Less than a year after he campaigned against two Kootenai County commissioners, Tom Taggart is becoming their right-hand man.
Taggart, 42, announced Friday he is resigning as county clerk in order to become county administrator Oct. 1. He will be the first county administrator here and in Idaho, according to the Idaho Association of Counties.
Despite their campaign-season differences, the prominent Democrat says he won’t have any problem becoming point man for the all-Republican commission. They have worked worked well together since the 1994 election, Taggart said. And “where I disagree (with the commissioners) is outside of the scope of my job,” he said.
Taggart will run computer services and the printing and purchasing department. He also will help commissioners with the daily details of running the county, and gather information on long-term projects, such as finding more office space for county workers.
The new job pays $52,798, a $12,000 raise for Taggart. Coeur d’Alene City Administrator Ken Thompson makes $70,000 a year and Post Falls Administrator John Hendrickson is paid $59,946.
The cost of Taggart’s salary will more than be covered with savings from the computer services and printing management jobs that Taggart will assume, said Dick Compton, commission chairman. The print shop manager is retiring and the county has not had a computer services manager for some time. An outside consultant recommended the county hire a computer manager.
Taggart’s role doesn’t negate the need for three full-time commissioners, who each earn $40,500 a year, Compton said. “It allows us to get our job done,” he said.
Though initially opposed to the idea, Compton has discovered “stuff comes at you machine gun … and you see stuff languish and languish.” This is a crucial investment if the county is going to streamline and reduce the cost of government, he said.
The position was not advertised. It was apparent Taggart had all of the right qualifications, Compton said. “So we didn’t go out and drag a lot of people through the interview process,” he said.
County watchdogs give the change mixed reviews.
“When these commissioners ran for office, they were touting their experience at high corporate levels,” said Ron Rankin of the Kootenai County Property Owners Association. Now “they are going to give Tom the position so they can play more golf.”
While he respects Taggart, Rankin said, it means the county will have a “super-manager who is unreachable by the electorate.”
That won’t happen because department managers will continue to report directly to the commission, Compton said.
Concerned Businesses of North Idaho appears cautiously supportive. “The Board of County Commissioners had made a series of excellent decisions lately and we’ve got to trust this is another one in that series,” said Pat Raffee, the group’s executive director.
The Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee will have two weeks to name three candidates to replace Taggart. The commissioners make the final selection. Taggart is happy to get out of the political arena and the job “is the type of thing I’m most interested in,” he said.
Taggart has been a tax auditor for the Internal Revenue Service, owned an accounting office and ran a restaurant. He served on the Lakeland School Board and the Rathdrum City Council and defeated Republican Shirley Deitz for the clerk’s job in 1990. He was re-elected last year.
Taggart is married to Spokesman-Review columnist Cynthia Taggart. The couple has two daughters.
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