Janesville city manager selection to continue Saturday

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Frank Schultz
Friday, August 23, 2013

JANESVILLE—Residents got a chance Thursday to assess and measure the five men who are finalists to be Janesville's next city manager.

The evening event at Rotary Botanical Gardens came at the end of the candidates' first day in Janesville and gave people a chance to see past the resumes and into their characters.

The day had been packed with meetings with city department heads and leaders of employee groups as well as tours of the city.

Perhaps 50 people attended the event, and 30 approached the candidates, each stationed at a table, to talk. Among them were representatives of business, nonprofit groups, community activists and private citizens.

Attendees were asked to fill out questionnaires about each candidate. The city council has pledged to review those responses as it makes its decision.

The Gazette asked the four out-of-town candidates what most impressed them about Janesville. The fifth candidate is Jay Winzenz, acting city manager. He has worked for the city for 25 years.

Since Winzenz already knows Janesville, here is his response to a question from Kerry Swanson, President of St. Mary's Janesville Hospital: What is your vision for the city?

“That's one of the issues we have right now, that I don't think there is a common vision,” Winzenz said.

The city has no mission statement or goals established through a strategic planning process, and that's something for the city council to do, he said.

“The city manager helps in the process, but it needs to be the community's vision,” he said.

The candidates who had just seen Janesville for the first time said these things impressed them:

-- Mark Freitag, an Army colonel and second-in-command of Alaska Army Headquarters:

“The quaintness. For a town of 63,500 folks, frankly I didn't think there would be this much small-town atmosphere,” he said.

Even so, Freitag said he and his wife, Patty, were impressed with the amenities, including shopping and restaurants, which they found impressive for a city this size.

“I love the sense of community,” added Freitag's wife, Patty, who said she is reminded of Denton, Texas, where she grew up. 

The Freitags have moved a lot of places during his 21-year career, “and we're ready to be done with it,” she said

-- Bill Malinen, who resigned in May as city manager in Roseville, Minn., population 34,000,  said the city's industrial areas and potential for new development were impressive.

Malinen also liked the planned widening of Interstate 90/39: “I think you're well poised to take advantage of that. I think you've got something to sell and something to take advantage of. … It looks like there are opportunities to continue to develop job-creating businesses.”

-- Ryan McCue, administrator/clerk/treasurer of Wautoma, population 2,200, and former mayor of Cudahy:

“The neighborhoods are beautiful and well maintained. I think the city has identified areas that could be improved and focused their energies on improve those areas.

“I think there's a sense of pride in Janesville in maintaining their homes, and I think that's great.”

-- Matt Zimmerman, city manager of Emporia, Kan., said two things impressed him.

One was the size and variety of recreational opportunities, including the pools, golf courses, ball fields and boat launches.

The second thing was the stormwater system. Zimmerman said the city's greenbelts, which absorb and purify stormwater naturally, are perfect at a time when federal authorities are pressuring municipalities to keep their stormwater clean.

“Very rarely do you see a community take the time and money to develop greenbelts,” Zimmerman said.

Each candidate also was asked to reveal something most people would not know about him. Their answers:

-- Freitag—“I'm a frustrated farmer. If I could ever get the opportunity to try my hand at it, maybe on a small scale,” he would like to try. He was quite interested in the plots available at the Rock County community garden.

-- William Malinen—He's a piano player. “I can do some great Billy Joel.”

Malinen's parents were accomplished musicians and gave their children a choice: violin or piano. He said he was about to give up the instrument when Elton John came along and made rock 'n' roll piano popular.

-- McCue—“I'm a Chicago Bears fan and season-ticket holder. … A who guy sat by me for many years was from Janesville.”

The man's name is Bob Hickey, whose wife confirmed the story.

McCue also takes an interest in his Irish heritage and pointed to his great-great-great-great grandfather, Frank McCoppin who was mayor of San Francisco.

-- Winzenz—“My wife and I enjoy tandem bicycling,” which provides exercise, time away from the children and a way to decompress after work. It also solves the problem of Jay riding faster and causing frustration for his wife, Lisa, he said.

With a tandem, each can pedal as hard as s/he wants, “and as long as she's pedaling back there, we're good,” he said.

-- Zimmerman—“I'm in a fantasy baseball league that's in its 36th year."

Asked for his favorite team, Zimmerman said he is most interested in the players on his fantasy team, but as a Chicago native, he roots for both Cubs and White Sox.

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