Leave county job vacant

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors recently chose to seek applicants for the vacant assistant administrator’s job.

In doing so, the board went against the recommendation of County Administrator Mike Johnson, who had suggested not filling the position left vacant after the September resignation of former Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph. Johnson hoped to save the county some money by not paying the $60,000-plus annual salary and $20,000 benefit package.

Traditionally, elected officials — like county supervisors — rely heavily on the recommendations of paid county officials like Johnson. That doesn’t mean supervisors have to go along with those recommendations

Even though supervisors have tremendous faith in Johnson’s abilities, they seemed worried about having a backup in case Johnson resigns or takes a leave of absence for personal reasons.

Supervisor Chairman Dallas Jones said he believes it would be to the county’s advantage to have someone who can step in when Johnson is gone.

Supervisor Walter Young referred to Johnson as “too modest” and more than capable of handling the job alone. Young, however, was concerned about who would answer questions in Johnson’s absence.

Supervisor Anita Felts made a good point. First, Felts said she believes Johnson needs the help. In addition, the county recently lost two longtime department heads — Finance Director Julia Williams and Building and Zoning Administrator Robert Barnett.

We can understand the desire to provide Johnson with an assistant administrator. But if he thinks he can handle it alone, that is the best choice in a difficult and uncertain fiscal climate like the one county government is currently experiencing. The question of filling the position can always be revisited in a more robust economy.