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Jay Winzenz leaving Janesville for job with city of Eau Claire

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Marcia Nelesen
June 3, 2014

JANESVILLE--Jay Winzenz, who twice filled in as Janesville city manager, has accepted a job as finance director for the city of Eau Claire.

His last day as director of administrative services for the city of Janesville is Saturday, July 5.

Winzenz earned praise from most city council members for his performance as acting city manager after former City Manager Eric Levitt left in May 2013. Winzenz applied for the city manager job but was runner-up to Mark Freitag, who was hired as city manager in August.

At least one council member said he voted to hire Freitag because Freitag's and Winzenz's skills complement each other.

“If you put these two individuals together as a team, you're going to have a really tremendous high level of leadership,” Councilman Jim Farrell said at the time.

Winzenz said he is not leaving Janesville because he was passed over in August.

During the interview process, he said both publicly and privately that he had no plans to leave regardless of the council's decision, Winzenz said.

“Certainly, when I wasn't selected, there was a period of disappointment,” he said.

“But I believe I was able to put that aside and continue moving things forward … the team pulled together and, working with the city council, got the 2014 budget adopted.”

Plans changed when Freitag started in December, he said.

“Things did not work out between the new city manager and I, and I found it was in my best interest and my family's best interests to relocate," he said.

Winzenz declined to comment further.

Freitag said he is pleased Winzenz found “a job and location that will make him happy. That's good news for both him and his family.

“I've planned for this contingency and will take appropriate steps to ensure a smooth departure for a department head and the subsequent transition for the city staff,” Freitag said.

“I foresee no issues.”

Winzenz has worked in Janesville for 25 years, beginning as assistant operations director in 1988 and later as neighborhood services director. He resigned his position of assistant city manager shortly after Freitag began in December.

Winzenz said he is proud he was able to move several projects forward during his time as acting city manager, including:

-- A wastewater project that helped convince Seneca Foods to expand its operations here.

-- The newly approved fire station.

-- A splash pad.

-- A downtown pavilion.

Winzenz said he is also proud of city staff's response to the 2008 flood. Information gathered that summer by the engineering department helped the city prepare for high water in 2013.

Winzenz said the move to Eau Claire is bittersweet.

“I'm leaving a lot of great people behind,” Winzenz said.

“We've really grown as a team and work well as a team.”

Winzenz said he believes he will be valued as a member of the team in Eau Claire. The city manager there is receptive to one of Winzenz's passions, which is matching the budget to community priorities, he said.

FREITAG: CITY BUDGET WILL BE OK WITHOUT KEY PEOPLE

JANESVILLE--City Manager Mark Freitag said the city's finances will be in good hands even though the city is losing two key finance people before the 2015 budget season.

Director of Administration Jay Winzenz and Comptroller Patty Lynch will leave before the 2015 budget season ramps up.

The city announced Tuesday that Winzenz will leave in July for a job in Eau Claire.

Lynch retires later this summer. Lynch's replacement, Tim Allen, has a background in manufacturing and no municipal experience.

Said Winzenz: “I do think that this will be a challenging budget process, as all budget processes are. Between Patty and I, I believe that's about 50 years of experience that will be leaving the organization.

“It's one thing to make the numbers balance,” Winzenz said. “That's kind of the easy part. It's the understanding of how all the pieces fit together that will be lost at least to some extent … for the organization,” Winzenz said.

Freitag said he is certain his plans will provide a seamless transition.

Allen, who will fill a new position of finance director, starts work in July and will have a month to work with Lynch.

He also has agreed to learn the city's software system in June and take a course in municipal finance.

“He's got a pretty nice resume—not municipal, but good experience in the accounting world,” Freitag said.

“Obviously, he's going to have some learning to do,” Freitag said.

Freitag noted this is also his own first time making the city budget, and he figured the absence of both Winzenz and Lynch would be a good opportunity for him and Allen to roll up their sleeves and learn as much as they can.

Councilman Jim Farrell, a retired business accountant, assured Freitag that city and private accounting systems are different, but “it's not like rocket-science different,” Freitag said.

“Jay's greatest attribute certainly is his knowledge of the city's financing and making it all work,” Freitag said.

“That, indeed, will be sorely missed.

“I think we can work through that, though.”



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