>   The search for a new administrator for Jefferson County is heating up, as county officials prepare for a community meeting and final interviews with the four remaining candidates.
   An interview committee narrowed the field of candidates from the 17 who applied down to seven. Two of those took themselves out of the running, and the five finalists participated in telephone interviews on Friday.
   Following the interview, the commission selected four for face-to-face interviews. The four are: Ross Schultz, of Sherwood; Jeffery Rasmussen, of Longview, Wash.; John Blanchard, of Corvallis; and Jay O. Henry, of Klamath Falls.
   The screening committee included the three members of the County Commission -- Chairman Mike Ahern, Bill Bellamy and John Hatfield -- as well as 10 others: Mark Carman, Harold Siegenhagen, Elaine Henderson, Kate Adams, Jay Henry, Don Martin, Melinda Boyle, Jason Hertel, Kathy Marston, and Garland Brunoe.
   "There are some real good candidates," said Commission Chairman Mike Ahern. "We're feeling good about it. Their credentials are good."
   Although today is officially his last day, Administrator Matthew Birnie, 39, has been on vacation/leave since Feb. 16. Birnie starts his new job as administrator for Gunnison County, Colo., in March, so the county is without an administrator.
   "We're managing ourselves; it's a team approach," said Ahern. "It's working fine."
   The public will have a chance to meet the finalists at a social Thursday, March 8, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds kitchen. Refreshments will be served.
   The following day, the finalists will have their last interview with commissioners and department heads, and the commission will make its decision.
   The commission expects to have the new administrator on board by the beginning of May.
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