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Take five: Janesville residents to help select city manager

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Ryan Dostalek
Marcia Nelesen
June 27, 2008

Janesville residents will help pick their new city manager.


A panel of eight residents representing a cross section of the community—including business, labor and the arts—will interview the five finalists in mid-July and give impressions to the city council, council president Amy Loasching said.


“They won’t have an input into the selection process, but all of their thoughts and concerns will be a part of the council members’ decisions,” Loasching said.


“It will be another piece that’s going to be taken into consideration when we select the final candidate.”


Loasching said the council will form the committee because of interest the community has shown in participating in the process.


The council considered a meet-and-greet event or choosing residents to lead applicants on city tours. But members decided a panel is more organized, more fair to the candidates and a more effective way to get input.


“We’re always saying we want to hear from the community and care what they think,” Loasching said. “I just think this is another way our council has decided to listen to members of our community and let them know we do care what they think.


“We just thought it was really important that we not miss that piece.”


The council will interview candidates July 14 and 15. They are scheduled to conduct second interviews with two finalists July 16.


City staff also will get a chance to meet the two finalists.


“I think we’re ready for a new city manager,” Loasching said. “I think it’s time.


“I think this will be a fun year.”


Below are details about the five finalists:


Kevin M. Brunner

Brunner is city manager in Whitewater and recently was one of two finalists for the city manager job in Oshkosh.


Brunner said he and his wife, who teaches in Janesville, find themselves in Janesville quite a bit.


Janesville would be a great professional opportunity, he said.


“The recent, June 13 announcement (of GM’s eventual closing) really endeared me to Janesville and to the people,” he said, adding he’d like to be a part of the community’s future.


“That really intrigues me and excites me about the opportunity even more so than before,” he said. “At times like these … people come together more and work harder, and that kind of environment really excites me.”


Filling the GM gap will be a major undertaking, and Brunner cited his experience developing business parks, exploring a university research park and strategic planning efforts.


Brunner grew up in Kenosha in the shadow of the auto plant that closed 20 years ago.


He received his public administration degree from Michigan State University.


Brunner has been assistant to the Kenosha County administrator; assistant to the mayor in Appleton; village administrator in Saukville and city administrator in Monona and DePere. He worked for four years as the director of facilities and properties for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay before being hired as manager in Whitewater.


“I love working with the various stakeholders we have in local government,” he said. “I love the opportunities to see community issues and problems and work collaboratively to solve them.


“I missed that when I was in the private sector.”


Donald J. Carlsen

Carlsen is director of the management services-business group for the city of Naperville, Ill., a suburb west of Chicago.


He has spent his professional career working for Naperville from the ground up—literally.


He started as a summer employee working for the streets department, painting roads and repairing street signs. He interned with the transportation department and worked in the public works and police departments and then as a managing analyst for the city manager.


He was an information services manager for the finance department before becoming the director of information technology for the city and later moving on to his current position.


Carlsen oversees the human resources and information technology departments, the city clerk’s office and the city’s safety and risk management functions.


He says one challenge Janesville faces in the coming years is the impact of the General Motors plant closure.


“I certainly wouldn’t pretend to have a solution to that problem,” he said. “I think the broad umbrella of economic development is a great opportunity for Janesville.”


Carlsen said he would focus on communication among the city manager, city council, department heads and the community by holding focus groups and community meetings and using e-mail lists and Web site updates.


Carlsen received his master’s degree in public administration at Northern Illinois University.


He said he has liked living and working in Naperville for much of his life but feels ready to make a move.


“(Naperville) is a great place to work,” he said. “But I’m at a spot in my career where I want to lead an organization.”


David A. Hales

Hales is director of finance and administrative services in West Jordan, Utah, a city of about 100,000. He is responsible for overseeing finance, accounting and purchasing.


Before that, Hales was property manager for Salt Lake City; city manager for Centerville, Utah; Kannapolis, N.C., and Bend, Ore.


After Bend, Hales returned home and took his current job to help care for his elderly parents.


Hales said he is ready to return to his “great love and passion,” which is city management work. The Midwest appeals to him because he has never lived here. He said it’s a central location among his six children who live all over the United States.


