Bleess among Winnebago finalists
The Winnebago City Council has determined the three finalists to be interviewed for the city administrator’s position on May 22.
Austin Bleess, current community development director of Wells, and Marc Dennison, former administrator/ clerk/treasurer of Darien, Wis., were selected Thursday night from a field of four candidates.
Also interviewed were Marv Ray of Hager City, Wis., and Anissa Hollingshead of Minneapolis.
Dennison was the council’s top choice with an overall point total of nine, while Bleess had seven.
The two will join Johanna Marzinske of Mankato in the final round of interviews scheduled for 9 a.m. this Saturday.Dennison described himself as a “rah, rah” type of person who likes to get out of the office and from behind his computer to roll up his sleeves and help out in other departments, such as public works.
“I’m not a look over the shoulder type of guy. If we’ve hired the best person for the job, I let them do their job,” he says of his management style.
Dennison says teamwork is important to get things done and he has an “open door” policy to his office for his staff and the public.
While at Darien, with a population of 1,600, Dennison says he has performed duties similar to those in Winnebago.
“You name it, I took care of it. Ran elections, took in tax receipts, board assessment reviews and issuing dog licenses,” he says. “You wear a lot of hats.”
Bleess believes his experiences with all levels of government — federal, state and local — has prepared him to be a city administrator.
He admits never having been an administrator may be a weakness, but he has kept in contact with a city administrator he interned for in Oak Park Heights and works closely with the current Wells administrator.
“I also will rely on the League of Minnesota Cities. Between all those (resources) there won’t be a problem I won’t be able to overcome,” he says.
Bleess also stressed good teamwork and being open-minded are needed to get things done.
“If someone needs help, they can always come to me,” he says.
Both touted their experience in economic development; Dennison for his work on Elk Run, a biobusiness park in Pine Island, and Bleess for completing financing on the Singleteary Food Solutions venture, a food processing company.
Council members also were pleased with the grant-writing abilities of both candidates because they feel it is an important skill to have.
When asked to name a weakness Winnebago has, Dennison says it’s empty lots in residential areas and lack of housing. On the positive side, he says the community has many amenities like parks, a pool, grocery store and school.
Bleess likes the city’s blend of industrial companies and a Main Street that has very few empty buildings, giving the city a “strong presence.”
Bleess says the city park near City Hall is a plus and more events like Moto Fest could be added to bring people into town.
Dennison received a bachelor of science degree in public administration from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, and a master of arts in public administration from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
Bleess obtained a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Bethel University, St. Paul. He later earned a master’s degree in public administration from Walden University, Minneapolis.