Arneson named deputy directorRed Wing resident and Washington County employee Nina Arneson was named deputy director of the newly formed Goodhue County Health and Human Services Department in a unanimous decision by the Health and Human Services Board last week.
Red Wing resident and Washington County employee Nina Arneson was named deputy director of the newly formed Goodhue County Health and Human Services Department in a unanimous decision by the Health and Human Services Board last week.
Arneson will spearhead the integration of the Social Services and Public Health departments under the direction of department heads Greg Schoener and Karen Main. Both plan to retire within the year.
"I'm excited to take on this role and join the talented staff at the county," she said.
Members of the board expressed confidence that experience and not personal relationships -- Arneson is the wife of Goodhue County administrator Scott Arneson -- were behind county staff's recommendation for her hire.
More than 40 people applied for the position and were screened down to 17 under the Minnesota Merit System, according to Public Health Director Karen Main.
She said that she, Schoener and county Human Resources Director Melissa Cushing personally interviewed all 17 candidates and found Arneson to be the most qualified for the position.
"She had a good evaluation, a good personality," she said. "We were impressed."
Scott Arneson told the R-E Monday that he was not involved in any part of the hiring process.
Goodhue County Commissioner and Health and Human Services board member Ted Seifert said he "had some concerns" about the county's lack of a clear policy regarding relationships in the workplace, though he did vote in support of the hire last Tuesday.
While Arneson would not directly or indirectly report to her husband in her new position, Seifert argued that the hire highlights a pressing need to adopt a workplace relationship policy.
"I think that we want to be very cognizant of that work environment and reporting relationships," he said. "We're never going to have her reporting to her husband."
In a press release announcing the hire, Schoener and Main highlighted Arneson's experience in human services, particularly her "documented success" in forming "working teams," a skill that will be important, argued Main, in merging the departments together.
The Public Health and Social Services Departments formally combined on Sept. 1, though officials have said it will likely take several years to fully implement the merger.
A native of Finland, Arneson moved to the United States in 1991. She holds a master's degree in human services planning and administration from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and has worked the past three years as a work force center supervisor for Washington County.
Prior to that position, she spent 10 years as a work force counselor and supervisor for the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training.
Her new position begins Nov. 29. Main said the next several months will focus on training Arneson on the workings of the Health and Human Services Department.
Upon Main and Schoener's retirement next year, Arneson would be in a position to impart her knowledge of the departments onto the incoming department director, Main said.
"It's an ideal situation to have that kind of overlap," she said.