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Posted on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

Verna McDaniel appears next in line to become Washtenaw County's top administrator

By Ryan J. Stanton

The one and only candidate interviewed for the Washtenaw County administrator job Thursday night needed no introduction when she appeared before commissioners.

Verna McDaniel, who has been employed with the county since 1982 and currently serves as deputy administrator, says she's humbled to be considered for the position. If hired, she said she'll use her experience to work to address the challenges facing Washtenaw County.


Verna McDaniel

Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-5th District and chairman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, said he's feeling good about the prospect of McDaniel becoming the county's next top leader.

"I can't speak for the board, but as far as I'm concerned, she will be getting my vote. I think she's a great asset to this community," he said. "She knows the players - that's the main thing, because we've got a lot of work ahead of us and there's going to be some turnover in the board. We don't need to have somebody come in that doesn't know who the players are."

McDaniel, 58, was named deputy administrator in 2007 by County Administrator Bob Guenzel, who will be retiring in May. He'll likely pass the torch to McDaniel, pending approval by the board of commissioners on Feb. 3.

McDaniel's current annual salary is $144,234. Guenzel earns $159,424 annually. The salary range for the position upon Guenzel's retirement has not yet been determined.

Before considering outside candidates, commissioners decided to look within the organization for a new county administrator, and McDaniel was the only internal candidate to apply.

As deputy administrator for the last few years, McDaniel has served the role of the county's chief operations officer - directing and managing 35 departments with 1,400 employees and a $200 million annual budget serving 340,000 residents.

McDaniel says her official duties have kept her working closely with each department to implement budget and personnel reductions due to declining revenues. She cites her role as a key bargaining team member that successfully negotiated millions of dollars in concessions with the majority of the county's labor groups this past year to close a substantial budget gap for 2010 and 2011.

"I am proud to work for this county and feel that it is truly a world class operation," she told Sizemore in a Jan. 15 letter. "We have faced a very challenging 2010-11 budget process but rose to the occasion with the help of our leadership and most impressive, our employees. It will be crucial for us to navigate the waters carefully monitoring our revenues and expenditures as well determining our future. I feel ready for these challenges and hope that you allow me the opportunity to lead our organization to a progressive and fiscally stable future."

McDaniel has been employed in the public sector for more than 35 years. Most of her 28 years with the county were spent as human resources director - a role in which she says she used technology and best business practices to make the county a model of excellent customer service and a great place to work. She authored the county's recruitment Web site used by the public and established the county's online benefit program for open enrollment.

McDaniel says her role as human resources director also gave her experience in administering more than $250 million in county pension assets and allowed her to build positive relationships with the county's various labor union groups.

McDaniel’s education includes a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Michigan University and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

She and her husband Tim, a local attorney, have been residents of Ann Arbor for 33 years and have a daughter, Samantha, who graduated from the University of Michigan and is a recent law student at the University of Miami.

McDaniel cites other accomplishments such as providing leadership on the Coalition to End Illiteracy, specifically on the financial literacy segment of the program. She also says she has provided leadership to the Eastern Leaders Group, United Way, and the county's Labor Management Team and Department Head Group.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

Dems on the Warpath. Tax and Spend like no tomorrow.. All the problems in world right here in Washtenaw County and they have to be fixed right now and the only people to do it is the Government with hundreds of layers of managers and unending lines of consultants. Too many chiefs with far too much wampum! The county managers should cut salaries down to the lowest competitive rate in the country - becuase that is where the State of Michigan is going to be for a long time.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

Actually, this sounds like a very good decision on behalf of the county board given her background and experience. McDaniel appears to be extremely well qualified and could bring a very new perspective to things. A current county board is in the best position to determine who is best suited for this position based on their work experience, not naysayers on the outside looking in. I would only consider this a "shoddy" move if I were one of the external candidates posting to this article.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 2:42 p.m.

Nothing against this person, but I hope we ALL remember this shoddy decision come election time. We need to clean house and get some commissioners who WANT to see positive change and realize the pain of the county residents. We are NOT HAPPY with status quo. This county is like a dog chasing it's tail...going nowhere. It's a disgrace. And so, it continues because they are looking for someone who will not shake anything up. Voters....let's clean out this county board.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 1:34 p.m.

When does the transparency begin? Only ONE candidate considered? What could go wrong here? Bob Guenzel has hand-picked his successor and gets the backing of Board (who, in theory, are there to represent the citizens), but our Commissioners know that being the voice of dissention can be difficult and very ugly. That might mean asking some hard questions in order to get the best and brightest leadership. What is the big rush? Let's think outside the box for just a minute, ensure that appropriate effort has been made to get the best "bang for our buck" with a new administrator. The truth is that the agenda has been set and no one is willing to rock the boat. Mr. Guenzel will continue to call the shots from his retirement hacienda. Ms. McDaniel will cap her her mediocre career with a splendid salary package and retire with a well-padded pension. Is this the best leadership we can find? Probably not, but sometimes mediocre turns out OK. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Shame on us.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 11:17 a.m.

The voters in Washtenaw County are in an ugly mood. The economy is beating us down. We are loosing our jobs and our homes. We voted down the schools enhancement millage and Ypsilanti Township defeated the measure to raise an additional 2 mills for police protection. Michigan is dropping in the rankings from one of the wealthiest states in the union to one of the poorest. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and lost 87,339 residents in 2009. How does McDaniel's current annual salary of $144,234 compare with deputy administrator positions located in less affluent sections of the country? Is Mr. Guenzels salary of $159,424 on par with County Administrators who work in Alabama, Arkansas or Mississippi? The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners need to base administrative staffing levels and pay rates on the current state of the economy. The voters of Washtenaw County expect services to be cut and taxes lowered and come the next election we will vote in record numbers.

Janelle Baranowski

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

While it seems that Ms. McDaniel is an excellent candidate for the job, I am still disappointed that the Board did not open the position to external candidates. There may not be a better candidate out there, but now we'll never know. Furthermore, I am extremely disappointed by Comm. Sizemore's comment "We don't need to have somebody come in that doesn't know who the players are." Does he mean that they only desire someone who will "play ball" with the current administration? That doesn't seem like a very good litmus test for the next leader of our county. We need a manager, not a "ball player."