After more than 15 years as Prairie Township's administrator, Tracy Hatmaker will retire Dec. 1.

The search is already on for his successor.

Trustees unanimously approved an agreement July 18 with Cincinnati-based Novak Consulting Group to conduct a search for a new administrator.

The company will be paid $21,500 for the search and up to $5,000 in expenses for such things as advertising and background checks, officials said.

It's expected to take three to four months to find Hatmaker's replacement, said Catherine Tuck Parrish, executive search leader with Novak Consulting.

"Across the country -- in townships, cities, and villages -- there are less people who have gone into local government, or stayed in local government, than in past generations," she said. "Many of the pipeline jobs that prepare people for these positions have been eliminated."

Tuck Parrish said she will meet with Prairie Township trustees to draft a job description and salary range, and to determine if there will be a residency requirement.

According to the Ohio Treasurer's Office, Hatmaker's gross annual salary was $105,136 in 2016, the latest date available.

Novak Consulting is currently heading the search for a new township administrator in neighboring Jackson Township.

Hatmaker, 60, said he plans to spend the next four months wrapping up projects and making sure the township's "good, solid staff" is ready for 2019 and beyond.

"Anything I say about what's occurred has to be predicated on the fact that we're a team. Everybody does everything -- it's not just one person or one office that does anything," he said.

Hatmaker said he'd list the JEDZ -- Joint Economic Development Zone -- among the biggest accomplishments in his tenure as township administrator.

Approved by voters in 2011, the JEDZ imposed a 2.5 percent earnings tax on individuals working at businesses in the zone, which spans the commercial areas along West Broad Street between Interstate 270 and Hilliard-Rome Road.

Faced with dwindling state funding, trustees "had a choice to find additional funding or hunker down and hope for the best. That would have meant cuts," Hatmaker said.

"The board's decision to put the JEDZ on the ballot ... allowed the township to increase its law enforcement, provide a community center and continue to provide road and zoning and development services," he said. "It was a game-changer in terms of allowing us to maintain our services and try to build a community in that gap between Hilliard and Grove City."

Hatmaker was in urban planning before being hired by the township in October 2003.

After retirement, he plans to help care for his mother in Chillicothe but he said he'll always have an ear for the people of Prairie Township.

"I'll miss the teamwork; the residents," he said. "Once I step back and realize it, I'll probably even miss the complaints. I'll probably realize that 'wow, those little challenges meant more than I realized.' What I say the most is that it's about the tremendous potential this area has, and to never forget that."

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"I'll miss the teamwork. The residents. Once I step back and realize it, I'll probably even miss the complaints. ... What I say the most is that it's about the tremendous potential this area has, and to never forget that."

-- TRACY HATMAKER

Prairie Township administrator