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Council to decide on finalists tonight

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 17, 2008
— The two finalists for the Janesville city manager job already have been interviewed by a panel of community members and by the city council.

The council tonight will decide whether to hire one of the finalists, send delegations to their hometowns or start the search again.


Eric Levitt

Eric Levitt, city manager in Sedona, Ariz., was interviewed by a community panel Tuesday. He said he has professional and personal reasons for coming to Janesville.


His family likes this part of the country. His wife's only condition was that the city offer a hockey program for their young son.


"I see some issues facing the community, in particular the cloud that's overhanging with the GM closing... I really look at the issues and try to gather people like yourselves, along with the council, to try to create solutions," he said.


Levitt said the plan recently presented to GM by community leaders in an effort to keep the plant open here can be used to market Janesville elsewhere if the effort fails. He emphasized the city's skilled workforce and existing plant.


Levitt said he is impressed with Janesville's "uniqueness," especially its downtown.


"Out on your I-90 corridor, you look like any other town," Levitt said. "Downtown gives your flavor."


While in Sedona, Levitt said he and the city council for the first time worked with the chamber of commerce and businesses to market tourism, the city's major industry.


He also developed a plan to pump almost $6 million of public and private money into the downtown.


When a cultural park went bankrupt, he convinced the state to allow the city to not pay back a $600,000 grant with the condition that the city spend $600,000 on two different city projects. That was the first time such a solution had been brokered between a city and the state, he said. And he said he hired a lobbyist that so far has resulted in four federal earmarks.


Levitt said he and his wife are active in the community, but he does not join service clubs because of political reasons.


Levitt said his leadership style is based on delegation and trust but that he can be a micromanager when needed.


Ken Witt

Ken Witt, city manager in Sparta, was interviewed by the community panel Monday, and he stressed his financial background as an advantage in attracting new business here.


As reported in The Janesville Gazette on Tuesday, Witt said that accounting is the language of business.


Witt said his priority in economic development is keeping existing business happy and growing.


And when a new company shows interest, the city must be ready with an available building or space and infrastructure. He said he created a three-member team of city personnel who meet with prospective businesses so they can immediately get answers to their questions.


"That's what businesses want," Witt said. "Not next week or next month. Normally, they want to start yesterday."



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