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Winnebago chooses administrator

By Staff | Nov 4, 2012

The Winnebago City Council has offered the city administrator position to a former council member, after narrowing the search this week.

Chris Ziegler of Winnebago was selected as the top choice for the position after the top three candidates were interviewed on Thursday, Nov. 1.

The finalists were interviewed for 30 minutes each. When the last interview was complete the council went into a brief closed session to discuss their options.

After opening the meeting back up, the council announced their decision to hire Ziegler.

He has previous experience in the city office, working as administrative assistant from 2005-2007. He recently resigned from his position as a council member in order to apply for this job.

Ziegler’s educational background consists of a bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in business administration from Minnesota State University- Mankato.

He has been a resident of Winnebago for 12 years and was able to discuss with the council some of the ways he sees Winnebago could improve in years to come.

“The city has been doing a great job maintaining their infrastructure,”? he says. “So, now it’s time to be more proactive.”

Ziegler feels that the declining and aging population could become an issue for the city and would like to take action to prevent that from happening. “Without a strong infrastructure, everything else in town will struggle to keep up,”?he adds.

Ziegler also told the council about his passion for the school in town, stating that he has two children that currently attend school there and another one that is about to start school there. He feels he has a personal investment in its well-being.

“I’d do anything to keep it vital,” he says.

He also feels that by keeping a school in Winnebago, the city is inviting more families to town.

“We need to make the city more attractive,”?he says. “The more people we bring to Winnebago, the more opportunities we make for businesses.”?

The council asked the candidates about their management style.

Ziegler was confident in the current city employee’s abilities and said he didn’t want to micromanage.

“I want to give them the tools they need to do their job,”?he explains. “I?would be a liaison between them and the council.”

Ziegler had a lot of experience with budgets and has used most of the city’s computer software in the past.

He also agrees that keeping the council informed with the events in city hall and plans to provide them with weekly updates and regular communication.

“I hope that the council would provide me with a clear vision of what they want,”?he says.

His lack of grant writing experience was discussed during the interview as well.

He explained that he has helped with the process of many grants in his job as director of business management for human services of Faribault and Martin counties.

“Even though I haven’t written a grant from beginning to end, I’d be willing to learn,”?he says.

Ziegler has already looked into options for learning more about grant writing.

“It looks like there are a lot of options for courses through the League of Minnesota Cities,” he adds.

Ziegler is excited to use this as a platform to continue to improve the city he lives in.

“Public service is something I’m very interested in,”?he says. “I want to continue my passion of making Winnebago a great place to live.”

The mayor, Randy Nowak, was to call Ziegler after the meeting was adjourned on Thursday to officially offer him the job.

Previously, the council had chosen six finalists and an alternate at the Oct. 18 special meeting.

They conducted interviews on Monday, Oct. 29. One finalist withdrew himself and the other five finalists were interviewed.

After interviewing each candidate for approximately 30 minutes, the members of council ranked each candidate.

The council was in agreement with their top three choices; Robin Leslie, Ray French and Zeigler.

Background checks on the finalists were conducted before inviting them back for the final round of interviews.

Leslie, who works for the City of Oshkosh, Wis., stated she was interested in preserving historic buildings and her planning background would be an asset to the city.

The Blue Earth Area graduate said she would like to move back to Minnesota.

“I am looking for some stability and would like to return to the area where a lot of my family lives,”?she says.

She states that she has experience in team work settings, community settings and is an experienced grant-writer.

Another one of the finalists, French, has just completed a law degree and is living in Eagan.

In his interview, French said he would like to see more going on in Winnebago.

“I like to see a few more lights on along main street in the evenings,”?he says.

These other two candidates were interviewed along with Ziegler on Thursday night.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13, in the Municipal Center.