Living in the OC: County leader to retire.

April 1, 2016

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‘Living in the OC’ is sponsored by Springstead Law Offices, with locations in Hart and Fremont, 231-873-4022 (Hart), www.springsteadlaw.com.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — After nearly 40 years of service, Oceana County Administrator/Fiscal Officer Sue Ann Johnson is retiring at the end of July.

Johnson was appointed administrator in 2008 after long-time administrator Paul Inglis retired. She had worked as Inglis’ assistant since 1977 after Inglis was appointed to the position in 1971.

“I’ve been here 39 years,” said Johnson, who has more youthfulness and energy than most people half her age.

The administrator has decades of experience with budgeting and financing and has led the county with a sound and stable budget.

SpringsteadVertical_091015Johnson was thrust into the difficult situation of making budget cuts as soon as she came on board as administrator. “We were coming out of the recession in 2008,” she recalled. “We had to make all the changes to make ourselves solvent.” Personnel cuts were made, which are “never pleasant,” she said. “You have to have thick skin.”

Johnson tightened up the county’s budget by eliminating stipends; making fringe benefit changes; and outsourcing janitorial services, reducing county expenditures by over $100,000.

The administrator has worked tirelessly to increase Oceana County’s Standard and Poors rating from a triple B to an A minus. “That is because of a lot of effort in making us more stable financially,” she said.

Johnson credits a lot of her success to her former boss, Inglis. “Paul was a good mentor,” she said.

She has always been proud of the board of commissioners for maintaining a high level of respect and civility. Even though they don’t always agree on various county issues, they work cohesively as a team.

“The boards have always been that way. Paul has to be credited with keeping that type of attitude. You don’t want the commissioners at odds with each other.”

Some of the aspects of her job that she will miss the most are “some of the things that drive me craziest,” she said. “Every day is different.” But it’s that variety she encounters daily that she cherishes.

Johnson took some college courses at West Shore Community College in accounting and finances after graduating from Pentwater High School in the 1970s. “My pitch to our youth is to get into the College Access Network and go into some type of trades. A degree from the ‘school of hard knocks’ is tough. It does not happen very often. I was lucky to have this job.”

Johnson almost didn’t get the administrator job in 2008, she said. The board at the time voted 4-3 to hire a different candidate, but the gentleman turned down the offer, she said. The board later voted 4-3 during a morning session to hire her. By the time they met that same afternoon, the commissioners voted 6-1 to hire her. This represents not only that particular board, but all of the boards’ focus on working together to reach a decision.

Johnson moved with her family to Oceana County from East Grand Rapids when she was 12 years old. She has lived in Pentwater ever since. Her two children, who are now adults, also graduated from Pentwater High School. Johnson also has five grandchildren.

Even though Johnson is retiring from the county, she doesn’t plan to stay out of the working environment. “I’m retiring from Oceana County, but I did file a nominating petition for Pentwater Township clerk. I think that will be a nice transition.”

If elected, Johnson would begin her new chapter in January. She looks forward to being able to walk or ride her bicycle to work. “I love Pentwater,” she said.

After recently receiving her first passport, Johnson plans to do some traveling. She also plans to spend more time with her family.

Her last day on the job will be at the end of July. “I will be available to help whoever they hire to make the transition as smooth as possible.” April 22 is the deadline to apply in-house, and after that, the county may hire a search firm.

The most attractive aspect of Oceana County’s government is that “we’re not broken,” she said. “We don’t have that infighting.” Also, the county is “transparent,” she added. “We offer a service, and the goal is for every department to provide good public services.”

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