Grand Forks County is considering creating a new position that the director of human resources likened to chief operating officer, overseeing all aspects of county government.

Director of Human Resources Michele Thiel will draw up a tentative job description for a county administrator. Commissioner Tom Falck asked her to do research on the change and it was discussed at Tuesday's regular meeting of the County Commission.

Falck floated the idea that the position could be a new one for Tom Ford, director of administration for the county, but Thiel said the commissioners could decide to go through the traditional recruiting process, too.

“(Ford) is basically the county’s equivalent of (Grand Forks City Administrator Todd) Feland,” Falck said.

Thiel said a county administrator would be a step between department heads and the commissioners.

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“Currently all department heads report directly to the commission,” Thiel said. “We have to bring any and all day-to-day things to the commission and they only meet twice a month. ”

Ford’s current role is a department head role.

Cass County has a county administrator, Thiel said, as do some counties in nearby Minnesota. She will call those counties to learn how their administrators work.

If the position is approved, Thiel would then figure out what step it would be on the county’s pay scale. The commission would then decide how the county administrator position would be filled.

Thiel will present the job description at the next commission meeting.

Other business

Commissioners also listened to a presentation on immigration.

Robin David, Strategic Initiatives Fellow and Welcoming Roadmap coordinator, presented the Welcoming Roadmap to the Grand Forks County Commission on Tuesday. The first stage of the project was research. A demographic report was prepared, the group did a survey and also talked with several focus groups.

“(The focus groups) were helpful for learning what things are like right now for newcomers to our community,” David said.

This research informed the program's four goals: Increasing access to services for newcomers; creating opportunities to advance; creating economic opportunities; and ensuring everyone has opportunities to connect with people who are different from them.

“The access to services goal is something the county can get directly involved in,” David said.

The next phase of the project has consisted of meeting with agencies like social services and the sheriff’s department, David said.

“A number of other communities have been quite impressed with the level of involvement we have had from across the community,” David said. “Being a welcoming community is important to workforce issues.”

By 2021, she wants Grand Forks to become Certified Welcoming by the organization Welcoming America.

David said she thinks Grand Forks is on track for that goal.