Mohave County administrator gets all thumbs up in first review

Mike Hendrix

Mike Hendrix

KINGMAN - To members of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, the difference between current Mohave County Administrator Mike Hendrix and the employee he replaced is like night and day.

Not only is Hendrix easy to work with, but he also knows his place. He was named to the position May 20, five months after former Mohave County Manager Ron Walker left in December. Walker's attitude angered a number of people during his tenure, and both employees and members of the public accused him of being rude, abrupt and demanding. He was involved in several high-profile conflicts as county manager.

"Ron Walker ran the county," said Supervisor Hildy Angius, District 2. "In his mind, he became the head of the county and the Supervisors worked for him. As a county manager, he abused his authority. On the other hand, Mike has performed fabulously. There's a lot more openness and transparency and I think he's doing a very good job."

Hendrix submitted his six-month self-evaluation this month to the Board, which unanimously approved it and roundly lauded his work. He will continue to submit self-evaluations at six-month intervals. According to the Mohave County human resources department, all employees are given self-evaluation packets to fill out and discuss with their supervisors.

Hendrix, who was in charge of the Mohave County Public Works Department before he became county administrator, is now responsible for 18 departments, more than 1,274 funded positions and a budget of more than $273 million. Also, he provides administrative support to about 30 elected county officials and works with a variety of local, county and state officials.

In his report, Hendrix said he tries to be a buffer for his department directors so they can concentrate on and be more efficient and effective in running their departments. Hendrix said he accomplishes that by being very accessible and responsive. He also strives to create a work environment that encourages customer service, empowers employees and allows for positive growth.

Hendrix said he constantly seeks to improve transparency. He presented a balanced budget to the Board, which included a 2.5 percent raise for the majority of employees, without recommending an increase in taxes. Also, he serves the Board by being as non-political and non-controversial as possible, he said, focusing on carrying out the members' wishes and leaving the politics to the elected officials.

"I have demonstrated my support of the Board, along with support for the county's policies," noted Hendrix in his evaluation. "I have tried to faithfully and effectively impart the Board's vision for the county to my directors. I have promoted customer service and cooperation in critical areas of the organization, especially when working with our development community and with the cities.

"Whenever I have an opportunity, I tout my departments and their directors, managers and employees in a very positive light, being the biggest cheerleader, so they receive recognition for their accomplishments and successes. I try never to miss an opportunity to teach or to praise an employee for a job well done."

That's a far cry from the behavior exhibited by Walker, who was hired as the county manager in May 2001 at a salary of $87,000 and was placed in charge of a $151 million budget and 1,200 county employees. The Board approved a new contract with Walker in 2009 and extended it by 18 months in January 2011. He made more than $170,000 and was in charge of a $77 million budget and 777 employees. He went off the payroll on Dec. 31, 2012.

During his time there, Walker instituted a ban on weapons in county buildings, hired more security officers, installed a metal detector at the entrance of the Mohave County Administration Building, prohibited the public from passing out political information on county grounds and created a dress code for the public at Board meetings. The Board repealed those policies at the beginning of the year.

After Walker left, the Board renamed the position to county administrator to underscore that the final authority over all county business rests with the Board. Members also reduced the position's power by removing the ability to hire or fire department heads, eliminating the deputy county manager positions, removing a requirement for a special meeting to be held in order to discipline the county administrator and allowing all county employees to speak with members of the Board without having to go to the county administrator first.

With Hendrix's help, the Board has accumulated a list of accomplishments in a short time. They include returning the call to the public on agendas for Board meetings, removing the moratorium on accepting new roads into the county's maintenance system, quickly dealing with budget problems at Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire Department, creating an employee conflict of interest policy and calling for an investigation in the Lincoln Life Insurance snafu, which left 14 employees without life insurance for several years.

Board Chairman Gary Watson, District 1, praised Hendrix after meeting with him and other Board members in executive session to discuss the self-evaluation. Watson said Walker was not living up to the Board's expectations, whereas Hendrix has met or exceeded them.

"Mike is doing an excellent job," said Watson. "He's accessible and open, and he has the ability to work with the media and with employees. He's a good leader and is effectively handling the tasks of the Board."