Janesville city manager process continues Saturday

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Frank Schultz
Friday, August 23, 2013

JANESVILLE—The Janesville City Council plans to re-interview candidates for city manager starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

How many of the five finalists will be re-interviewed, or who they are, remained a secret Friday night.

The council spent several hours Friday night discussing the candidates, but the council president would not say whether any decisions were made.

President Kathy Voskuil would only point to the notice of a council meeting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

The meeting notice says the council would again close the doors to the public and conduct a second round of interviews with “certain finalists for the position of city manager” and get “input from city staff and invited members of the public.”

The notice also indicated the council might select a finalist, decide the conditions of the offer and then extend the offer to the candidate.

The council's meeting Friday night came after a full day of interviews of the five finalists. The candidates were interviewed behind closed doors by the council and in public by a citizens advisory committee.

The advisory committee decided not to discuss its impressions in public, saving that for its closed-door session with the council.

The council's city-manager selection schedule called for narrowing the field to two on Friday night and then re-interviewing those applicants Saturday. Voskuil had warned ahead of time, however, that the council could take a number of different actions that would be hard to predict.

Voskuil had promised to reveal the names of the finalists if the council narrowed the field. She would not say Friday, however, whether or not the council had done so.

Following are some of the things the finalists said to the advisory committee at the Municipal Building on Friday.

-- Mark Freitag, an Army colonel with three years of experience filling a city manager-like job at Fort Hood, Texas, with 90,000 residents and about 400,000 soldiers and family members who live outside of the base:

Freitag, a West Point graduate, called himself a workaholic who grew up in the military and who is looking to end his 21-year military career.

Freitag told of using a Facebook page to get messages out and get instant feedback from residents when he ran the day-to-day operations of Fort Hood. The page helped in the search for a missing child.

Freitag also said a city manager should have frequent contact with city staff and residents and town-hall-style meetings to get the city's message out on new projects.

“I'm a decentralized leader. I don't micro-manage, and I've found over the years it's very productive as far as getting results,” said Freitag, who led armored units in battle in the Gulf War and in Iraq.

He said he has dealt with budgets, but “my background is not in finance by any means.”

 Bill Malinen, who recently resigned from the job of city manager in Roseville, Minn.:

Malinen spoke of a number of projects he was involved in, including the annexation of large tracts of countryside in Lincoln, Calif., for a planned development, making Lincoln the fastest-growing city in the country, and a development in Roseville that turned an industrial site into a business park called Twin Lakes.

Committee members were interested in the Roseville development because of Janesville's vacant General Motors plant. Malinen said he would make the future of the GM plant a high priority.

“That's a big piece of dirt and a lot of stuff to do something with,” he said of the GM site.

As to why he resigned in Roseville, Malinen said new council members were elected, and they wanted to put their own stamp on the city.

“There was nothing egregious, nothing significant that I did,” he said.

Malinen said he has been administering budgets for more than 30 years and most years produced surpluses.

— Ryan McCue, city administrator/clerk/treasurer for the city of Wautoma and former mayor of Cudahy:

“Making budgets is like making sausage. It's delicious at the end, but it's kind of ugly in the process,” McCue said in an energetic interview.

McCue described coming to Wautoma and finding deficits in the water, sewer and general funds. He took steps, including increasing utility rates, which hadn't increased in years, to balance those budgets without raising taxes.

He also spoke of how he ended the practice of a two-year replacement cycle for police cars, saying he kept the oldest squad car for more than three years before it broke down, and then replaced it.

Asked about the challenges to growth, he said: “Growth is great. It's better, in my opinion, to increase the tax base. It allows you to raise the tax levy. Your taxes don't go up on the homeowner.”

McCue also described his role in bringing Mayville Engineering to Wautoma.

— Jay Winzenz, Janesville's acting city manager:

“I've tended to be the go-to person in the organization when there was a problem,” Winzenz said, referring to a problem in code enforcement that he was tapped to solve.

Winzenz has worked for the city of Janesville for 25 years.

“This organization has been a great organization to work for. It's been a great community to live in,” he said.

Winzenz did not apply to move up to city manager five years ago, when the council hired Eric Levitt. He said it wasn't the right time for his family, with young children, and for the city, which he said was right to bring in an outsider after many years with the former manager, Steve Sheiffer.

“Now I feel the time is right for me to step up and become the full-time city manager.”

Winzenz acknowledged that he has spent much of his career in one city, which is not typical for city manager candidates, but after 25 years here, he is invested in Janesville.

“I've made Janesville my home. … I don't have any plans to leave Janesville regardless of the outcome of this process,” he said.

Winzenz was bursting with pride about the Seneca Foods expansion project, for which the city is building a wastewater pretreatment lagoon that will produce methane for energy production.

The $3.3 million deal, concluded in June, will add jobs and keep Seneca's expansion here instead of Payette, Idaho.

— Matt Zimmerman, city manager in Emporia, Kan., for the past six years.

He said he got into public service because “I liked the idea of using my skills for the public good rather that making money for someone else.”

Zimmerman described himself as someone who when he travels tunes to the community-access channel to see local government in action.

 Zimmerman said he was brought to Emporia as a fresh voice when the economy was struggling, and now they don't want to listen to him as much, “and that's a frustration and a concern to me.”

 Zimmerman said he likes to get out and see employees at their workplaces and to represent the city at community events and meetings.

He discussed efforts to restore Emporia's depleted cash reserves, without raising taxes. That included working with the county to pass a 1-cent sales tax that voters had to reauthorize after five years. He said he also worked with department heads to increase efficiencies and save money. All spending had to be justified, he said.      

Search consultant Karl Nollenberger on Friday revealed a few details to the advisory committee that previously were not reported: The initial pool of applicants numbered 42, Nollenberger interviewed 24 of those by phone and narrowed the list to 12, including two local applicants.

Winzenz is one of the local candidates. The other's name has not been revealed.

Advisory committee member Rich Gruber noted that the five finalists are white men and asked Nollenberger about the rest of the 12 who the council considered.

Nollenberger said one was a woman and one was African-American.

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