a good, robust relationship and run the county to the best that we can.”


What does a County Administrator do?

The County Administrator provides professional assistance to the Board of County Commissioners for fiscal and budget matters under board jurisdiction and is responsible for ensuring effective management of all non-elected departments including: Public Works, Planning and Building, Information Services, Facilities, HAPO Center, and RV Park.


The Administrator receives direction from, and makes reports and recommendations to the Board. The County Administrator is an at-will appointed position, serving at the pleasure of the Board of County Commissioners.


Among the job duties are: the submission of a recommended balanced preliminary annual county budget to the board, provide for effective budget administration of all budgeted funds, recommended budget adjustments, transfers, and additional personnel. Develop and maintain professional relationships with all County Elected Officials to support accomplishment of county goals and objectives, assist the board in developing and implementing those goals and strategic policy objectives. Ensures staff support of the same. Provide professional staff support to the Board, which includes preparing reports and recommendations on County matters. Develop and maintain strong, cooperative working relationships with department heads and staff in support of Board approved County objectives.


The county administrator also works in coordination with human resources to perform annual performance reviews for non-elected department heads, participates in labor negotiations, and provides comprehensive management and oversight of facilities upgrade projects. Other duties are as assigned by the Board of County Commissioners.


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