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Approval expected Tuesday to hire Odens as new county public works director

WILLMAR –– The Kandiyohi County Commissioners are expected to vote today on a recommendation to hire Mel Odens as the new public works director for the county.

Odens, who is currently an assistant highway engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 8 office, had served as public works director in Willmar for nearly 14 years before taking the job with MnDOT in 2010.

If approved, Odens will replace Gary Danielson, who is planning to retire in November from the full-time post.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said an “extensive search” to fill the job resulted in nine individuals applying for the job.

All nine individuals underwent a one-hour screening by a committee that included two county commissioners.

After a “grueling” process, Kleindl said the field of candidates was narrowed down to two finalists: Odens and Chad Gramentz, who is currently the public works director in Kanabec County.

The final interview was conducted last week, said Kleindl, who will recommend that the Board of Commissioners take action at the meeting this morning to hire Odens.

Kleindl said Odens’ relationships with Willmar and other cities and a “strong understanding” of how to maximize the state aid transportation funding program will meet the county’s needs.

“Mel brings that to the table,” said Kleindl.

Danielson will continue to work part-time with the county and will serve as a special project consultant in several areas, such as a township road turnback program.

He will also help ease the transition to a new county public works director as well as a new director of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District.

The current director of the sewer and water district, Ron Hagemeier, is retiring in January.

Kleindl said it was important to get a new public works director in place now before the 2015 budgets are set for both departments.

Odens would then have a chance to become familiar with the operations before Hagemeier and Danielson retire.

The commissioners will be meeting with department heads at 9 a.m. Wednesday for a work session to review the preliminary 2015 budget.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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