At a special meeting on June 30, the Grand County Council discussed, among other items, organizational restructuring. The topic was prompted by the recent announcement from Zacharia Levine, Director of the Community and Economic Development Department, that he will be resigning from his position in August. County Administrator Chris Baird suggested it was a good opportunity to shift some responsibilities within the county and lay the groundwork for a wider change in the organizational framework.
A flat structure
“The county's organizational chart, in general, is very flat,” said Baird, explaining that widely accepted best organizational practices have broad departments headed by a single chief with related divisions grouped under that leader. Grand County, Baird said, has too many departments reporting directly to the county administrator. If the administrator’s office is too occupied with the minutiae of department functions, he went on, they won’t have the bandwidth to focus on the big picture strategic vision for the county.
“The council administrator has never really had the time available to act as a chief executive because of all the detail work that goes into functioning as, potentially, department head for 14 direct reports or more,” Baird said.
Levine agreed that a change in organization could be more efficient.
“I definitely appreciate the clustering of partner divisions or related divisions,” he said, listing some government services commonly grouped together under community and/or economic development as planning and zoning, active transportation and trails, economic development and/or sustainability.
Room for change
The discussion was the background for a specific agenda item up for a vote: amending the job description of the Community and Economic Development Director to remove the economic portion of the position’s duties, and reducing the position’s pay grade.
Baird said the new job title could either lock the county into its current organization or allow for a future change.
“If we called it the Community Development Director then we’re kind of stuck that way,” he said. “But if we separate the division head position from the department head position, then you can maintain the option to put the chief building official or the planning and zoning director into that role depending on how it shakes out.”
The county’s chief building official, Bill Hulse, was at the meeting and disagreed about the need for a reorganization, saying that his department already works well with the planning and zoning department within the current structure, and warning that if one of the current department heads had to take on a leadership role of additional departments, it would detract from their leadership of their area of expertise.
Levine agreed that the head of a larger department could not also be expected to head a division within that department.
“There's not enough capacity with any one of these division directors, or division managers, right now to oversee their specific unit and serve as a community development director,” he said.
Economic development duties
Along with considering removing the “economic” part of the Community Development Director job description, the council considered where those duties should land, with Baird suggesting that Elaine Gizler, director of the Moab Area Travel Council, be tasked with those responsibilities, at least for the short term. Baird was concerned that if the economic development responsibilities are not quickly relocated, the county could lose some grants that the CED department is currently managing.
Gizler was present at the meeting and expressed confidence that her office could take on the role of economic development, and said she would look forward to the opportunity. Levine agreed that makes sense for now.
Baird intervened to clarify, saying it was “a little bit like nails on a chalkboard” to hear the change described as placing economic development under the control of the Travel Council.
“I see it the other way around: we’re going to put the Travel Council under Economic Development,” Baird said.
“It’s really a major shift in that concept that tourism prevails above all else and the scraps go to [economic] diversification,” he said.
After all the discussion, a vote was called to re-title the Community and Economic Development Director job position to “Planning and Zoning Director” and reduce the pay grade. The motion passed unanimously.
The Grand County Council meets every first and third Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m. Meeting agendas, schedules and instructions on how to participate can be found at www.grandcountyutah.net/134/County-Council