Public admin candidates detail plan for demanding post
Experience in 24/7 fields, approach to position key for 3 candidates
The role of the Barry County Public Administrator is one that can be demanding and challenging, and it requires the public's trust.
The individual elected to fill the role of county public administrator will be responsible for a number of day-to-day duties, including administrative, clerical and reception. County public administrators must be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to respond to any issues that may arise with a client. The official is also responsible for keeping in contact with hospitals, health-care facilities, hospices, law offices and other agencies on behalf of clients.
Candidates vying for the position, to be decided by voters in the Aug. 2 election, include Andy Reavis, R-Cassville, the chief operating officer with Billings Mutual Insurance Company; Rodney Hughes, R-Cassville, a customer care specialist at Fasco Industries; and Keith Daniels, R-Exeter, a retired healthcare finance executive.
Running for such a demanding position, each candidate has his own take on how to fill the role in a timely manner.
"I've always believed the best predictor of a person's response to a challenging situation is to look back at how they've dealt with difficult challenges in the past," Daniels said. "I began college in 1985 at the age of 32. This was after my wife and I had been married for eight years and had four children. I was able to work nights, drive back and forth to Neosho, and later Joplin, and graduate from Missouri Southern State University in 1990. I have spent the last 25 years working in the healthcare industry as a healthcare finance and administrative professional.
"Working in hospitals, I have always worked in a 24/7 environment. I've received many late night phone calls from employees with questions or emergency situations [when] they needed help. I've also returned to the hospital to work overnight shifts when no one else was available to work. I realize the position of public administrator is very demanding and often requires late hours. I am fully accepting and prepared to take on that responsibility if elected to this position."
Reavis said he would first point out the 24/7 responsibility rests solely with the administrator, not the office.
"After hours and weekend calls can represent a serious nature event and, if at all possible, [should] be answered by the administrator," he said. "I feel this is an administrator duty and not one to be handed off or delegated lightly. Even away from the office, daily contact would be made to check in for emergency situations.
"If elected, each client and business-related contact will have my cell number to call, text or email. With my current position, I continually check email, texts and web reports for any items needing attention outside of office hours -- the wonders of modern technology. Each administrator I have visited has been very straightforward on the 24/7 responsibility. If you're an 8-5 worker, this job is not for you."
Hughes said he has been in customer service at Fasco for 24 years.
"I am accustomed to being available 24/7, and I have my cell phone on 24 hours a day," he said. "The customer does not always need you when you are available on an 8-5 job. Often times, needs arise that are inconvenient. However, that is what customer care is about. In this job the client will come first."
As with any position, there are times when an individual is challenged to meet their obligations.
"Barring a lack of cell or internet service or an emergency situation, there should be no challenge in answering calls placed to the administrator," Reavis said. "I think the bigger challenge is how to react to the call information. In the event of being away and not physically able to react to an emergency situation, clear, up-front communication must be established on what to do prior to the administrator being away."
Daniels said the public administrator's position is a tough job, and there will always be challenges to overcome.
"I personally don't think I will have any problem making myself available to answer any late night calls, because I've had these demands placed on me throughout my career in healthcare management," he said. "There will sometimes be extraordinary circumstances where it will take a public administrator who is able to 'think outside the box' to come up with creative solutions to problems. I've always prided myself on being a problem solver and I have no doubt this will continue if I am honored by being chosen by the voters of Barry County to be the next Barry County Public Administrator."
Candidates also have a plan to address delegation of duties if they have to be away from the office due to a personal or family emergency.
"I feel one of the primary responsibilities of any leader should be to develop and train their staff so if there is any kind of emergency or extended leave needed, the office can continue to function without an appreciable decrease in customer service," Daniels said. "One of the best ways to promote good morale in any organization is to allow and encourage your subordinates to grow in their jobs. If I am elected, it will be one of my highest priorities to have a person who can and will function as a deputy administrator. This will allow for delegation of duties and prepare the office for any possible emergencies or possible transitions in leadership."
"A temporary substitute acting as public administrator must be appointed by court order," Reavis said. "Depending on the nature of the interruption and expected delay in the return to office, I would request the current administrator's assistant, Beverly Mitchell, be appointed to serve in a short term situation. She is experienced and very capable of handling the office for a short term period.
"For longer-term scenarios, the current administrator, Pam Modlin, and the previous administrator, Barbara White, have both agreed to step in under court order to assume the role of temporary administrator. Both are very capable, experienced professionals I have had the privilege of getting to know during the course of this campaign.
Reavis said in either scenario, short-term or long-term, the clients served by the public administrator's office would continue to receive the quality of service they deserve.
Hughes said without being in the position, he is not 100 percent sure how delegation of duties will be handled.
"I really can't answer," he said. "I would have to check with Pam [Modlin] to see how she handles situations like that.
"No one can be available 24 hours a day non-stop. I'm sure there is a procedure in place, or else things may have to wait a few minutes or a few hours."