Monday, April 22nd, 2024 Church Directory
County Administrator Steve Taylor

New Administrator Brings Fresh Ideas

“I didn’t follow the traditional path to become a county administrator,” says Sherburne County Administrator Steve Taylor. “Usually, you become an intern or management analyst in a city or a county and then you move up the ranks over time.”

Taylor, who was hired by Sherburne County last November after Brian Bensen retired, started in the private sector, then went to the federal government and worked at the Dept. of Defense, worked in local government for a county in Colorado for six years, then moved to Denver and worked as the Director of Finance and Administration for Denver Public Library. 
 
“Then my wife wanted to move closer to her family in the Midwest, and I applied for and was hired as assistant county administrator at Carver County,” he says. “I was there for eight years, then I saw this opportunity. Sherburne County was a growing community with lots of potential and lots of opportunities.”
 
Taylor has been in his newest position for about seven months, and he believes his background in different aspects of business and government have helped him offer a different insight on how things might work in the county.
 
“I’ve worked for different size organizations and been exposed to different theories and policies. So I don’t just have Minnesota experience. I have experience from other states and systems,” he says. “So that’s contributed to my ability to come up with different ideas that I throw out to the board and see if they’re interested.”
 
Technology
Taylor says he’s a big supporter of technology. He’s always looking for ways to make things work more effectively and efficiently.
 
“If there’s something we can invest in today that can make us leaner, meaner, more efficient and more effective in the future, that’s something I would propose to the board,” he says.
 
One thing he is supporting is automating the request for board action process, which is used any time there is an agenda item that goes before the county commissioners.
 
“Right now it’s very paper intensive where paper is being sent inter-office or sometimes hand written, “ he says.
 
The new method will streamline the process to eliminate paper and allow for easier search of past board actions.
 
For streamlining the budget process, Taylor says they’ve developed electronic budget forms where everything is done online.
 
The county is also looking at a new website that would increase self-service opportunities. Taylor says  an example would be allowing a construction firm to fill out permit information online instead of traveling to the Government Center.
 
“There’s lots of different ways we can offer self-service online,” he says.  “It’s a customer service function.”
 
Taylor is also looking at starting an employee engagement and satisfaction survey. He intends to bring the idea before the commissioners some time in July.
 
“It’s a series of questions to see what people think about working for Sherburne County,” he says. “We just talked about it at a department head meeting.”
 
Communication
Taylor says he has been impressed with the quality of the staff, department heads who work for the county and the county commissioners.
 
“I walked into a situation where the people are really knowledgeable. It really is a bottom-up approach,” he says. “I think department heads are very good about getting their staff’s input. And when you do that, the board has the best information to make decisions.”
 
Taylor is also interested in improving communication between the county and other community partners.
 
“I’m trying to spend as much time out meeting people,” he says. “I’ve gone to one Rotary meeting, a number of chamber meetings, township meetings, joint township meetings and city council meetings because I want to understand the issues in the community as well.”
 
Every three months there is a city administrator meeting to discuss different issues taking place in the cities.
 
He started a manager group meeting that takes place every other month. “We have 50 or 60 supervisors and managers in one room and we talk about county-wide issues,” he says.
 
Expansion
One big issue that the county will be facing is expansion of the Government Center. In 2008, detailed plans were drawn based on population projections during a booming economy. 
 
Those plans were put on hold when the economy went sour. But there are signs the economy is improving, and Taylor is in the process of reconstituting the building expansion committee again.
 
“We’ll go back and look at whether the assumptions made in 2008 are still valid today,” he says. “Where do we have space issues today and where do we see space issues taking place in five or 10 years?”
 
Taylor says another question is whether to expand at one site or in other areas of the county.
 
“Does it make sense to look at satellite offices in the central part of the county or along the Hwy. 10 corridor? Does it make sense to offer some Human Services in Becker or Big Lake or have some of our recorder’s services in other areas?” he asks. “I don’t know the answer. But it’s something to look at.” 
 
Economic Development
Since Taylor took over as administrator, the county hired a consultant to develop a strategic plan for economic development. 
 
“We’ve established a county-wide set of economic development priorities to focus on,” he says.
 
And one big factor in economic development, says Taylor, is the expansion of broadband capabilities.
 
“There are big portions of our county that are not adequately connected from a bandwidth standpoint. We’ve reached out to different groups to help us develop a plan to encourage fiberoptics throughout the county,” he says. “We have businesses that say they’re being strangled - not able to do what they need to do to be competitive without better broadband speed.”
 
The county is in collaboration with other cities to develop and distribute a survey about the need for broadband.
 
“We need to have infrastructure in place to send information back and forth,” says Taylor. “We’re treating that just like electricity, just like water and just like a road. That’s going to help us from an economic development standpoint.”
 
Seven months into his new role as county administrator, Taylor says he’s still learning and he still can’t predict what new issues will surface in the county.
 
“My typical day is atypical. I love the variety of this job - and working with these people. And I’m constantly redoing my to-do list,” he says. “I have a 50-minute commute, and as I’m driving, I’m thinking about what I want to get accomplished today. Nine times out of 10, those things will get done at five or six o’clock, if at all, because other things pop up.
 
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”