Lane County is hiring George Russell, the former longtime Eugene School District superintendent, as interim director of its management services department, county Administrator Steve Mokrohisky announced Tuesday.

The position oversees the county clerk's functions -- including county elections, marriage licenses, and deeds and records -- as well as county finance functions, including payroll, accounts payable and receivable, and investments.

Russell, 70, will work full time and make $58 an hour -- the equivalent of $120,640 a year -- but won't receive any benefits from the county.

He starts Monday.

Mokrohisky said Russell is expected to stay in the role for six to nine months. He said Russell, in addition to overseeing the department, will advise him on "the appropriate structure" of county administrative departments going forward.

"I have a really good comfort level with" Russell, Mokrohisky said. "He has the right kind of expertise and he has the respect of this community."

The county did not publicly advertise the open interim position. Mokrohisky said that's largely because he doesn't know exactly what he wants from that position in the long term. He said he picked Russell from a list of local candidates, based on advice from county department directors, among others.

Hiring Russell for the short term will be less expensive for the county than immediately hiring a permanent director, Mokrohisky added. The county had budgeted to spend $202,560 in salary and benefits on the position in the current fiscal year, which began in July.

The county will do a "nationwide, competitive search" for the post after Russell leaves, Mokrohisky said.

Howard Schussler, the county's assistant public works director, has filled in as interim management services department director since the start of the year. Before that, the position's responsibilities were assimilated into the wide-ranging county chief operating officer position that former county Administrator Liane Richardson, now Inkster, created in 2012.

The chief operating officer position was held by Madilyn Zike, who in January left to become the state of Oregon's chief human resources officer. The county subsequently eliminated the chief operating officer position on the advice of the county's external auditor, who cited a lack of checks and balances in the county's administrative functions.

Schussler is returning to his position in the public works department.

Prior to joining the Eugene School District in 1995, Russell worked as Lane County's human resources and management services director for four years. He was the school district's superintendent for 12 years, before retiring in 2011.

His tenure as superintendent, during which he dealt with several years of difficult budget cuts, generally was praised by district leaders and teachers.

"I am excited to be back working for Lane County, and to work with this leadership team," Russell, who is on vacation, said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

"We have an opportunity to bring forward new ideas and concepts that will continue to improve the quality of the organization and its impact on our community."

According to a state database, Russell currently receives an annual pension of $108,637 from the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System.

Because he has reached the full retirement age of 65 under Social Security, Russell can work an unlimited amount of hours for the county while still collecting his full PERS benefit.

Under PERS rules, most retirees who are younger than full retirement age are limited to a maximum of 1,039 hours -- six months of full-time work -- in any calendar year for an Oregon public employer. The limit is intended to cut down on what is known in the public sector as "double-dipping": collecting a taxpayer-backed retirement benefit and a public salary at the same time.

Follow Saul on Twitter @SaulAHubbard . Send emails to saul.hubbard@registerguard.com .

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