Janesville's city manager heading to Simi Valley, Calif.

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

— The Janesville City Council will meet in closed session Tuesday, April 16, to decide whether to launch a search for a new city manager or to hire from within after the city council of Simi Valley, Calif., voted unanimously Monday to hire Eric Levitt as its city manager.

Janesville City Council President Kathy Voskuil said the council also would post an opening for interim city manager in City Hall. She said the council waited until Levitt’s hiring was made official to make the decision.

Levitt’s last day in Janesville is Tuesday, May 7, she said.

The closed meeting April 16 will follow the council’s annual reorganization meeting, which is necessary after elections. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

If the council opts to hire its next city manager from within, a likely candidate could be Assistant City Manager Jay Winzenz.

“We don’t even know if Jay is going to throw his hat in the ring,” Voskuil said Monday.

Winzenz did not say Monday what his decision might be.

“I’m waiting to see what the process is going to be,” he said. “It’s certainly something that I am interested in doing, depending upon what the city council is looking for in the next manager.

“I need to make sure I can meet those expectations,” he said.

The council in 2008 undertook a six-month and $40,000 process to replace longtime Manager Steve Sheiffer. Winzenz stepped in as interim city manager for three months from September to December.

Winzenz did not apply for the city manager’s position at that time.

Levitt promoted Winzenz to assistant city manager in April 2009. Winzenz has worked for the city since 1988 and has held a variety of positions, including operations and neighborhood services director.

Levitt said Monday he decided to accept the job in Simi Valley because he and his wife didn’t think they could turn the opportunity down on a “personal and professional basis.”

He said he has bittersweet feelings about leaving.

“I think there’s a lot of value in Janesville,” Levitt said.

Levitt noted he was the first city manager in Janesville history to manage without General Motors being present.

“I was an outsider coming in to a very proud culture now going through a very volatile time,” he said. “It was a difficult time with a lot of unknowns.”

Still, Levitt said he would accept the Janesville job again if given the same opportunity under the same circumstances.

On Monday, a Gazette reporter watched the Simi Valley City Council meeting online. During the meeting, Mike Judge, mayor pro tem, said all the people he talked to about Levitt when he traveled to Janesville were so positive that he couldn’t help wondering—a bit cynically—‘Why do you want to get rid of this guy?’ ”

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber said he read an online article in The Gazette after the announcement that Levitt was a finalist in California.

“I … looked at the 25 to 30 comments from the community and they were all positive, and all wished he would stay,” Huber said.

Usually, residents tend to hit city managers in the “backside” on their way out, he observed.

“But it was all positive,” Huber said.

“Our gain is their loss.”

Last updated: 10:27 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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