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Six named in second batch of city manager candidates

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Gazette Staff
August 25, 2008
— The second batch of city manager candidates includes people from across the country and close to home.

City Council President Amy Loasching released the names Sunday of five men and one woman recommended by the recruiting firm PAR Group.


PAR Group also selected an alternate candidate. His name will be released if he is offered and accepts an invitation to be interviewed, Loasching said.


City Manager Steve Sheiffer retires Friday, Sept. 5. Jay Winzenz, director of administrative services, will act as interim city manager after Sheiffer retires.


The candidates will face interviews with a community panel and the city council Wednesday, Sept. 10, and Thursday, Sept. 11, Loasching said. The council will then narrow the field for a second round of interviews.


The six candidates are:


-- Gary Dumas, director of operations in Fayetteville, Ark., a city of 70,000.


-- Eric Levitt, city manager in Sedona, Ariz., a city of 11,000.


-- Phillip Nelson, city manager in Troy, Mich., a city of 81,000.


-- Jim Payne, city manager in Rio Rancho, N.M., a city of 76,000.


-- Susan Robertson, village manager in Fox Point, Wis., a village of 7,000.


-- Ken Witt, 36, city administrator in Sparta, Wis., a city of 9,000.


This is the city's second attempt to find a replacement for Sheiffer.


In July, 39 applicants were narrowed to two finalists, but the city council rejected both July 16. They might be reconsidered, Loasching said, if the council finds they are of equal quality to those who make it to the final round next month or if nobody in the new set of candidates "rises above" the last group.


If not satisfied with any of the candidates, the council could decide to start the process a third time, Loasching said.


Here's a look at the six candidates for Janesville city manager:


Gary Dumas, 58

Job: Director of operations in Fayetteville, Ark., a city of 70,000. Dumas oversees many of the major city departments, including water, sewer, transportation, parks and planning, he said.


Experience: Dumas has served seven years in Fayetteville. He also has served as public works director and planning director in Sioux City, Iowa, and planning director in San Angelo, Texas, and Victoria, Texas. He's originally from Oklahoma.


Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from North Texas State (now the University of North Texas). Dumas also took classes toward a master's degree in city and regional planning and public administration.


Why Janesville?: Dumas considered applying for the position the first time it was posted and didn't. But when it was posted a second time, he decided to apply, he said. His daughter lived in Janesville for a few years and he liked the community, he said.


What makes you a good candidate?: Dumas said his career path has prepared him well for a city management position in Janesville, especially as Janesville deals with economic issues such as the closing of the General Motors plant.


"The way you approach (economic issues) in any city is going to be fairly similar," he said. "It's going to take serious public involvement, involvement of the chamber and city development group, and involvement of the city council, but most of all involvement of the community."


Eric Levitt, 40

Job: City manager in Sedona, Ariz., a city of 11,000. Levitt oversees all city departments and operations, working with a $55 million to $60 million budget. He reports to the city council.


Experience: Has served as city manager for seven years and before that was assistant city manager and chief financial officer for five years in Sedona. He previously served as village manager in Carlisle, Ohio.


Education: He has a master's degree in public administration with an emphasis on city manager from University of Kansas


Why Janesville?: Wisconsin is known for a good quality of life, he said, and he's heard good things about Janesville and its city council. The city would provide a good place for his family to raise their children, he said, and be a great opportunity personally and professionally. The position would provide a variety of challenges such as addressing residents' needs regarding the upcoming closure of GM, he said.


What makes you a good candidate?: He suggested the council provide that answer because it is the one making the decision. But from his perspective, he said he brings financial perspective and experience in providing creative solutions. Sedona's operating fund ended its last fiscal year with more than $200,000 in surplus.


With many cities facing financial difficulties, "we've been able to successfully address those," he said.


Levitt also said he's "very big in partnering with the community and council."


"It's a main emphasis of mine and something I see Janesville really wants," he said.


Phillip Nelson

Job: City manager of Troy, Mich., a city of about 81,000, since July 2006. The city was recently named one of the top places to live by Money Magazine. According to the magazine, "Though the city lacks a significant downtown, it thrives around its green space, featuring 900 acres of parkland, as well as many museums, theatres, and parks."


