W’bago chooses Bleess
One city’s gain is another’s loss.
Austin Bleess, community development director of Wells, will be Winnebago’s new city administrator.
Although it’s just a formality, the council still needs to approve his hiring at their June 8 meeting.
Bleess, who has a master’s degree in public administration, says being a city administrator has been a career goal.
“I’m excited and ready to step into that realm. I think this job is a great step for me,” he says.
Bleess was offered the job after he and two other candidates were interviewed by council members on May 22.
The second round of interviews consisted of 10 questions covering issues facing Winnebago such as maintaining a school; retaining and getting new businesses; and filling vacant houses.
On an overall ranking; Bleess received 10 points; Marc Dennison of Darien, Wis., nine; and Johanna Marzinske of Mankato, five.During his interview, Bleess told the council “open communication” for a city administrator is important because it helps build trust.
He described Winnebago as having great potential to be a growing community.
“I’m not afraid of putting in long hours. I will put in more than 40 hours a week and do what it takes to get the job done,” he says.
Although being the council’s top choice, Bleess had the option of turning down the offer if an agreement could not be reached with the city’s executive committee regarding benefits.
Bleess says he met with Mayor Randy Nowak for one hour Tuesday to negotiate a salary, which was listed as $46,000. He says the two agreed to an annual salary of $47,500.
Bleess says he does not have a contract with the city and his working under a six-month probationary period.
Mayor Shannon Savick says she’s happy for Bleess, but his leaving will be a big loss for Wells.
“We’re really going to miss him. He is very good at his job and has excellent ideas,” she says. “He was a real asset to the community.”
Bleess was hired in August 2009 at a starting salary of $37,500. He replaced Zoa Heckman who resigned and later became economic development director for Faribault County.
In addition to economic development, Bleess worked with the Housing Redevelopment Authority; dealt with planning and zoning issues; and helped enforce the public nuisance ordinance.
Bleess is scheduled to begin his job on June 21.
One of the first items on his to-do list will be to hire a part-time administrative/accounting assistant.
Applications have been taken for the position, however, the council put off hiring someone until the administrator’s position was filled.