New Arlington County Manager Larry J. Brown is a team player. His forte, say officials who have worked with him, is team management, backed by setting realistic goals for himself and his staff and insisting that the goals be met.
Brown, 42, who takes over the Arlington post Sept. 7, conceded he has a passion for accountability.
"I intend to look at the management systems (in Arlington)," Brown said. It's accountability that I'm after."
Brown said the team approach to decision-making allows various opinions to be considered.
"I want to make sure all of the information is on the table," Brown said. "I push most decisions down in an organization. I don't let them trickle up."
Brown was formally appointed to the Arlington post Saturday by the County Board, concluding a nationwide search that began more than six months ago. He replaces W. Vernon Ford, who was fired last year by the County Board.
Brown comes to Arlington from Ramsey County, Minn., which includes the city of St. Paul. In Arlington, Brown will be paid $63,000 a year, compared to $52,000 in Ramsey County.
When he became Ramsey's chief executive four years ago, officials there said, Brown began regular evaluations of top county workers, including department heads. The officials said the evaluations created some concern and fear, although supporters said the evaluations, which included setting objectives for subordinates, helped improve the county government's effectiveness.
"Larry started very slowly . . . and he found out who the players were," Ramsey County Commissioner Warren W. Schaber said. "His strong point is the fact that his style is not flashy. He's very low-key and follows directions very well.
"He's stronger in the budget area than in the personnel area," added Schaber, who noted that Ramsey County has had critical budget problems in the last few years.
In addition to the Ramsey post, Brown has served as chief county executive in Loudoun County, Richmond County in North Carolina and Rock County in Wisconsin.
Brown was the first professional chief executive in Ramsey County, governed by a seven-member county commission. Before Brown's appointment, Ramsey officials said, the commission was responsible for many day-to-day functions.
Ramsey County Commissioner John T. Finley said that at first he was critical of Brown's performance, primarily because he believed Brown did not always communicate well with the commission or his own department heads.
Brown wrote a lot of memos instead of talking directly to commissioners or staff members, Finley said. "As the years have gone by, he has gotten away from that."
Acknowledged Brown: "I (would) like to come across a little more human than I do."
Other Ramsey officials, however, said Brown has an open, folksy style and tries to make himself available to staff members.
"He genuinely cares a lot about the professional development of his staff," said David J. Krings, an executive assistant in Brown's office.
A major problem Brown has faced in Ramsey County has been repeated budget cuts, forced by severe losses of federal and state funds. The budget restraints have been so drastic that in a recent year the county was forced to raise property taxes by about 35 percent to help cover programs' costs, while cutting the human services budget by the same percentage, Brown said.
"He's tough enough to make those decisions (to cut the budget). He's also human enough not to create a lot of hostility because of it," Ramsey County Commission Chairman Robert J. Orth said.
"His strengths, as I see it, are in the budget field," said Hal J. Norgard, one of three Ramsey commissioners who opposed creating Brown's position. Norgard criticized Brown for creating too much paperwork but praised his overall performance, saying he reduced unnecessary administrative personnel.
Brown also expects to face some budget problems in Arlington.
"We may be fairly well off in Arlington," Brown said, "but we'll have to be very, very cautious in setting the budget."