There’s a changing of the guard in Leelanau County, where the County Administrator has retired and a new leader has moved into the office.
Chet Janik has been the county administrator for more than 10 years, but he’s a familiar face across Northern Michigan. He also worked as the Charlevoix Schools superintendent and for Northwestern Michigan College before returning home to Leelanau County.
“I thought I’d stay four to five years and overall I stayed 11 years. Overall it was a good experience. There’s a lot of good people at the county and I’ve enjoyed my tenure,” Janik says.
He was raised in Leelanau County, but became the County Administrator in May of 2012. And he’s seen a lot of change in that time. “I did the math and think I’ve served with 17 board members who were commissioners in that 11 years.”
Turnover is common, but this past year was a challenge filling the newly created position of county Finance Director.
“Four months later that person went back to her former job. We had an interim in place for a couple months, we posted the job. Hired a person in August and he resigned in December,” Janik says they’re on solid footing to leap that hurdle and start strong in the new year.
“The main thing is we have been financially very sound and solid. We were rated as one of the best-run counties in the state of Michigan. Our post-retirement benefits have been paid off. We’re in very good shape structurally,” Janik says. He highlights the county’s efforts with expanding broadband, passing a unique childcare millage, and continuous support from the community for senior services funding. “We just have to look forward and be proactive instead of reactive.”
And he’s ready to hand over the reins to new County Administrator Deb Allen, herself a longtime county resident.
“We had 68 applicants for the job. The board got it down to 12 then six then three. Deb was voted as the next administrator by a 7-0 vote,” Janik says. “I think the county was in good hands when I came and I believe it’s in good hands now. Deb will have strong leadership to move it forward.”
“Certainly Chet has been a wonderful spokesperson for the county. Has been committed to serving the commissioners and I think he truly has made it his passion to make sure the county is in the best position it could be in. so I’m grateful for his leadership,” Allen says.
“The Finance Director vacancy has led to a challenging start, but she feels good about where they’re heading,” Allen says. “It created some challenges but … whenever there is change there is opportunity for growth.” She adds, “As painful as this has all been in terms of just another element of this transition for the finance department, I think we’re in a much better place today than we were a month ago.”
The new team has been “able to finish the end of year strong and put us in a good position as we move into auditing. It’s just the best case scenario.”
“I go back to the staff. We have amazing department heads, amazing staff. Committed, intelligent, dedicated,” Allen says. And she wants residents to know that “their best interests are being looked out for by the staff here in the county. And we really truly have the best people in the best positions and we’re here to serve.”
As for Chet Janik, he has no plans to leave his hometown. He’ll do some consulting work; and assist Allen with the transition through the spring. As Allen takes over, she’ll also have four brand new county commissioners (out of seven) also new to their jobs.