AIKEN - Six months ago, when Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian took the job, he joked that his goal was to stay out of the newspaper.
But last week he took time out for a 30-minute interview about the state of the county and his role in its affairs.
Mr. Killian already has had to make a number of tough decisions, including the hiring of a new jail administrator - a move that required the ouster of the man who had held the position.
More challenges loom as the county prepares to move inmates to the new Doris C. Gravat detention facility and Mr. Killian works to present a balanced budget to Aiken County Council.
Q: Is this job what you thought it would be?
A: I didn't come in with any preconceived notions. As you learn an organization, you adapt a little bit, and they adapt a little bit. ... It has been a busy six months. ... I still haven't gotten around to meeting everybody. But I don't think there have been any surprises, if that's what you're looking for.
Q: How is your relationship with other county officials?
A: The county is blessed. We've got some good talent throughout the organization. My relationship with both (elected officials) and department heads is good. After I present the budget, I hope it still is.
Q: How is the budget process coming along?
A: It's not looking good. The council hasn't seen any of it yet. We're faced with things most local governments in the state are faced with. ... The national economic picture has slowed everything down. I hope to take (the proposed budget) to the council in two weeks.
Q: It sounds as though there might have to be some sacrifices made.
A: I don't know yet. We're trying not to recommend a millage increase. Some counties are going toward early retirements, but this costs money, too, to buy people out.
Q: How will the tight budget match with any recommendations from the recent county job salary study?
A: The salary study is nearly complete. ... The council's willingness to conduct the study is a good sign and shows it is something we should look at ... if the study shows we're not competitive in some areas.
Q: The sheriff's office has offered to run the jail. Wouldn't this lead to greater efficiencies?
A: There are advantages of it being under the sheriff and advantages of it being under the (county) administrator. ... It's a policy issue, and it comes down to what the council decides. About half of our state jails are under the sheriff, and half are under the county administrator.
Q: Has Lonnie McCarthy (the recently replaced county jail administrator) decided to remain with the county? If so, what will his role be with the new jail?
A: I still can't talk about that. He's still on leave. ... That was one of the toughest decisions I've ever made, but I'm confident it was the right decision. ... We recently advertised the position of deputy jail director, and he has expressed some interest in it.
Q: Now that the county has started its roads projects with the recently implemented local option sales tax, have the individual municipalities begun receiving money for their projects yet?
A: No. We should be getting the third payment (from the state) by mid-May. ... That should free up enough money to invest in those municipal bonds. Right now we don't have a lot of excess. According to the court order, we had to first reserve as much as we thought (the county) would need this year.
Q: Do you see yourself retiring here or using this job as a stepping stone to go elsewhere?
A: It's a little early for that. Everywhere I've been, you work meeting to meeting and do the best job you can do. I'm comfortable here. My family is comfortable here. My goal is to stay here for a long time.
TITLE: Aiken County administrator
DUTIES: Oversees 12 county departments
NUMBER OF COUNTY EMPLOYEES: 850
FAMILY: Wife, Carrie; son Jamie, 20; daughter Brandi, 18
FORMER POSITIONS: County manager of York County; interim administrator of Fairfield County
Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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