Hales was born in Kaysville, Utah. He received his master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University.


Hales noted similarities between Janesville and Kannapolis, which was forced to diversify after textile mills closed. Hales said he led the community in an 18-month vision and strategic plan and developed the Kannapolis Gateway Business Park.


Hales sees the closing of GM as a “great challenge and opportunity not only to help the workers but the community find life after GM.


“I see working with the entire community on that particular initiative would be very rewarding,” he said.


Hales said he is committed to encouraging civic involvement and has provided opportunities to encourage residents to become involved in the cities where he has worked.


“I very much enjoy getting out and being part of the community,” Hales said.


John C. (Jay) Krauss

Krauss hopes to make a return to Wisconsin after a 14-year hiatus.


“I would be honored to be the next city manager and follow in Steve (Sheiffer)’s footsteps,” he said.


Krauss served as city manager in Sturgeon Bay from 1996 to 2006 and made the move to Lewiston, Idaho, to become city manager in January 2006.


Krauss recently faced scrutiny from Lewiston residents after firing a city clerk accused of falsifying documents, according to reports in The Lewiston Tribune. The residents began petitioning a recall of all seven city council members because of the council’s inability to fire Krauss, the paper reported Wednesday.


Before Sturgeon Bay, Krauss served as the city administrator in Niagara, Wis., village administrator in Huntley, Ill., and assistant to the village manager in Carpentersville, Ill.


Krauss received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from Northern Illinois University.


He said the impending closure of the General Motors plant is a challenge for the city, but he said financial and budgetary issues are his strong points.


“I’ve had a pretty good track record of making sure the residents get their money’s worth from the property taxes and the fees they pay.”


Krauss also applied for the city manager opening in Oshkosh.


William R. Ross

Ross is hoping to make a return to Wisconsin.


He served as the village manager in Sussex from 1977 to 1983 before becoming the city manager for Yankton, S.D., and then Auburn Hills, Mich.


He was named city manager for Jackson, Mich., in 2004. Members of the city council in Jackson recently criticized Ross for a lack of communication, vision and leadership, according to reports in the Jackson Citizen Patriot. The council addressed those issues in a closed session meeting Tuesday and presented goals for Ross, the newspaper reported Wednesday.


Ross said Janesville has an excellent reputation, and said he would be happy to come back to Wisconsin to be closer to his daughter, who lives in the Milwaukee area, and other family members in northern Illinois.


Ross said he feels he would be a good fit for the city because he can relate to both the management side and the manufacturing side of an auto-manufacturing town.


When he worked in Auburn Hills, Mich., Ross said he dealt extensively with the management of Daimler-Chrysler, whose corporate and technological headquarters are located in Auburn Hills. He said he’s also worked with suppliers to auto manufacturers during his four years in Jackson, which has been struggling because of the weakening economy.


BIOS

Kevin Brunner


Age: 52


Job: City manager in Whitewater, Wis.


Why Janesville: “It’s one of the more highly regarded city manager (governments) in the state of Wisconsin. The community as a great reputation around the state as being well run, well managed and having a very good quality of life.”


***


Donald J. Carlsen


Age: 47


Job: Director of management services-business group for Naperville, Ill.


Why Janesville: “I think Janesville’s a cool town, and I’m ready for the opportunity to lead an organization.”


***


David A. Hales


Age: 54


Job: Director of finance and administrative services in West Jordan, Utah.


Why Janesville: “The size of the community. It seems ideal. You can still be extremely involved with the community (and) the council … I like the fact (that Janesville) is not too far away from larger areas like Madison and Chicago. I enjoy the cultural arts. … Yet, it is far enough away to be a community in itself and a strong regional center for (commerce).”


***


John C. (Jay) Krauss


Age: 46


Job: City manager of Lewiston, Idaho


Why Janesville: “The city has rich history of support in the city manager form of government, and my family has a desire to move back to Wisconsin.”


***


William R. Ross


Age: 60


Job: City manager of Jackson, Mich.


Why Janesville: “The city has an excellent reputation. It’s a good place to work and is a very progressive community.”



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