Back before the supervisors did the expected and decided Mike Hendrix would do a darn good job as county administrator, Miner Reporter Suzanne Adams called the county palace to find out who the finalists were for the job.
This, we learned, is not information that the Miner should have. If we were given the names of people considered to be finalists for the job, we might do something crazy like put the names in the newspaper or Google search them.
For all I know, Mike Hendrix will do a good job as the county administrator. Certainly, if the supervisors were interested in low key continuity, Hendrix looks like a good choice. Just look how calm things have been in the County Administration Building, at least from the outside looking in.
A few years back the Kingman City Council was in a similar position, having just fired City Manager Paul Beecher after some very tumultuous, controversial years in City Hall. The Council played it safe, putting longtime employee Jack Kramer in the driver's seat. Say what you will about the decision, it sure has been serene down at City Hall - at least from the outside looking in.
Hendrix follows Ron Walker, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy stirring up emotions and throwing around insults. The closer Walker got to retirement, the less discerning he was in deciding who to ridicule.
In short, by the time he left, many viewed Walker as the north end of a southbound equine.
If Hendrix has a similar superiority complex, he's hidden it well.
I was ready to put this story to bed, so to speak, while Hendrix follows Kramer's lead and lulls county residents into a peaceful slumber.
Then the phone rang.
"Rich, old buddy, long time no see."
I have to be careful when I respond to people who talk before I can say "hello." My bride says people can hear me rolling my eyes when I talk like that.
So I paused. Cleared my head. Relaxed.
"Is this Cliff?" I said. "Cliff Cerbat? You haven't called in years."
"And I can tell by your voice I'm calling too soon," Cliff replied. "It sounds like you're rolling your eyes."
My face reddened. The silence grew.
"OK," Cliff said. "It's going to be one of those calls where I have to get to the point right away. So I will.
"How come you guys didn't make a stink about the county not releasing the names of the administrator finalists?"
I mumbled something about picking fights, knowing when to do it and not wasting it on something frivolous. Cliff would mutter "uh huh" occasionally just to let me know he was still on the line and still awake.
"The problem is you didn't go to your secret source on this matter - me," Cliff said after my explanation drifted off to silence.
"How are you privy to inside information?" I demanded.
"Hey, I work for a living," Cliff said in protest. "For the county, as a matter of fact. And when you work for the county, you hear stuff."
"OK, Cliff. You've convinced me. You're my inside source on county stuff. So, what have you got that the public needs to know?"
"Not so fast," Cliff protested. "If I'm your official secret source, I deserve a nickname so your readers will grow to know I'm someone they can trust."
"What have you got in mind?"
Cliff paused to build suspense. "I was thinking you could refer to me as Deep Rut."
"Sure," Cliff said. "Woodward and Bernstein had Deep Throat. I figure I could be Deep Rut. It makes sense."
"How does it make sense?"
"I work for the Road Department," Cliff said.
I couldn't argue with the logic.
"OK, Deep Rut, what can you tell me about the job search for county administrator that the public needs to know?"
"Now you're talking," Cliff said. I could imagine him rubbing his hands together. "Three of the other applications were regular guys. Probably would have done a good job, but there's really not much to separate them from Hendrix.
"But the fourth guy ..." Cliff paused.
I glanced at the clock and Cliff somehow sensed my impatience.
"Like nothing anyone around here had ever seen," Cliff said. "A resume that is killer."
"OK, he's a city manager in Lotionfort, Iowa."
"Yeah, I know, sounds like the name of a country club," Cliff said. "Anyway, he's been on the job five years. The place is going broke when he arrives. Industry is leaving, half the homes in town are in foreclosure, the school district is broke.
"Now the city has a surplus, property taxes have been slashed, the school district is the best in the state based on standardized test scores, and the unemployment rate is .02 percent."
"This is insane," I said. "How could the supervisors not hire this guy? How did they not at least interview him?"
"You got me," Cliff said. "It just doesn't make sense. None of the guys down at the shop can figure it out."
"Well, this is one story that demands an answer," I said. "I'm calling right now to find out why they didn't even interview this guy.
"And by the way, what is this guy's name?"
"Hang on a sec," Cliff said. I could hear paper rustling over the phone.
"OK," he said, triumph in his voice. "The best candidate for the job, the guy who didn't get hired even though he was by far the best, a candidate for administra ..."
"Enough already," I said. "Just give me the guy's name."
"Ron Walker Jr."