Marion County’s top employee is retiring after more than a decade on the job to spend more time with his family, he said.

Chief Administrative Officer John Lattimer has led the county’s 15 departments and approximately 1,700 total employees for the past 16 years. He announced his retirement in an email to staff countywide in April. His last day will be June 28, according to his official resignation to Marion County Commissioners.

Lattimer turns 78 at the end of the month and has spent more than five decades in public service. He said his wife and daughter have asked him to retire over the past two years.

“My wife and daughter have a list of things they want me to do, I will baby sit (grandchildren) and we will travel,” he told Salem Reporter in an email Thursday morning.

Jan Fritz, deputy chief administrative officer, will take over his position. The Marion County Board of Commissioners will officially appoint her at the June 12 meeting, according to a press release.

Commissioner Kevin Cameron said appointing Fritz -- as opposed to opening an application process -- made sense for continuity. He said Lattimer recommended Fritz.

"Obviously when John announced his resignation, with the respect that he has in this community and this board and others, we asked him his opinion," Cameron said. "His opinion is Jan has been here for an extremely long period of time... She has been right by his side and understands the budget and has the qualifications to continue on the great work being done in Marion County."

According to Lattimer, he first started in public service with a stint at the Kansas Legislature in 1969. At the time, his wife worked to finish college and he still planned to earn a Ph. D – but he never did.

“Because I got hooked on public service,” he said. “The rest is history.”

In his April email to county staff, Lattimer noted his time with Marion County has been the highlight of his career.

“This has been the best of all my work experiences and I want to thank each of you for your service and dedication,” he said. “You should know that Marion County has a reputation as one of the best in the State of Oregon. When I talk to my colleagues in other counties, they marvel at all we have been able to accomplish.”

“We are truly leaders in our state. That could not have happened without you, the employees who have made Marion County such a great place. I am proud of all you do for the residents of Marion County. Please keep up the great work as I know you will.”

Fritz is herself a 25-year veteran of Marion County and has been Lattimer’s lieutenant since 2007. In 2008, she was also named the county’s personnel officer.

In the release, Fritz praised Lattimer’s cooperation, finance management and accountability.

“Marion County has an excellent executive management team in place. I look forward to continuing to work alongside elected officials, department heads, and employees as we deliver exceptional services to Marion County’s communities,” she said.

In her new duties, Fritz will oversee the county's $450 million budget, with a general fund of $103 million. The county oversees public safety, infrastructure and waste management, among other responsibilities.

When asked what challenges Fritz and the county at large may be facing in the coming months, Cameron noted the ongoing debate over Covanta Marion -- saying it's "under attack" -- but he said any challenges will be faced together.

"No one person solves those challenges, it takes all of us working together," he said.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, troy@salemreporter.com or @TroyWB.