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Transition from village to county was 'an easy slide,' says Miller

Getting to know the people and their priorities is a prime focus of her early weeks as Pierce County's new administrative coordinator, said JoAnn Miller. She was hired late last year after the county board spent three years determining what it wants in a coordinator and recruiting candidates. -- Photo by Judy Wiff

After a month on the job, JoAnn Miller seems comfortable in her role as Pierce County Administrative Coordinator.

Two years ago, she left a job as administrator for DeForest, a village just north of Madison with 40 fulltime employees, an annual operating budget of $8 million and a population of 8,500. On Dec. 5, Miller officially took the reins as administrative coordinator of Pierce County, with an annual budget of $39 million, 300 employees and a population of 41,000.

"I like being near a large metro area, and I wanted an organization that was larger than where I'd been in the past," said Miller of her attraction to Western Wisconsin.

She added, "This part of the state is just beautiful." That's another benefit to Miller, who enjoys cycling and loves the rolling hills.

She also said she wanted to work in an organization that is committed to making its community a good place to live and work.

"I felt that here was a place where that would happen," said Miller, adding her impression was confirmed during the interview process.

While her previous experience has been with municipal governments--12 years as administrator for a village in Wisconsin and two cities in Iowa, and 11 years as director of membership services for the Iowa League of Cities--the Pierce County job isn't that dissimilar, said Miller.

"The two biggest elements in both jobs are the same: budgets and people," she said of the move from municipal administrator to county administrative coordinator. While cities and villages often provide utility services counties don't and counties offer more human service programs than cities, both entities deliver services, said Miller.

"The administrative skills are the same," she summarized. "The departments that you coordinate for or administrate are different."

Miller, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, earned her bachelor's degree from Governors State University in Illinois and her master's degree in public administration from Iowa State University.

While she declines to discuss on the record the events that led to her abrupt resignation as DeForest village administrator in 2009, Miller says she came out of the situation with her honor intact.

"My competencies, my skills, my ethics and my integrity were never questioned," she said.

For more please read the Jan. 4 print version of the Herald.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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