Janesville74.2°

Levitt planning first days on job

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 2, 2008
— Eric Levitt said his first order of business as city manager will be to listen.

“The first three to six months, I want to evaluate and get a lot of input and not just come in and change things,” Levitt said.


He was expected to sign his contract as new city manager this morning.


Levitt must give 60 days notice in Sedona, Ariz., and plans to begin work in Janesville on Tuesday, Dec. 16. He and his wife, Ginger, have two young sons.


Levitt said he plans to listen inside City Hall and in the community.


A priority will be the economic situation here in light of the upcoming closure of General Motors.


That includes evaluating the recent failure of an effort to form a Downtown Business District. He wants to find out whether people simply did not want it or if there were structural issues.


“I see the city in these types of improvements as mainly a catalyst,” Levitt said. “What can we do to help keep the process moving and to address concerns?”


Levitt wants to at least meet every city employee within the first nine months.


He said he will tell staff that he is the new person and so is going to rely heavily on their experience to find out what is working and what is not working.


“Any city, no matter how well managed it is, has things that are not working,” Levitt said.


He will look at how the city communicates with the council, the press and the community.


He said he values and appreciates community input.


“I think that’s a real strength in Janesville,” he said.


Levitt, 41, said he and his wife are excited to move here.


“I like all the people I met,” he said. “I feel I’ll work well with them. I think Janesville has a great park system, is a great community and has good schools. Ginger and I feel we’ll be able to fit in over time with our family.”


Levitt was born in Burlington, Colo., a small farming community.


He graduated from the University of Kansas, where he also received his master’s degree in public administration. The school’s focus is on local government and city management.


Levitt said public service appeals to him because he likes to help people.


“As I’ve gotten into the career, I like to help citizens, and I like to help council members, too. Council members get elected because they hopefully have the same values of the community, and I like to have them accomplish their mission and goals.”


He said he especially likes Janesville’s urban mix and small-town feeling.


“Everyone I met is extremely nice, and that gives you that small-town feeling to a certain respect,” he said.


Having an ice rink in the city didn’t hurt, either.


Levitt’s son is a hockey player, and Levitt now drives more than two hours round trip so the boy can practice in Flagstaff, Ariz.


Levitt is a sports fan and said he could “very easily be converted to a Badger fan.” While he doesn’t dislike the Packers, he grew up a Kansas City Chiefs fan.


Levitt said he will miss the people in Sedona and has many positive memories from his time there. He said he will miss least the conflict that sometimes erupted in the politically volatile community.


“When a person’s goal of why they’re in the business is to try to help people, and you end up feeling you’re dealing more with conflict, it gets tiring,” he said. “It definitely wears over time.”


Levitt said he learned to stay above that conflict.


“The way I’ve been successful is, I don’t get tied to issues,” he said.


“I try to understand where council policy direction is and try to work toward that direction.”



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