Nelson's starting salary in 2006 was $137,000.


Experience: Before Troy, Nelson was city manger for five years in Northglenn, Mich., which has a population of about 38,000, From 1988 to 2001, he was city manager of Derby, Kan., with a population of 19,000.


The Janesville Gazette was not able to reach Nelson for comment. The information above was found on the Web sites for the Troy Times and on CNNMoney.com.


Jim Payne, 61

Job: City manager in Rio Rancho, N.M., a city of 76,000. Payne resigned his position in July, effective Sept. 30, after just over a year on the job.


Payne said the decision to leave was reached mutually with the city after a chaotic year that included the mayor resigning under charges of financial misdeeds. The new mayor wanted to bring in a former city manager who was working in the governor's office at the time, Payne said.


"Basically, the council just decided that they wanted to go with a local fellow, here, and so we came to a mutual agreement on termination," he said. "There was no indication from anyone there that they were in any way dissatisfied with my work here."


Experience: Payne served as Waukesha, Wis., city administrator for nine years and city administrator in Franklin, Wis., before that. He's from Green Bay originally.


Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from UW-Green Bay; master's degree in public administration from Arizona State.


Why Janesville?: Payne is looking for a job, and he believes he would be a good fit in Janesville, he said.


What makes you a good candidate?: "My background and experience and talents, my skill set, I guess, if you will, is something I think would be valuable to the city," he said.


Payne knows GM announced plans to close its Janesville plant by the end of 2010. His first step would be working with the city council to try to convince the plant to stay, he said.


If that fails, "the most important thing is to be sensitive to the individuals and the businesses that are going through this as well," he said.


Susan Robertson, 48

Job: Village manager in Fox Point, Wis., a village of 7,000 on Milwaukee County's north shore.


Experience: She is in her 14th year as manager in Fox Point. She started her career as assistant to the public works director in Janesville, from 1984-87. She was city manager in Silverton, Ore., until a health condition, now resolved, forced her to resign. She also has been assistant city manager in Canandaigua, N.Y., and Laramie, Wyo. She worked part-time as director of housing and community development for the city of Ripon.


Education: She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from University of Florida and a master's degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Why Janesville?: "I loved my time in Janesville. It's a great community. It's got a great staff, and it has some interesting issues that need to be focused on coming up, both with the GM plant—closing the line—and with the budgetary issues coming up. ... Janesville has a long tradition of being a great community, and that would be something I would be interested in working to continue."


What makes you a good candidate?: She is familiar with Janesville and has worked extensively in Wisconsin, so she is familiar with municipal issues and law here, she said.


"I'm a good communicator and work well with people from all walks of life, and I think I would be an asset in helping the town move forward on the goals it wants to achieve."


Ken Witt, 36

Job: City administrator in Sparta, Wis., a city of 9,000.


Experience: Witt has served as administrator in Sparta for seven years. Before that, he spent five years as administrator, clerk and treasurer in East Troy and three years as a public accountant. He's originally from Sun Prairie.


Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting from UW-Whitewater; master's degree in public administration from UW-Oshkosh.


Why Janesville?: Witt's wife, Lori (Cook) Witt, is from Janesville, and he's spent a lot of time in the area, he said. He believes the job would be a good career move for him, he said.


What makes you a good candidate?: "I think I'm well-rounded," he said. "Coming from a smaller community, you do all of the tasks. … The things that I do really, really well are financial management, economic development and human resources. Those are three areas I think would be helpful in Janesville."


Witt has dealt with a situation in Sparta similar to the one Janesville is facing with GM, he said. In 2005, the Department of Defense considered closing nearby Fort McCoy, which employed 1,000 of Sparta's 9,000 residents. Witt worked with the governor and other officials to put together a package convincing the department to keep Fort McCoy open, he said.


He said he would work on convincing GM to stay in Janesville but would also try to make sure the city is diversified enough to survive the plant's closure. He would look at helping existing companies grow and attracting new businesses.


"Those are the things I've been pretty successful here in Sparta doing," he said.



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