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W’bago votes to hire new city administrator

By Staff | Mar 15, 2010

Chris Ziegler

Winnebago council members had their say, and the public gave their input, at Tuesday night’s meeting.

A new city administrator will be hired.

When Jennifer Feely announced she was resigning, Councilman Rick Johnson suggested the council eliminate the position to help offset expected cuts in state aid.

After the council unanimously voted to hire administrative assistant Megan Boeck as the new deputy city clerk, discussion then switched on how to fill that position and whether a city administrator was needed.

Johnson says work at the City Hall could be handled by two workers, like other small towns do.

“I’m looking into the future as a way of saving our city money … the way it was done 30 years ago,” Johnson says.

Other council members saw the pros of Johnson’s suggestion; however, there also were the cons.

“Two people are not enough. In the long-term, I don’t think it’s a feasible idea,” says Councilman Chris Ziegler, who once worked as Winnebago’s city clerk.

Ziegler says the new city administrator would not have to be involved with community and economic development, as in the past. He says former administrator Nathan Mathews was good in those areas, but that has been lacking.

Winnebago Area Chamber president Scott Robertson disagreed with Ziegler, saying there has been a lot of business growth and development the past couple of years.

For Councilman Dana Gates, the window at City Hall should never be closed to the public.

“Coverage is a big deal. Throughout the normal business hours of the day, you have to have someone attending the front desk,” Gates says.

Police Chief Bob Toland told the council having enough front office help is a big concern.

He says two workers may not be able to do their duties and some transcribing for police officers. That work would have to be hired out.

“We need at least two-and-half people in the front office and a part-timer that could come in on short notice,” he says.

Council member Holly Stauffer favors having a city administrator because it provides “strong structure.”

Not having an administrator, says City Attorney Douglas Johanson, would be unwise and regressive.

Johanson says an administrator is needed because city government has become more complex. He says they have to deal with various issues such as union negotiations and street improvement projects.

“I think we forget, lose sight of how much time it takes to be involved in those things and to monitor it when you start doing it,’ he says.

Mayor Randy Nowak agrees with Johanson, saying adequate educational training is needed. He says the city needs someone who can write grants and work with businesses.

The council approved hiring Jeanne Kortuem in the interim to help Boeck and advertise for a part-time administrative assistant.

Also, advertising for an administrator will begin and close on March 30.

The council’s executive hiring committee will review the applications and narrow the list to five finalists, who then will be interviewed by the full council.