Wright County’s O’Malley named Minnesota Jail Administrator of Year

By John Holler

The job description of a jail administrator is one that wouldn’t get too many applicants lining to take on their duties. It is a position that is constantly under pressure to meet budget constraints, sometimes unrealistic state mandates and the constant threat of lawsuits that keep the rules in constant state of change. It isn’t a glamorous position and it doesn’t get a lot of recognition for the public service role it performs.

So, it was a rare day in the spotlight for Wright County Jail Administrator Patrick O’Malley at the Sept. 24 board meeting that Sheriff Joe Hagerty presented him with a plaque after O’Malley was named Minnesota Jail Administrator of the Year. With 85 county jails in Minnesota, the odds were long that O’Malley would win, but, after hearing that he had been nominated by jail employees he was both stunned and honored when he received the news.

“I was very humbled,” O’Malley said. “I’ve only had the job since 2010 and there have been a lot of challenges. When you’re in charge, you don’t have a buffer person to go to and make sure you’re making the right decisions. The buck stops with you. You can’t pass of the blame or responsibility for your decisions, because the responsible falls on you. That doesn’t always make you the most popular person because our employees have some really bad days.”

Somehow O’Malley has been able to traverse those waters and earn both the respect and admiration of his employees, who cited several positive leadership qualities in O’Malley’s nomination documents.

“Having the people that work for him nominate him was the best part of it from my perspective,” Hagerty said. “It’s quite an honor. He doesn’t like to get a lot of accolades. His ability to manage a budget and operate a safe and secure jail are his strong suits and are part of the reason he does such a good job.”

In keeping with his aversion to the spotlight, O’Malley declined to make an acceptance speech other than saying “thank you” to the commissioners. He knows his job is one that isn’t conducive to having employees like him, because he has to make tough decisions on a daily basis – which makes winning the award even more gratifying.

“It’s not my job to always be friends with the employees, it’s to run a jail for the citizens of Wright County,” O’Malley said. “My job is to run the jail as best as I can to protect the interests of the county residents. To know that the employees are buying in to how we do business and understand what I’m trying to do, it makes things easier for all of us. When I learned what they said about in my nomination, it was very humbling.”

In other items on the Sept. 24 agenda, the board:

Received an unqualified opinion from the state auditor’s office for the county’s annual audit of its books. An unqualified opinion is the highest rating a county can receiver and Wright County has received that rating for the last several years. Commissioner Mike Potter pointed out that the county has maintained reserve funds representing 5.7 months of expenditures – well above what is deemed necessary to maintain operations.

Approved re-bidding the County Ditch 10 repair project. Earlier this year, only two bids were received for the project and both were deemed to be too high and were rejected. It is hoped that the re-bidding of the project will result in a more competitive bidding prices and bring the bids down to a more acceptable level.

Re-appointed State Senator Bruce Anderson as the public sector representative on the Wright County Community Action Board of Directors.

Approved a resolution authorizing the refinancing of 2006 bonds for the Park Terrace Assisted Living facility in Buffalo. The county has no role in the repayment of the bonds, but needed to sign off on the refinancing because it initially served as the sponsoring agent. With interest rates lower than they were when the bonds were first issued, thousands of dollars can be saved by the refinancing of the remainder of the bonds that are in repayment.

Appointed Otsego City Councilman Vern Heidner as the county’s municipal representative on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Region 7W Transportation Policy board. The policy board is comprised of members from Wright, Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties.

Laid over a nomination for a vacancy on the Clearwater River Watershed District until the position could be posted on the website and advertised in the Clearwater and Annandale newspapers.