Janesville61.3°

What are qualities for manager?

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 3, 2008
— Janesville is poised to go to the next level, and the next city manager must be capable of taking it there.

That was the opinion of one business leader who was among several city residents who met Wednesday with a recruiter and told her what they want to see in the city’s next manager.


City Manager Steve Sheiffer is retiring this fall.


Some were invited, such as representatives of business, government, community groups and employees. Ten residents attended an open session at night.


The attributes mentioned reflect on Janesville itself.


In a nod to the growing minority population, for instance, one woman said the manager should be as comfortable courting new business as meeting with a group of Hispanics.


Referencing Janesville’s burgeoning arts and cultural community, others talked about the need to change the image of the city from being a GM town.


When addressing the economy, residents said a manager must attract good-paying jobs.


“It’s all about fit in the final analysis,” said Heidi Voorhees of The PAR Group. “Any candidate could have the right skills, but is their style going to fit the community?”


Rich Gruber of the Mercy Health System said the manager must be approachable and be a collaborator—able to partner with the business community and also have a regional vision.


“(He or she) has to be fearless when it comes to making the right decisions to invest in the community’s infrastructure, to support the long range as opposed to the short view,” Gruber said.


The manager should be visible in the community, belonging to organizations and gathering information.


Mary Willmer-Sheedy of M&I Bank said the manager should have a strong fiscal background but also be willing to spend money for growth.


Sometimes, “someone so fiscally conservative stands in the way of development,” she said.


He or she must have the skills to build a team at City Hall.


John Pearse of General Motors said a new manager should be a good communicator, and resident Kay Dupree said it would be “important, wonderful if (he or she would) have the skill to help the council and residents find win-win solutions when there’s confrontational issues that need to be dealt with.”


Businessman Bill Kennedy would look for a visionary. But businessman Joe Pregont said the vision, under a council-manager form of government, should come from the council and the community. The manager should be creative and effective in carrying out that vision.


John Beckord of Forward Janesville said a manager must develop political relationships at the state and federal levels and lauded the way “Mr. Sheiffer has found pots of money …”


Janesville needs a manager who knows the community’s health depends on the viability of the private sector, he said.


“This community is in a transition,” Beckord said. “The transportation and school systems are solid, and the city can grow in any direction.


“The table is set to really take this to the next level,” he said.


Dale Hicks of the Janesville Area Rental Property Association said Janesville needs someone who will seek good-paying jobs.


Lisa Furseth of Community Action agreed, predicting further deterioration without good jobs.


“Milton Avenue is all fine and good, but $8-an-hour jobs create a whole other set of issues,” she said.


Margaret Delaney, a resident of an inner neighborhood, is looking for someone who will pay attention to the declining neighborhoods.


The neighborhood action groups have been getting help from the city and will be asking for more, especially financial help, she said.


The Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods have turned the corner, and families are moving back into single-family homes.


“That has not happened in decades,” she said.


Furseth said a manager who ignores deteriorating neighborhood risks long-term drain on the community. Turning them around happens only with public investment.


Those representing cultural and tourism venues would look for someone serious about changing the city’s image.


“There’s been a tremendous shift away from being a GM town,” and that shift is essential to attracting a work force, said Christine Rebout of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.


“I think we can’t forget about the image we portray.”


Madge Murphy of the Rock County Historical Society would ask for help for the Tallman House, from which Sheiffer said he would cut funding.


“We would just like the city to be a little more proactive on … tourism and promotion,” she said.


Furseth said Janesville has one of the fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the region.


A manager should have the skills to build a unified vision between diverse groups of people, she said.


“I would love someone who is as good at garnering the support of old-guard business leaders,” she said, “but equally as savvy in sitting down with a group of Hispanic people in the Fourth Ward who are trying to make this community their home.”


WHAT’S NEXT

Recruiter Heidi Voorhees will meet with the city council at 4 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the manager’s role in a council-manager form of government. She also will present the attributes residents told her they want to see in a manager.


City Manager Steve Sheiffer will retire this fall.


A new manager should be at the city’s helm by October.



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