Janesville city manager semifinalists named

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

JANESVILLE—Five finalists chosen by the Janesville City Council for the city manager job Tuesday will visit Janesville for tours and interviews starting Thursday, Aug. 22.

The council made its selections in closed session Tuesday night. Council President Kathy Voskuil released the five names Wednesday. They are:

-- Mark A. Freitag, U.S. Army colonel, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

-- William J. Malinen, former city manager, Roseville, Minn.

-- Cole S. O'Donnell, city administrator, East Moline, Ill.

-- Jay Winzenz, acting city manager, Janesville.

-- Matthew D. Zimmerman, city manager, Emporia, Kan.

Voskuil would not say how many candidates the council reviewed and whether any of the candidates not chosen was a woman or a local person, other than Winzenz.

Voskuil said the information was presented in closed session, so it should remain out of the public view.

“These are the five candidates we determined would be best suited for us to interview,” she said.

Voskuil also would not say whether any of the applicants was a member of a minority. She said “minority” means different things to different people, so she did not think it appropriate to answer that question.

Voskuil would not say whether the council's choices were unanimous.

“We would not be interviewing them if we didn't think as a group that all had great possibility of becoming the next city manager of Janesville,” Voskuil said.

Voskuil said the council wants to get as much public input as possible. The public can meet the candidates in a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22.

The candidates' spouses or significant others have been invited as well, Voskuil said.

Residents will be invited to submit their thoughts about the candidates, and that information will be part of the council's closed-door deliberations the night of Friday, Aug. 23.

Those who can't attend the reception will be able to provide input through a link on the city's website.

Voskuil noted the public also will be able to attend the candidates' interviews with the ad hoc advisory committee on Friday at City Hall, but the council's interviews will be behind closed doors.

The Gazette interviewed some of the candidates by phone and gleaned information from other sources. Here are their comments and background:

-- Mark A. Freitag, U.S. Army colonel, Fort Wainwright, Alaska

Freitag, 47, is the second-most senior executive in the Alaska Army Headquarters near Fairbanks, but his most relevant experience was at Fort Hood, Texas, from 2010-12.

Freitag was commander of the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Hood, a job he says is the Army equivalent of city manager, and he loved it.

Freitag said he is looking to end his Army career, and as he looks back, caring for the needs of the fort's 90,000 residents and the 400,000 soldiers and families who lived outside of the fort was exciting.

“There was always something going on. When a siren goes off, you know someone in your organization is responding. When you drive down the street and see something not right, you know your job is to get it fixed,” he said.

He found that seeing the results of his work on a regular basis was professionally satisfying.

Freitag said he has applied for similar positions elsewhere, but this will be the first one for which he will be interviewed. He was invited to interview for a position in the state of Oregon, but he could not make it because of a scheduling conflict, he said.

Freitag grew up all over the country as an “Army brat.” His father is a retired lieutenant general who worked for the Lutheran church after retirement.

Army people are good at transitions into new organizations, and that's one quality he would bring to Janesville, he said.

Other qualities that make him suitable for the job are Army-honed skills in organization, leadership and team building, as well as a fresh perspective he could bring, he said.

Freitag has extensive experience with armored vehicles and also speaks Russian as a result of his 25-year career in the Army.

His current job includes overseeing 12,400 soldiers and 25,000 family members at two locations. His LinkedIn profile says he supervises a staff of 400 with a budget of $170 million. Janesville's budget is around $127 million.

Freitag graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1988 and later served in the Gulf War and the war in Iraq. He was a United Nations military observer in the Republic of Georgia and military assistant to the deputy secretary of Defense.

Freitag holds master's degrees in management from Saint Mary College and national security strategy from National War College.

His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Combat Action Badge.

Freitag has relatives in Wisconsin and around the upper Midwest, but his only connection to Janesville is that his mother and father's car broke down here in 1962, when as newlyweds they were moving from South Dakota to Virginia. 

-- William J. Malinen, former city manager, Roseville, Minn.

Malinen said he thinks Janesville would be a good fit for him.

“From a manager perspective, it looks like a not only historic but progressive kind of place. It's a good size for me as far as a career progression,” Malinen said.

“I think I have a long and varied background in different cities and different situations, and I think that would be a benefit to the organization,” he said.

Malinen, 55, lives in Roseville, Minn., where he resigned as city manager effective May 14, according to a news release from the city of Roseville.

“There were some new council members there. I think they were looking at having their own selectee,” Malinen said.

Roseville Mayor Dan Roe wrote in the news release: "The city council appreciates the work that Bill has done for Roseville since 2007. In recent discussions between council members and Bill, it became clear that a change was in the best interests of both him and the city. It was a mutual and amicable decision."

Malinen in July was a finalist for the city manager job in Ankeny, Iowa, according to Colin Baenziger of the executive search firm Baenziger & Associates, which helped Ankeny find candidates. Ankeny chose a different candidate, Baenziger said.

Malinen said he is not working and is not a finalist anywhere else.

According to Malinen's resume provided by Baenziger, Malinen worked previously as:

-- city administrator in Lynnwood, Wash., a community of 35,000, from 2005 to 2007.

-- city manager in Fife, Wash., a community of 6,000, from 2002 to 2005.

