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Cities taking different routes to find new city administrators

By Staff | Jul 6, 2008

In just a little more than six months, all three city administrators in Faribault County have left their positions and are being replaced with new ones.

First to exit was Nathan Mathews in Winnebago, replaced by Jennifer Feely. Next was Ronda Allis leaving in Wells. Finally Ben Martig said goodbye to Blue Earth and went to Marshall.

(The other towns in the county have city clerks and not administrators).

Both Wells and Blue Earth are busy working on replacing their administrators. Winnebago did so last fall. All three cities seem to have used different methods to procure a final candidate for the office.

Winnebago only had seven applicants for the job. A nine-person committee (made up of a couple of council members, police chief, business owners, etc.) interviewed four candidates first, then re-interviewed two of them before offering the job to Feely.

Wells started with 26 applicants (but only considered 20 of them because six applied late). They went right down to two and a committee interviewed those two. The council should make a choice at their next meeting. Of course, the whole council has not interviewed them, so they will rely on the recommendation of the committee who did.

Blue Earth so far has 15 applicants. They are having their interim city administrator do the narrowing for them. They hope to get to six, and the whole council will interview that half dozen.

In an odd move, however, each of the six will be interviewed three times, by two council members at a time, plus the mayor with one of the groups.

I fail to see the reasoning behind that. Why not just have all the candidates interviewed one at a time by all the council together?

Is it because if all the council members interviewed each one, it would be considered an open meeting and the public would be able to attend, and this way the public can be excluded?

In another strange move, the six candidates and their spouses are all going to be invited to a party on the Friday night before the interviews, along with a whole host of folks from the chamber, business community, EDA, etc.

This seems strange because everyone might like one person for the job, different from the one another person might favor. But the council will make the final decision and that could be some other choice altogether.

Plus it seems to be going to a lot of expense just to have some local people meet a bunch of candidates when only one will actually be the next administrator.

I suppose there is some benefit to this tactic, such as seeing the candidates on a social level, but it takes a lot of work and money to pull off. And what happens if only some of the six can make it on Friday, but can be here for the Saturday interview? Is that an unfair advantage for the ones who were here a day early?

I could almost see it if the six were interviewed and narrowed down to two finalists. Those two could be introduced to community leaders, and then re-interviewed.

As long as we are questioning some of the hiring process in Blue Earth, I also wonder about having the interim city administrator do all of the narrowing down of the candidates to the final six to be interviewed. I agree he should have input, but so should the city council members – or at least a committee of them.

If I was a city councilman, I would at least want to know who all applied for the position; the name and qualifications.

However, when you get right down to it, it is up to the council as to how they want to go about selecting the next administrator, not the job of the editor. My job is to report on it.

When it is all said and done, we all just hope that the council selects a good one, a person capable of doing the job, and also one who will fit in with the community.

And perhaps stay for a few years before moving on. Is that too much to ask?