Janesville residents describe ideal city manager

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Marcia Nelesen
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

— Somebody who is a cross between the financially skilled Eric Levitt, Janesville’s most recent city manager, and the visionary Steve Sheiffer, the longtime city manager before Levitt took over.

That is the kind of person Janesville would benefit from having as the new city manager—a combination of the two previous managers, said Dan Cunningham, representing Forward Janesville during a meeting open to the public Tuesday.

Many have said Sheiffer’s and Levitt’s management styles were opposite from each other.

The city council called Tuesday’s meeting to learn what residents want in a new city manager. Levitt left for Simi Valley, Calif., earlier this month. Assistant City Manager Jay Winzenz is serving as interim city manager.

Levitt said in an earlier interview that he wouldn’t doubt it if residents are looking for someone now who is “more out there” than he was.

Karl Nollenberger of Voorhees Associates headed the public input session. He is also interviewing community members, such as council members and staff. Nollenberger said about a dozen residents have so far filled out a form online.

He will put the feedback together in a report to the council. After that, members will decide how extensive a search for a new city manager will be.

Nollenberger told the two residents attending Tuesday’s session that different management styles fill different needs in cities at different times.

Both Cunningham and Dianna Lund, a downtown business owner, said they agreed with each other on what traits they would like to see.

The city needs a head cheerleader, especially on the economic development side, Cunningham said. He or she should also have good communication skills.

“For a town that’s lost what we’ve lost, we’re doing all right,” Cunningham said. “We need to have someone highlight that.”

Everyone is looking for jobs, and Janesville must gain a reputation for being willing to try new things, Cunningham said.

The city must create a culture of enabling business rather than regulating them too much, and for the most part, the city does a good job of that now, Cunningham said. A new city manager must make sure department heads work together, and he or she must hold them accountable.

Lund said she hoped the new manager would come from a city at least the size of Janesville and have innovative ideas.

The city has been getting on its feet after General Motors closed, and the new manager needs to tell people that, she said.

Lund also said she hopes the new manager has a “little more charisma” than Levitt, who Lund added quickly was very nice once you got to know him.

Last updated: 10:36 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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