-- city manager in Lincoln, Calif., a community of 16,000, from 1993 to 2001.

-- city manager of Avenal, Calif., a community of 12,000, from 1990 to 1993.

-- chief administrator of White Bear, Minn., a community of 9,500, from 1984 to 1990.

Malinen has a master's degree in public administration from Mankato State University in 1992 and a bachelor's degree in public administration from St. Cloud State University in 1983.

Among the accomplishments as city manager in Roseville listed on Malinen's resume are adoption of a long-range community visioning process, construction of infrastructure for a brownfield redevelopment project that was dormant for 20 years, completion of a comprehensive parks and recreation plan and initiation of a new priority-based budgeting concept.

Malinen said he's interested in continuing his career in Janesville.

“I just think they'll appreciate my background and experience and what I've been able to accomplish in my career with different cities, and we'll just see if that's a good fit, and I sure hope it is,” he said.

-- Cole S. O'Donnell, city administrator, East Moline, Ill.

O'Donnell has been with East Moline for about one year nine months, he said. East Moline has nearly 22,000 people and is within the Quad Cities metro area. Previously, he was the city administrator for 12 years in Algona, Iowa, and was the city administrator in Renville, Minn. He began his career as city clerk in Denver, Iowa.

He said the Janesville position looked like a good career opportunity.

“It's a community that would offer perhaps some more opportunities for my family to grow and experience some different things,” he said. “It looked like a really nice community that my family and I could grow in.”

He said his experience in smaller communities makes him a good candidate.

“I've been able to experience things that have become more specialized as you come into larger communities, such as human resources director” or finance officer, he said. “Coming from a smaller community, I had to be a little more hands-on in those positions. I think it gives me an insight so that I can communicate with staff a little better and communicate with the council between the staff.”

O'Donnell recently was a finalist for the city administrator position in Ankeny, Iowa.

He received his undergraduate degree and master's degree from Iowa State University.

-- Jay Winzenz, acting city manager, Janesville.

Winzenz, 50, has been acting city manager since Eric Levitt left in May. Winzenz also was acting city manager after City Manager Steve Sheiffer retired in 2009 and before Levitt was hired.

Winzenz did not apply for the top job in 2009. He said Wednesday that he didn't feel the time was right. He had just been assigned to the administrative services department, his children were younger, and he thought the city council should bring in someone from the outside.

“Now, I think times are different, and I feel I've now spent about five years in administrative services learning the finances of the city and feel much more comfortable with that,” he said.

“I feel the time is right for someone in the organization to take over and continue to move the organization and the community forward,” Winzenz said.

Winzenz has worked for the city since 1988, serving in many roles, including management assistant to the city manager and director of neighborhood services. He holds a master's degree in public administration, according to Gazette files.

Sheiffer appointed Winzenz director of administrative services in 2008.

Levitt, the most recent city manager, appointed Winzenz assistant city manager in 2009.

Winzenz said he has not applied elsewhere and has no desire to leave the city.

“This is the only position I'm interested in, it's the only position outside of the city of Janesville organization that I've probably applied for in 20 years,” he said.

“I've made Janesville my home,” Winzenz continued. “I've worked and lived in Janesville for nearly 25 years, now, and my wife was born and raised in Janesville, and I think it's a wonderful community, and it also has a lot of opportunities.

“I think Janesville is poised right now to really start moving forward economically, and some other exciting things are being talked about as far as downtown goes,” Winzenz continued.

Winzenz said his strengths include his knowledge of city government.

“I have good working relationships with everybody, from the people who work in streets department up to the department heads. I have good relationships with police officers and firefighters,” he said.

“I also know the community,” Winzenz said. “I know the values of the community and understand how to get things accomplished in the community, what pitfalls to look out for as well as the strengths or people to reach out to guide projects through.”

-- Matthew D. Zimmerman, city manager, city of Emporia, Kan.

Zimmerman has been the city manager of Emporia for a little more than six years, he said. Emporia is a city of nearly 25,000 located in east-central Kansas.

Previously, Zimmerman, 52, was the city administrator of Prospect Heights, Ill., for about four years, and was the village administrator for about four years each in Manhattan, Ill., and Elburn, Ill. He also served in various city positions in other Chicago suburbs.

He said he and his wife are originally from the Chicago suburbs and a desire to be closer to family in that area started their search for new opportunities. When they saw the job posting in Janesville, he said he thought, “Wow, this is a great opportunity.”

Emporia is a college town, and he noted Janesville's proximity to UW-Whitewater and Madison.

“But more than anything, it's just a great professional opportunity,” he said. Wisconsin is a great city manager state, and Janesville has “a lot of those professional challenges that people like myself like. It just seemed like the best fit of everything we're looking for.”

Zimmerman said he has applied elsewhere, but Janesville is his family's No. 1 priority.

“Emporia is a true full-service city,” he said, noting aside from all the government services it provides, it also offers recreational services, garbage, water, sewer, a zoo, municipal golf course and an extensive park program.

Zimmerman has worked in smaller communities in larger metro areas as well as standalone, full-service communities.

“I think that's the perfect mix of experience and knowledge,” he said.

He received his bachelor's degree from Quincy College and master's degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University in 1989.

Gazette reporter Gina Duwe and News Editor Sid Schwartz contributed to this story.

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