Janesville69.1°

Council happy with new manager

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
June 24, 2009
— Even though city council members believe City Manager Eric Levitt did an "outstanding" job in his first six months, they didn't give him a promised merit pay increase because of the poor economy.

Levitt was manager in Sedona, Ariz., before he started Dec. 16 in Janesville. He was hired at a salary of $136,000 and the promise of a merit raise increase of up to 4 percent after six months.


The council met in closed session Monday to discuss Levitt's performance.


"Mr. Levitt has done an outstanding job the first six months," Bill Truman, council president, said Tuesday morning.


He said that sentiment was unanimous among the seven council members.


"He's getting to know the city, the residents and the council."


Truman said it was Levitt's idea that the council not give him a merit raise.


"I think because of the economy and the situation that the city's in and so many people out of work and losing jobs, it was to the point where he knew that he really couldn't take a raise and expect maybe the council later this year in budget time to try to furlough people and not give other people raises," Truman said.


"He took the leadership."


Instead of a merit raise, the council added five days vacation to Levitt's 20 days and put $1,000 into a deferred compensation plan. Levitt will not get the five days again next year, Truman said.


Last week, the council discussed layoffs, freezes and furloughs for city workers because the city is facing a budget deficit.


"If I would have given him a 4 percent raise, how could I have looked city employees in the face and say, ‘I'm sorry?'" Truman said.


Levitt's goal for the first six months was to get to know the city and the department heads, Truman said.


"Everybody was pleased how he's handled himself," Truman said.


The council and Levitt recently met to set council priorities.


"He is trying to figure out the direction of the council, to learn what we want," Truman said.


Levitt's expertise is in budgeting and finance—an area the council soon will test, Truman said.


Council members appreciate the variety of options Levitt offers council members before they make decisions. On Monday, for instance, the council considered how to revalue the city, and Levitt included a manager's recommendation different from the staff recommendation.


Staff has told council members they're "not afraid to voice their opinion to this new city manager without repercussions," Truman said.


Levitt schedules twice-monthly meetings with each council member. The former city manager met only with the council president twice monthly, Truman said.


"The open-door policy he's established with the council and the public is great," Levitt said.


Truman talks with people who say the manager gets back to them in a reasonable time when they call.


"Before, it would be maybe never, or a department head would call back instead of the city manager," Truman said.


Levitt's five-year contract includes a $5,100 annual allowance for an American-made vehicle.


Levitt gets five weeks vacation at the start of his fifth year.


Days off include two personal days in any year where no sick leave was used in the previous year and one personal day if only one sick day was used in the previous year, according to Janesville policy. Janesville policy also gives Levitt 11 holidays, including three floating holidays.



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