County to eliminate division manager position

Steve Novak’s retirement Sept. 1 as Anoka County’s division manager for governmental services will trigger some major organization changes in county government.

Steve Novak
Steve Novak

On the recommendation of its Management Committee, the Anoka County Board March 27 agreed to eliminate the governmental services division manager position when Novak leaves and transfer the reporting functions of departments that currently answer to Novak.

Novak has been governmental services division manager for more than 10 years, coming to the county after a long career in the Minnesota Legislature – 1975-1983 as a state representative in the Minnesota House and from 1983 to 2001 as a Minnesota State Senator.

There are currently five division managers in the county government’s organization chart that report directly to Anoka County Administrator Jerry Soma – finance and central services (Cevin Petersen), human services (Don Ilse), property records and taxation (Larry Dalien), public services (Jon Olson) and governmental services (Novak).

As governmental services division manager, Novak has responsibility for elections and voter registration, vital statistics, motor vehicle license centers, central communications, emergency management, veterans services, integrated waste management and intergovernmental relations.

In a memo to the Management Committee, Soma spelled out the reorganization changes that he recommended.

• Elections/voter registration as well as vital statistics will be transferred to the property records and taxation division.

• The license centers operation will fall under the jurisdiction of the director of integrated waste management and the integrated waste management department will be moved to the public services division.

“At one point in time the waste management area was under the responsibility of that division and the addition of the license centers would be consistent with having all transportation functions in the public services division,” Soma said.

• Emergency management and the central communications department will be transferred to the jurisdiction of Deputy County Administrator Tim Yantos.

• As a temporary measure, the veterans service department will be Soma’s responsibility until a permanent assignment is put in place in the future.

In addition, the community development director who works primarily with the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority currently reports to both Novak and Yantos, who is executive director of the HRA.

Under the reorganization plan approved by the county board, Community Development Director Karen Skepper will become executive director of the HRA and report directly to Soma.

“When the HRA was started there were no staff assigned and the function was given to the deputy county administrator,” Soma said.

“Now that we have staff assigned there is no reason why it needs to be retained with the deputy county administrator.”

In addition, Skepper will also have the responsibility of overseeing the county’s intergovernmental relations and lobbying work, as well as oversight of any contracts the county has for lobbying.

The changes in staff leadership at the HRA will take place immediately, but Yantos won’t take responsibility for the emergency management and central communications departments until Novak retires, according to Soma.

As executive director of the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority, as well as the Northstar Corridor Rail Authority, Yantos has his hands full right now with the Ramsey Commuter Rail station construction project, for which groundbreaking took place last week, Soma said.

With the 2012 election looming – candidate filings open in May and the primary election is Aug. 14 – the elections/voter registration will be moved immediately to the property records and taxation division to ensure that the transition occurs before the elections, Soma said.

“This function has resided within the property records and taxation division in the past and in many counties these functions are  together,” he said.

“One of the advantages of this move would be the availability of cross-training staff to assist elections during the election time.”

Dalien, as division manager of property records and taxation, will become the county’s chief election officer; he will also continue to perform county auditor duties.

In addition, the license centers function will start to merge into the integrated waste management department before Novak’s retirement, Soma said.

That’s because the license center staff are working with the county’s new associate county administrator Mike Roff on the Lean process to make changes to ensure that the center’s operations are more efficient, he said.

Brad Fields, integrated waste management director, will become part of that Lean process, Soma said.

According to Soma, staff who have been asked to handle additional responsibilities have been “extremely cooperative” and agreed to do so “willingly” and “without hesitation.”

“We have had a very positive response,” Soma said.

While the reorganization will mean some salary increases due to a few employees moving into a higher classification, the county will save money by not having the governmental services position any more, he said.

According to its resolution approving the reorganization, the county board “believes these proposed changes to the county’s organizational chart will improve efficiency, simplify reporting and streamline operations.”

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]