County delays Gears’ review

The Kitsap County administrator position is in a period of transition, as Parks and Recreation director Cris Gears occupies the office as interim director and seeks to define how the position will operate in the future.

“I want to clarify the position and make sure the commissioners and the departments have a clearer understanding of what is expected between the commissioners, the administrator and the department directors,” Gears said. “I can serve as a team captain, that’s one image. Another is to be a direct supervisor. We want to develop a strategic plan that works for everybody.”

When Gears succeeded Malcolm Fleming in the post last month, all parties decided to meet at the end of April to evaluate the situation and decide whether he would continue in the new position or return to his former post.

The county commissioners scheduled a meeting with Gears to discuss the situation on Monday, but had to postpone when their regular meeting ran long. Gears’ attempt to reschedule this week was unsuccessful because the commissioners are out of the office. So the trial period was extended until the end of May.

“At the end of May, we’ll be looking either for a new parks director or a new county administrator,” Gears said.

Gears said he will benefit from Fleming’s groundwork, but his approach will be quite different.

“The role of the first administrator was to create systems that didn’t exist,” he said. “He needed to build a framework to define how people interact. I don’t need to do that. My job is to figure out how to use the systems and apply the policies to what we have today.”

Fleming, who essentially created the position, was desk-bound a great deal of the time. Gears, however, strives for a little more mobility and hopes to speak out on behalf of the county at various public events.

Gears’ familiarity with the players has already worked to his advantage. In a recent planning meeting the commissioners kept suggesting items for discussion for an upcoming retreat. Gears firmly held his ground.

“In a more flexible situation I would have done what they asked,” he said. “But we already agreed on an agenda, and I thought I should keep them on track.”

Gears said it will take two or three months to hire a new parks director, which could leave the position vacant during the Kitsap County Fair in August. This is not a problem, according to Gears, because there are “some outstanding people in critical positions in that department.”

Administrative coordinator Don Burger said Gears had an advantage over an outside candidate, due to his experience as a department head.

“He already knows how we do things,” he said.

“He is taking on the whole position from a different angle,” Burger said. “He is a fresh set of eyes, who is doing a whole gut check as to how we do business. He is refocusing our priorities.”

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