Kent County board selects next county administrator

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Al Vanderberg Courtesy Kent County

The Kent County Board of Commissioners selected Al Vanderberg as its choice for Kent County administrator/controller.

Board chair Mandy Bolter will enter immediate contract negotiations with Vanderberg to present a final contract for board approval at the commission meeting July 22.

“This has been an exciting, thorough and transparent process that culminated with the selection of a strong, visionary and highly competent individual,” Bolter said. “Thanks to our dedicated search subcommittee, our board of commissioners and the high level of community engagement in the process, I’m confident that Al will be the kind of leader who reflects the community’s priorities and can leverage Kent County’s assets for sustained growth and innovative service to our residents.”

Pending contract approval, Vanderberg, who currently serves as Ottawa County administrator, is expected to step into the top Kent County staff position later this summer. He has been the administrator in Ottawa County since 2003, managing 1,200 employees who serve a population of about 300,000 residents.

In his current role, Vanderberg is responsible for oversight of administrative and other departments within Ottawa County and serves on boards, committees and workgroups for numerous Ottawa County and community agencies and organizations. Those include chair of the county Brownfield Redevelopment board, president of the county Economic Development Corporation board and member of the Grand Valley Metro Council board, Lakeshore Advantage board and Housing Next board.

He began his career in Lenawee County in 1986 and subsequently served in city management in Greenville and South Haven. Immediately before joining Ottawa County, he was the deputy county administrator/controller in Kent County from 1999-2003.

Vanderberg was appointed in 2018 by the Michigan Civil Rights Department to serve on the Michigan Council for Local Government and Education on Equity and Inclusion. In 2017, he was appointed to the Michigan Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission by then-Gov. Rick Snyder and reappointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019. He is a member of the Government Finance Officers Association and the National Association of County Administrators. He was president of the board of the Michigan Association of County Administrative Officials in 2011 and the Michigan Local Government Management Association in 2010 and retains membership in both organizations.

Current county administrator/controller Wayman P. Britt notified the board of his intention to retire last October. He has been with the county administration for more than 17 years and has served in the top spot since January 2018.

Britt’s retirement is effective July 24. During his tenure in county administration, he oversaw the opening of the Kent County Human Services Complex, creation of the West Michigan Sports Commission and establishment of the Kent School Services Network.

More recently, Britt directed modernization of the county’s IT infrastructure, helped launch the Kent County Population Health Consortium, drove planning for the new Kent County Parks Office and initiated implementation of the 2019 Kent County Strategic Plan.

Britt plans to stay in West Michigan and will remain engaged in community service activities.

“After 17 years serving Kent County, it will be hard to walk away from this job,” Britt said. “However, I am not walking away from this tremendous community. I will carry with me the indelible mark so many people have made on me — from our county team to those leading and making a difference in our community. I’ll carry this with me well beyond my tenure here. I trust that the county will be in excellent hands with Al. I have great respect for him, and I wish him the very best.”

Shortly after Britt announced his retirement, Bolter appointed a seven-member executive search subcommittee charged with deploying an equitable process to recruit and recommend finalists to the board of commissioners to interview for the appointment of the county administrator/controller. The subcommittee’s work included identifying an executive search firm that could execute a comprehensive national search to identify and recruit a diverse slate of highly qualified candidates.

Global executive search firm Korn Ferry was contracted and began the search process in January 2021 with subcommittee and community stakeholder meetings and surveys aimed at defining key qualifications for the position.

The firm identified over 140 prospects and contacted more than 100 potential candidates and sources. From this group, the firm identified 13 external and one internal candidate to present for search subcommittee consideration May 14. The subcommittee selected five candidates for first-round interviews at public meetings on June 9 and 10, and three were advanced as finalists. In all, the subcommittee met 10 times over eight months. All meetings were noticed and open to the public.

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