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New county head on job next week

by: Submitted photo - New County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen


   Just four days after his wedding, Jeff Rasmussen will take over as Jefferson County's new administrator.
   Rasmussen, 39, of Longview, Wash, is getting married on Saturday, but will postpone his honeymoon in order to start work in the county's top position on March 28.
   Selected from a field of 17 candidates, Rasmussen was officially hired at the March 14 meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners.
   "He just stood out," said commission Chairman Mike Ahern, citing Rasmussen's experience, "commitment to dig in," and youthfulness.
   For the past eight years, Rasmussen has served in a similar position, as Cowlitz County commissioner. In Longview, the three-member elected board of commissioners works full time administering county government, without a separate administrator.
   In Jefferson County, the three members of the commission are also elected, but work part time. The commissioners hire a full-time administrator to oversee the county on a daily basis.
   The county has been without an administrator this month, since former Administrator Matthew Birnie left the position at the end of February to become the administrator for Gunnison County, Colo.
   The commissioners were impressed with Rasmussen's knowledge of administration. "He was real familiar with county government," said Ahern, noting that the hiring committee, administrative staff and commission had all reached consensus on hiring Rasmussen. "We felt like he was a good fit."
   Commissioners commended his ability to deal with complicated issues. "He took on some major issues that weren't popular," said Commissioner Bill Bellamy, referring to Rasmussen's tenure as a Cowlitz County commissioner.
   Rasmussen and his soon-to-be wife are looking to buy a home in the Madras or Culver area. "We loved the climate, the population, the Central Oregon people and community there," he said.
   A lifetime resident of Washington, Rasmussen grew up in Longview, and attended Washington State University in Pullman, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1992.
   Beginning in 1995, he spent four years commuting to Olympia to serve as the legislative assistant to the speaker pro tem in the Washington State Legislature.
   After a three-year stint on the Longview City Council, from 1996 through 1998, he was elected county commissioner and took office in 1999.
   The three members of the commission were responsible for the development of the annual budget, administration of the budgets and programs for 13 department directors, management of all county buildings and property, as well as development and implementation of all county policies.
   The local position will pay about $87,500 per year, about $20,000 per year over the salary for commissioners in Cowlitz County. Former Administrator Birnie was earning a salary of $88,543.92 when he resigned the position to take the Colorado job.
   Cowlitz County has about 550 full-time employees, compared to about 180 in Jefferson County, and an annual budget of $150 million, compared to the county's current budget of about $31 million.
   Longview, with a population of about 34,000, is the largest city in Cowlitz County, which has about 95,000 people. Madras has just over 6,000 residents, and Jefferson County, 21,000.
   In spite of the size differences, Rasmussen remarked that there are similarities in the issues, such as jobs losses, economic diversification, and rapid growth.
   "We have a loss of some major employers in the last six years," he said, referring to Cowlitz County. "We're working to diversify our economy, and working to open up industrial manufacturing land."
   The real estate market is one of the top in the nation, he said, "spilling over from Clark County -- one of the fastest growing counties in Washington."
   Rasmussen is eager to start work for Jefferson County. "We're both excited," he said, noting that the honeymoon will have to wait until summer.