Butler County’s new administrator started Wednesday. Here’s what she faces.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

New County Administrator Judi Boyko accepts position.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Butler County’s new administrator, Judi Boyko, took the helm of Ohio’s seventh-largest county Wednesday with numerous pressing matters at hand.

When she walked through the door of her office on the sixth floor of the Government Services Center in Hamilton, she wasn’t facing uncharted waters. She has been in contact with Acting Administrator David Fehr and others at the executive level since the commissioners hired her with five-year, $172,000-per-year contract.

She was at the executive staff meeting Tuesday.

“I’m excited to work with such a capable team,” Boyko told the Journal-News. “We talked a lot about customer service. We talked a lot about the quality of that service and how we want to work together collaboratively in a team effort to elevate that level of service.”

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Children Services Director Julie Gilbert said she left that meeting with a good first impression.

“It’s clear that Judi has a passion for public service,” she said.

Gilbert’s immediate boss, Job and Family Services Executive Director Bill Morrison said he is “excited” Boyko is on board.

“Judi is engaging and articulate,” Morrison said. “Her passion for public service is immediately evident. I expect her to hit the ground running, improving Butler County as a great place to live, work and play.”

First on Boyko’s to-do list are the pricey voting machines the county hasn’t yet budgeted but must buy this year. Boyko told the Journal-News she has met with Diane Noonan and Eric Corbin at the Board of Elections already, and there will be a work session with the commissioners next week on the estimated $5 million-plus purchase.

Boyko said another pressing issue the commissioners want her to focus on is making sure the annual $2 million transfer into the rainy day fund, which was deferred when the $102 general fund budget passed, is restored. In order to pass a structurally balanced budget the commissioners agreed to postpone the fund transfer to later in the year, but they were not pleased about it.

“You’ve got 12 months to find $2 million and put it back in that account,” Commissioner Don Dixon said at the time.

The rainy day fund holds $10 million, and the county has about $50 million in reserves, which are among the reasons the county achieved the top Aaa Moody’s bond rating last year. That’s something the commissioners don’t want to jeopardize.

Fehr said while he has been in charge the county has not addressed the rainy day fund specifically, but Finance Director Tawana Keels has been preparing to brief Boyko.

“I know Tawana and Judi are scheduling a deep dive into the budget,” Fehr said. “Tawana has put together a whole booklet for Judi, and they are going to walk through that. Judi is familiar with preparing budgets.”

The commissioners’ plan for their general fund to debt free by the end of 2020 is also a priority for Boyko. She is developing a plan for redirecting the debt service payments.

“I know the commissioners want to be very deliberate in how they expend that money, and I’ve already indicated to them the options I would present to them would have a strong business element to it,” she said. “We would look at how that investment can be returned to the commissioners into the revenue sources the county collects.”

Dixon envisions the county’s annual investment in local jurisdictions’ economic development projects countywide will be in the $1 to $5 million range.

MORE: With $2.5M investment, Butler County says Hamilton’s Spooky Nook will be boon for entire county

The commissioners committed last year to investing $2.5 million in road infrastructure for the mega Spooky Nook sports and convention complex under construction in downtown Hamilton. City Manager Joshua Smith assured the commissioners they expect $40 million in annual off-site spending and a 200-room hotel in phase one.

Another focus for Boyko will be the perennial problem of containing health insurance costs. She knows how big of an issue — about $20 million worth — health insurance is.

“I know health care premiums and costs to the county is a significant issue that the board would like to address,” Boyko said. “For every employer, health care is a significant cost. And engaging our employees as consumers of that health care and educating them about the best choices for their families, but also economically for the taxpayers, is something that I’d like to explore with (human resources), the commissioners and of course the employees.”

Martha Shelby, director of the Water & Sewer Department, said Boyko’s experience as the longtime administrator in West Chester Twp. — most recently Boyko was the assistant Hamilton County administrator — bodes well for her success in this position.

“This local experience will be a significant factor in her quickly coming up to speed on the many facets of the Butler County government,” Shelby said. “During her introductory meeting, it was very obvious that she cares deeply and will do what is best for the Butler County citizens and employees. I am looking forward to Judi coming on board as our leader.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she didn’t know Boyko previously but assured the directors their new boss will be sensitive to their needs.

“I really think she is a genuine person with a heart of a public servant,” Carpenter said. “Everything we do from the commissioners’ standpoint with the 600 employees that we employ affects someone’s life. I believe that Judi will work very well with and understand the impact of your jobs.”

Facts & Figures: Butler County

$423 million: Total 2019 budget

2,182: Total full-time employees countywide

14: Number of commissioner departments

15*: Number of elected officials

7: Number of independent boards

* Includes all the elected judges