The Dakota County Board on Tuesday selected an internal hire to become the county's next chief administrator.

The commissioners unanimously voted for Matt Smith to fill the shoes of County Manager Brandt Richardson, who will retire in May after 24 years. Smith has been deputy county manager since 2012.

Smith will be responsible for the roughly 2,000 employees who work for the county, the state's third-largest by population.

"I'm very grateful," Smith said. "We have had a remarkable county manager in Brandt."

Smith will be formally appointed to the position after he and the county negotiate a contract.

Before becoming deputy county manager, Smith was the county's director of financial services from 2008 to 2012. Previously, Smith was St. Paul's finance director, and he served as Minnesota's revenue commissioner under Gov. Jesse Ventura.

He has a master's degree in agriculture and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.

At a board meeting Tuesday in Hastings, commissioners interviewed the two final candidates, Smith and Tim Houle, county administrator of Crow Wing County. Smith and Houle were chosen out of a pool of 38 applicants by the search firm Waters & Co.

"Matt has played key leadership roles in many major county initiatives and is widely and highly respected for his work for Dakota County, at the state of Minnesota and at the city of St. Paul," said Nancy Schouweiler, board chairwoman, in a statement. "He is an excellent choice who knows Dakota County well and how it integrates with other areas of government."

In the meeting, commissioners, heeding the wishes of staff, stressed the need for a leader who would create a more open office culture.

During the interview process, Smith emphasized the importance of collaboration and communication.

Commissioners took two preliminary votes before selecting Smith as the preferred candidate.

"We're going to be in great hands," Schouweiler said. " I look forward to bringing him on board."

Beatrice Dupuy • 612-673-1707