Houghton County administrator resigns

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton County Administrator Ben Larson stands in his office at the Houghton County Courthouse Wednesday. Larson announced Tuesday he will be leaving the position to work for another company in Calumet.

HOUGHTON — High up in the tower of the Houghton County Courthouse with a view stretching to the other side of the canal, Administrator Ben Larson has what he calls “the best office in the Copper Country.”

It’s one he will soon hand off to someone else. Larson announced Tuesday he is resigning to take another position locally. Larson would not specify the company, but said it is a company in Calumet.

“It was a great opportunity,” he said Wednesday. “It happened over the weekend. I made a decision that I’m going to try to move and work with my Board of Commissioners to try to find the next great leader here.”

Larson’s last day will be Oct. 29, he said at Tuesday’s board meeting, where it accepted Larson’s resignation with regret.

Applications can be sent to County Clerk Jennifer Kelly. The board will review candidates for the position at the special meeting already scheduled for the county’s budget, held at noon Sept. 29. A meeting to interview candidates was set for 1 p.m. Oct. 5.

Larson was hired in June 2020, officially starting two months later. He had previously been the director of advancement for the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Technological University.

He hopes to be able to have several weeks to train the new administrator, as he had under predecessor Eric Forsberg.

“We have seven weeks to find someone,” he said. “The quicker we do that, the more time that I’m going to get with that person to have them understand the multifaceted job that is sitting in this chair.”

Asked to name his biggest accomplishment in that span, he cited the community-wide experience of getting through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For us to make it through there and be on solid budget grounds and not have any major problems (is a big accomplishment),” he said. “I know that people have been disappointed on a number of items and issues that happened over the past year, but I think the county is in really good shape, and we made it through OK.”

Larson also oversaw the creation of the county’s new Enduring Gifts Fund, set up so people can donate money or property to the county. Financial management is an important quality for the next administrator, Larson said. Over the past year, the county was able to sell the old transfer station property in Houghton, proceeds from which went back into the current transfer station and the Houghton County marina.

Strong people skills are also important.

“Obviously, there are a lot of different departments and a lot of people in a lot of buildings here, and they all look to this chair for guidance,” he said.

People also need to be able to pick up new skills on the fly.

“I had never done a brownfield report,” he said. “So all of a sudden, I’m the brownfield expert.”

What Larson will miss most about the job are the people and the chance to work on exciting projects for the county.

“I really believe that we watch the county’s tax dollars that come in and try to spend them on having good departments and having good law enforcement and have a good airport and have a good marina and have good transportation,” he said. “I think it’s been really fun to work with the commissioners on many things. I hope I’m remembered for that in my 15 months here. But the county will go on without me.”


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