Andrew Keller

Ashland County resident Andrew Keller was hired Thursday as Richland County's first administrator.

ASHLAND — The chairman of the Ashland County Board of Elections took a new job as Richland County’s first administrator Thursday, but the role won’t affect his responsibilities for next week’s election.

Richland County commissioners hired Andrew Keller on Thursday.

“I look forward to continuing to serve (on the board of elections),” said Keller said.

Keller, 35, first appointed to the board of elections in 2014, said the new role in Richland County will compliment his work in Ashland — not be a conflict of interest.

“Elections administration has always been really fascinating to me. Now, it’s more important than ever to have board members that are protecting the integrity of our elections process. I’m proud to have done that in Ashland County,” he said.

The board recently said goodbye to Barb Queer, who retired from government work after a more-than-40-year stint. The board is back to a full quorum, following the Republican Party of Ashland County appointment of Joe Kearns as her replacement.

The chairman’s roots run deep in Ashland County.

He currently lives south of Hayesville with his wife, Amy, and three children. He graduated magna cum laude from Ashland University in 2008 as a Presidential and Ashbrook Scholar.

Keller will earn a salary of $90,000 in his role as county administrator in Richland County. The attorney spent the last decade or so working in the civil division of the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office.

His primary focus will be administering the county’s $23.4 million in American Rescue Plan funds, as well as working to obtain other federal and state grants. He said he’ll also review and prepare contracts and analyze the county’s budget.

His new role will be a first for him — and for Richland County, which held out for years as one of just two of Ohio’s most populous counties to hire an administrator. Trumbull County is the other.

Richland County is the 23rd most populous in the state with a population of 124,936, according to 2020 census data.

Ashland County has never had an administrator because the need has never been there, said Gail Crossen, the county’s clerk.

“That’s something you typically see in a larger county, which have more money and more issues,” she said.

Ashland County’s population sits at 52,447, according to the latest census data. The number represents a 1.3% decrease over the last decade.

Crossen, who plans on retiring from her role at the end of the year after 26 years, said smaller counties like Ashland have more “hands-on” commissioners and administrative work is divided among them and staff.

“(County administrators) are almost like a fourth commissioner. They sit in at all the meetings and present issues to the board. I do some of that on their behalf, but the more there is, the more it might become necessary to have an administrator,” she said.

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