James-Mesloh accepts Glades County manager post

Posted 10/16/19

MOORE HAVEN — The Glades County commissioners voted 5-0 Oct. 8 to extend a final offer to Jennifer James-Mesloh, who manages a city on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to become their new county …

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James-Mesloh accepts Glades County manager post


MOORE HAVEN — The Glades County commissioners voted 5-0 Oct. 8 to extend a final offer to Jennifer James-Mesloh, who manages a city on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to become their new county manager.

Ms. James-Mesloh finished first among four final candidates at commissioners’ Aug. 26 meeting, and County Attorney Richard Pringle along with County Board Chairman Tim Stanley have been negotiating with her through the weeks since then.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long wanted to specify in her motion to extend this offer that the negotiators move directly into talks with the board’s second choice if she declined or balked, thus effectively removing her from consideration. (She had withdrawn last year after being chosen.) The board set a deadline of noon Oct. 11 for a response but didn’t want to go that far.

They deferred a further decision, saying they were happy with the job being done by Public Safety Director Bob Jones as acting manager (he’s the deputy county manager) and noting that he has offered to stay on indefinitely but wants to retire in 2020. Now, though, they may not have to decide what they’d do if she said no.

Ms. James-Mesloh had made several new requests, some of which were sticking points for commissioners. A requested shorter probation of 90 days was rejected.

On Thursday, Oct. 10, Mr. Stanley said Ms. James-Mesloh had verbally committed to accepting the county’s terms, which include 120 days’ probation. He said, however, that her start date was up in the air and may not be until December, but Mr. Jones will remain until after she’s on board.

The commissioners agreed to a slightly higher salary of $120,000 a year to lay the paid-leave issue to rest. She will have an 18-month initial contract term, with evaluation procedures to be decided later. Also, Ms. James-Mesloh is coming in with the same benefit arrangements based on seniority that a 10-year county employee would receive, but is opting out of the state retirement plan, which saves Glades County money. That’s the reason for the higher pay.

She didn’t know it when she accepted the board’s offer, but Mr. Jones had told the commissioners Tuesday he was ready and willing to stay on through his retirement, which he hopes for at the end of 2020. He said he would “make a contract in five minutes” with only 30 days’ notice required of termination if they were “satisfied with me and confident.”

All of the board members seemed to be in favor of doing just that if this search ended like last year’s did. They’ll find out when/if Ms. James-Mesloh signs the pact.

All of the commissioners were very complimentary of the job Mr. Jones has been doing.

Commissioner Storter said, “Bob is doing a marvelous job.”

Commissioner Weston Pryor said, “I know more now (about Glades County operations) than I ever have!”

This same candidate, Ms. James-Mesloh, had also been selected as Glades’ top pick in a 2018 manager search but withdrew that time after being offered the position. Commissioner Storter — who hadn’t made Ms. James-Mesloh her top pick this time for that reason — wanted to move on if she balked.

Also, Ms. James-Mesloh hada requested other conditions, including the ability to take some leave during a 90-day (rather than 120-day) probationary period because she’ll need to search for housing and complete a long-distance move.

Another request concerned a laxer policy on use of comp time, deviating from present policies. Ms. Storter-Long noted that some policies were not in writing or had to be specified or changed; that is on the list of chores for the new manager and would need to be board-approved later.