New administrator promises to be transparent

By Scott Halasz shalasz@civitasmedia.com

February 14, 2014

XENIA — Newly appointed Greene County Administrator Warren Brown is going beyond an open-door policy.

“If it’s on my computer or sitting on my desk, it’s a matter of public record,” said Brown, who will begin contract negotiations to finalize becoming the county administrator. “I’m a big fan of the public records law.”

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, county commissioners voted to hire Brown to replace Howard Poston, who is retiring Feb. 28 after a decade as administrator. And Brown made no secret of what the top item on his agenda.

“My first order of business in the event that they still want me and we work out a contract, is to open and keep open the lines of communication between all the office holders … including the media,” he said. “The constituents deserve to know what’s going on. When we clamp down and when we clam up we do a disservice to the public.”

Brown, 58, who will retire as Sandusky County Administrator at the end of March, is so transparent that he isn’t hiding his backup plan in case things don’t work out with Greene County. He is is on the primary ballot to run for auditor of Sandusky County, located just southeast of Toldeo and Lucas County, and will stay on the ballot until he officially signs on with Greene County.

“I fully intend to remove my name from the ballot,” Brown said.

Brown’s aggressiveness in finding his next place of employment endeared him to Greene County.

“Do I blame him? No. That’s why I’m interested in him,” commissioner Bob Glaser said. “He’s not a sit and do nothing guy.”

In addition to his willingness to tell all, Brown has a strong personality, another trait Glaser likes.

“The position … takes a person with a very strong Type-A personality because you are in essence trying to control many departments and many different types of endeavors that the county is involved in,” Glaser said. “The job is a lot like herding cats. It’s a very difficult position because you’re dealing with department heads, other government officials and elected officials. That position has three immediate bosses (commissioners). It’s hard to please three immediate bosses. They all have different thoughts and different personalities.”

Despite that, Brown isn’t concerned one bit that he may clash with other strong-headed county officials.

“I’m not to the point where it’s my way or no way,” Brown said. “We have a job to do. Let’s get in there, let’s mix it up and let’s get it done. If someone’s opinion is better than mine … then guess what, I change my mind and we go that direction. Government works best when all the parts work together.”

It seemed to work well in Sandusky County. In the last 18 months, Brown spearheaded a fiber optic project that allowed the county to install it’s own internet lines and just pay for bandwidth, cutting out the middle man in Time Warner. He estimates a return on investment within 7-10 years. He also had Sandusky join 19 other counties who shopped out electric generation costs, offering businesses and residents a better price opportunity while saving the county $40,000 a year in generation costs.

Originally from South Jersey, Brown now considers Ohio home. He has been married to Wendy for 33 years and has three kids: Abby, a teacher in Fremont, Ohio; Amanda, a school nurse in Bellevue, Ohio and Ethan, a third-year junior ROTC cadet at Bowling Green State University. A fourth child, Alexa, died when she was 11.

The hiring of Brown ends an arduous process that saw the commission narrow it down to a pair of candidates, Brown and Pete E. Landrum, administrator of Delhi Township in the Cincinnati area, re-interview both and then finally make a decision.

“We basically got on to Warren later in the game,” Glaser said. “We could not come to a decision. Alan (Commissioner Alan Anderson) asked that we re-interview Pete and we did that … and felt Warren was a stronger candidate.”

Negotiations on salary and other terms are set to Begin Monday.

The commission also re-established the position of assistant county administrator by naming current county services director Brandon Huddleson to that position. Huddleson will continue in both capacities.

“It’s correcting, in my opinion, a structure problem,” Glaser said. “Greene County is a large enough county …. with everything pivoting to one man, a lot of things can happen. Where does that leave the county with terms of management?”

Huddleson will literally get on-the-job training as he will be the man in charge during the transition from Poston to Brown.

“I’m spending the next two weeks in close contact with Mr. Poston trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can,” Huddleson said. “Learn as much as possible.”

Huddleson has been with the county for 14 years, the last three-plus as director of county services. Prior to that he was supervisor of central maintenance for sanitary engineering.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be involved at a higher level,” Huddleson said. “I’m thrilled for the challenge.”