Murray willing to consider helping county in short term

Published 1:12 am Friday, June 9, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Former County Administrator Joe Murray said he would consider helping the county during budget season on a limited basis, but said doing so would require some “strong conversation” and an understanding that he would require help from others during the process.

Joe Murray, retired former county administrator

As a retiree in the state’s PERS system, Murray is limited as to the amount of money he can earn during retirement if he came back as a county employee. There are no restrictions on pay if he were to come back as an independent contractor.

“That is something I am going to have to think about and weigh out also,” he said.

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If they want his help, the county would need to make it worth his while financially.

At Monday’s Adams County Board of Supervisors meeting, District 1 Supervisor Wes Middleton suggested the county consider contacting Murray to see if he would be willing to help the county on a temporary basis to get it through the budget.

The county’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Work should be under way on the new budget, but because the county administration position is vacant, that is likely not happening.

Murray said at this point in time of the budgeting process, work had already begun.

“Actually, it’s a year-long process to some extent,” he said. “The budget process is the most critical and time consuming portion of the county administrator’s. During these months, all efforts and time are dedicated to budgeting.”

Murray retired after nine years as county administrator in August 2020. At that time, the board hired Angie King, who had been the county’s comptroller, as county administrator. They later added comptroller duties back to King.

Supervisors at the Jan. 3, 2023, meeting failed to reappoint King to her county administrator position or comptroller position.

Supervisors later hired a new comptroller, but has sought a replacement since that time. In the interim, county administrator duties have fallen on the shoulders of Brandi Lewis, the county’s chancery clerk, shared by county attorney Scott Slover.

The county has advertised at least twice for the position, but has garnered very few qualified candidates. Those candidates who have been qualified have withdrawn their names from consideration for different reasons, mostly tracking back to the money being offered for the job.

The county has advertised the position as paying $80,000 to $90,000. Murray said in order to attract a qualified candidate, Adams County is going to have to increase that salary amount.

“To do that job correctly, it is extremely time consuming and it carries a huge amount of accountability and responsibility,” he said.

Some say the job in Adams County should pay in the $100,000 to $120,000 range or greater.

After Middleton’s suggestion at the Monday meeting, Lewis said she would be willing in the interim to continue the day-to-day tasks of county administrator if Murray would be willing to return to handle the county’s budget work.

“This is something I’m going to have to think hard about before committing myself to the board,” Murray said Thursday morning.

“I hate that they are in that position. I would definitely give it consideration. I know they need help. But I don’t want to come in and be 100 percent responsible. We would have to have an understanding that I would get some help from within the county to get this done. It’s been three years since I was in that job. Who knows what I would find now, what kind of shape things are in now.

“I am enjoying myself in retirement. I stay busy every day. None of us are promised tomorrow. It would make me feel a lot more comfortable if the board had a new hire that I was coming in to train so that we aren’t having the same discussion next year,” Murray said.