Butler County narrows search for new finance director, 3 to interview again

Butler County Administrator Judi Boyko is entering the next phase of her search for a new finance director, bringing three candidates back for a second interview.

Former Finance Director Tawana Keels surprised many when she abruptly announced her resignation at the end of January. Her final day was Feb. 7 after seven years leading the county’s finance department, and she told the Journal-News she took another job.

Boyko posted the position, with a salary range of $84,219 to $124,800, on Jan. 31.

Boyko received 50 applications for the job, interviewed five people in person and conducted one phone interview. She is bringing in three of those people back for a more in-depth discussion. They are West Chester Twp. Finance Director Ken Keim, who worked for Boyko when she was West Chester’s township administrator; Gary Steelman, senior budget director for Miami University’s regional campuses; and a third person who has not confirmed the interview yet.

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“Understanding more about expectations for salary, doing a thorough review of references and a more detailed assessment of qualifications and skills,” she said, describing the next steps.

Boyko said the three are not finalists because resumes have continued to arrive, so she is keeping her options open until she makes her final decision.

The county finance director manages the $416 million budget and this year will oversee the elimination of all general fund debt at the end of a years-long payoff plan.

Keim has been the finance director in West Chester since 2007, and he develops and manages an operational budget of $40 to $50 million, according to his resume. Boyko had been the administrator there since 2005 before she accepted the assistant county administrator post in Hamilton County in 2017.

Steelman’s resume notes he has been the regional campus senior budget director since 2007 and manages “all financial planning and budgeting” for the campuses in Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester.

Boyko said her past working relationship with Keim won’t affect her objectivity.

“The interviews that I’ve conducted so far displayed a range of candidates with varied backgrounds and skill sets,” she said. “Each one of the candidates in their own way could bring tremendous value to our organization. I am looking for a specific skill set, demeanor to work well with the team and also significant analytical performance measurement abilities.”

Boyko was hired a year ago and as part of her contract the commissioners gave her autonomy over hiring new staff, within budget constraints. She made her first hiring decision when she brought Care Facility Administrator Chamika Poole on board last fall.

The commissioners ultimately must vote on new hires for their departments. Commissioner Cindy Carpenter voted no on hiring Poole and could not be reached for comment on this hire.

Commission President T.C. Rogers said he expects he’ll agree with Boyko’s choice.

“I expect her to pick it because she has to work with them,” Rogers said. “I would assume it would be a good choice, if I didn’t think so then I’d vote no.”

Commissioner Don Dixon agreed.

“Unless something’s drastically wrong, which I know there won’t be, she’s going to be recommending the person,” Dixon said.

Boyko is also looking to fill a new position: director of assets , procurement and projects. The salary range is the same as finance director, and almost 100 people applied. Boyko said she has interviewed a handful of candidates for that position.

After she gets these positions filled, Boyko said she will work on completing her management team by hiring an assistant county administrator.

“I want to get these key positions in place,” Boyko said. “I want to identify where the voids are in our structural and organizational talent and then be able to fill that position, to bring a unique set of skills that we may currently not have.”

Boyko hopes to extend an offer for the finance director position in the next few weeks.

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