Julie Buntjer, Forum Communications Co., Published June 05 2012
Former Clay administrator Sethi begins Nobles County jobWORTHINGTON, Minn. – With a reputation as being a mediator, interim Nobles County Administrator Vijay Sethi has already set a few goals after his first week on the job.
Sethi began his new duties May 29, and comes to Worthington with 25 years experience in county administration, including two long-held posts in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
He chuckles a bit about landing a career in public administration – a bit of a stretch from his early aspirations to become an architect while growing up in New Delhi, India.
“But, it’s been good. It’s been very satisfying,” he said.
Sethi earned his architectural degree from New Delhi, and moved to the United States in March 1970. After a few years with an architectural firm in the Twin Cities, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to pursue a master’s in architecture. Once his master’s was completed, he stayed another year to earn a second master’s degree in urban and regional planning.
“I landed in the Fargo-Moorhead area and worked for the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments, a transportation and land-use agency,” Sethi said.
He worked his way up the ladder from community planner to director during a span of 10 years, before being hired in the summer of 1985 as the Clay County coordinator. In 1999, the role changed to that of administrator. Sethi retired from Clay County in 2011.
“Then, I was trying to figure out what I should do professionally,” he said. “I figured I still had a few years left.”
Sethi spent six months as an interim chief executive officer for the American Red Cross North Dakota-Western Minnesota region and, shortly after his contract was completed, he was contacted by Nobles County.
Nobles County has contracted Sethi to fill an interim role through the end of this year, with the potential for the contract to be extended if needed and agreed upon by both parties. Sethi’s temporary position is part time at approximately 30 hours per week.
Sethi’s role as interim county administrator comes after former administrator Mel Ruppert was moved into an advisory role. The move followed an investigation into claims Ruppert contributes to an adverse work environment in the county.
Sethi sees his role as one of fostering mutual trust and communication.
“I see myself as only one of many people. The people who are going to turn it around are the department heads, the county board and the employees at large,” he said. “The response I’ve gotten, the really warm reception I’ve received here – Nobles County is a good place to be.”
Sethi will work closely with commissioners to address how management operates in Nobles County. There has been some discussion about changing from a county administrator to a county coordinator position, and because Sethi has experience in both roles, he can help lead the discussions.
“What I’d like to do, over time, is make contact with the key officials and explore the opportunities to improve cooperation and collaboration,” he added. “There needs to be a good relationship, in my opinion, with the county folks, the city folks, the school district folks, economic development groups, the Chamber of Commerce. ...”
He will also be responsible for the everyday responsibilities of the administration office, including working with staff and commissioners on the next county budget, getting the tax levy adopted and meeting various deadlines along the way.
Sethi still has his home in Moorhead, where his wife will remain during his interim position with Nobles County. The couple has two adult children, a daughter in West Fargo and a son in the Twin Cities.
Julie Buntjer writes for the Worthington Daily Globe