NORTH CREEK - In the wake of pending budget cuts, Warren County's chief executive is retiring and taking over a similar position as Administrator at Adirondack Tri-County Nursing Home in North Creek.
As county supervisors praised his three years of service to the county, Payne said Monday he was looking forward to his new position, which is effective early November.
"It's an excellent opportunity for me at Tri-County, and the job allows me to stay in Warren County," he said.
Before taking the post as county Administrator, Payne was the top executive at the county's Westmount Nursing Home.
Payne will be receiving his pension stemming from his work for Warren County, plus the salary at Tri-County, an independent entity.
His decision to move on materialized not long ago as county Supervisors were cutting government jobs - and most recently, looking to eliminate some management positions and consolidate duties. Payne was a key player in the recent process of evaluating functions and personnel posts in various county departments and recommending changes to boost efficiency and cut costs.
One of the suggestions raised in the past several weeks has been to eliminate the county Administrator post and divide the its duties between other management personnel.
Both Payne and county Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said that the suggestion was not a reason for Payne stepping down.
Monroe said that as a result of Payne's pending departure, county supervisors now need to decide how to structure the top level of local government.
Warren County's elected leaders can choose to take over week-to-week management of the county operations and workforce, or they can choose to again hire someone to shoulder those duties, he said.
"With a government that centers around a strong administration, you need to hire an exceptionally good administrator or you'll flounder," Monroe said. "You have to conduct and exhaustive search for the right person and be very careful in selecting them."
Among his duties, Payne negotiated with the officials of the county's various unions, helped prepare budgets and identify potential cost savings, monitored performance of various county departments and their managers, researched cost-cutting initiatives, evaluated state reimbursements and grant opportunities, and lobbied with state officials on behalf of the county, Monroe said.
Replacing Payne would be very difficult, he said.
"Hal's done a really good job - He's extremely knowledgeable and is on top of all the details," Monroe said. "He always obtains the information we need to make decisions."
If the county Supervisors decide to eliminate the Administrator post to save its nearly-$100,000 salary, then some of the duties, including basic budget research, could be taken over by existing employees, Monroe said.
Payne said he wouldn't feel bad if his job were axed.
"Maybe my retirement could save a couple of jobs here at the county," he said. We're going through tough times, and it's not getting any better."
Payne, who served as interim administrator of Tri-County about two years ago, said he was looking forward to his new post.
"Tri-County has an excellent facility and an outstanding staff," he said, noting that the nursing home features outpatient physical therapy and rehabilitation, and is conveniently adjacent to a Hudson Headwaters Health Network clinic. "Tri-County has a great staff and management team, and they provide excellent care."
Payne said he is eager to get involved in North Creek, which he said was a dynamic, emerging community, with its expanded ski facilities, new downtown businesses, and renovated streetscape.
"North Creek has a rural small-town feeling, but it also has a lot to offer for culture and recreation," he said.