New Montgomery County administrator named

The next Montgomery County administrator said he will start the job at a time when, he said, local governments are strapped for cash as never before.

“We can’t depend on things happening at the federal level or things happening at the state level. We have to take charge of our own destiny,” said Michael Colbert. “And I think we are doing that, and I think you’ll continue to see that.”

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Colbert, Montgomery County’s assistant county administrator for Development Services, was named as the top county executive Thursday. He will oversee an overall budget of $892 million and 4,368 authorized workers.

He replaces Joe Tuss, who is retiring at the end of August.

“Michael brings an invaluable range of experience that spans state and local government,” said Montgomery County Commission President Debbie Lieberman. “He has an exceptional track record in project implementation, strategic planning, budget and financial management, community and economic development, and fostering public and private partnerships.”

Colbert, 52, started with Montgomery County in 2015 and currently oversees Development Services, which includes the county’s Workforce and Economic Development departments. A native of Xenia, he is a United States Army veteran and Central State University graduate. Colbert and his wife Marquetta live in Butler Twp. and have two daughters.

County commissioners opted to forego a broad national search for a candidate to replace Tuss, Lieberman said.

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“We were pretty confident that within our region we had a lot of quality individuals who could do the job — both internally and externally,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman said three candidates were formally interviewed for the position. In addition to Colbert, commissioners looked very closely at Erik Janas, a Franklin County deputy administrator, she said.

“This has been a very difficult decision,” she said. “It wasn’t a slam dunk kind of thing.”

Colbert also served two years as the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, appointed by Gov. John Kasich. He oversaw a $23 billion annual budget and 4,000 employees running programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Workforce Investment Act, Medicaid, adoption and foster care, child support, and unemployment compensation. He stepped down from Kasich’s cabinet in 2013.

In addition to working with Tuss during the transition, Colbert said he will meet with community leaders and citizens to learn about their concerns.

He said the county must deliver on the promises made when it raised water and sewer rates 14 percent last year and now as the administration requests a quarter percent retail sales tax increase.

MORE: Montgomery County commissioners approve water, sewer rate increase

“We’ve got to implement the things we’ve asked the taxpayers for,” he said. “When taxpayers support you, you’ve got to do what you said you were going to do.”

Commissioners will vote later this month whether to move forward with a process that could boost the tax rate in October and bring in an additional $19.1 million a year.

“We really don’t have a choice,” he said. “I think the future for Montgomery County is great, but our goal right now is to shore up our revenue.”

Without the rate hike, Colbert said it would be difficult to continue investing in people, key systems, infrastructure, the courts and jail and programs that support economic development in the region.

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Colbert said putting money in the arts may not sound like an investment to some, but it’s sound policy for growth.

“It’s the arts, the river, it’s RiverScape, it’s things like the Schuster Center and baseball — that’s what makes Dayton and the Montgomery County area and the Miami Valley attractive to young people,” he said. “And when you’re bringing in new people, then you’re creating your workforce. And as long as you create your workforce, the area is attractive for economic development.”

Colbert's first day in the new position paying a base salary of $178,000 will be Sept. 1, according to the county. In 2017, Colbert had a base salary of $119,442 and made $141,582 in gross pay. Gross 2017 compensation for Tuss was $202,408, according to the Dayton Daily News I-Team's Payroll Project.

In his current role, Colbert is responsible for multiple county programs and initiatives including Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs, YouthWorks, the Business Solutions Center, the Economic Development/Government Equity (ED/GE) grant program, small enterprise grants, building regulations, the Planning Commission, BusinessFirst, and the Dayton Region Israel Trade Alliance.

Prior to coming to Montgomery County, Colbert worked in the private sector as vice president of Sivic Solutions Group in Utica, New York.

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