WILLMAR -- The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission has directed its Labor Committee to negotiate an employment agreement with utility interim co-manager Wesley Hompe to serve as general manager.
The commission voted 6-0 Monday to direct the committee to negotiate with Hompe and return the agreement to the commission for approval.
Voting in favor were Steve Salzer, Jerry Gesch, Dave Baker, Matt Sch-rupp, Carol Laumer and Dan Holtz.
Commissioner Dave Becker was absent.
Hompe and Melrose City Public Works Director John Harren were the two finalists interviewed by the commission to fill the position that was vacated after the former general manager, Bruce Gomm, was terminated in February.
Hompe has served as Willmar Utilities interim co-manager since December 2011 when Gomm was placed on administrative leave. Hompe had served as staff electrical engineer from May 1989 through December 2011.
His resume also lists Hompe Engineering, LLC, January 2010, and a prior position as service area assistant engineer for Illinois Power, Decatur, Ill., from May 1985 to May 1989.
Hompe received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology at Rapid City, S.D., and has frontline leadership and financial planning experience.
Harren has served as Melrose public works director from 2004 to the present and co-city administrator from 2009 to 2011. He previously served as Freeport city clerk-administrator from 1988 to 2000 and served as public works director from 1982 to 1988.
He received his associate of applied science degree in supervisory management from Alexandria Technical College. He holds a Class C water license, Class C wastewater license and emergency management and hazardous material certificates.
Harren and Hompe were selected for commission interviews from more than 20 applicants, said David Unmacht, senior vice president and director of organizational management and human resources for Springsted Inc., of St. Paul. The firm assisted with the search process.
The commission interviewed Harren and Hompe separately for about an hour each. The process included a separate interview with a four-member citizens' panel that offered observations but no preference.
Panel members were Ken Warner, president of Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce; Pat Solheid, vice president of human resources and administration for Jennie-O Turkey Store; City Administrator Charlene Stevens; and Dale Hustedt, Rice Hospital chief administrative officer.
Hustedt, panel spokesman, thanked the commission for opportunity to participate. He said Harren and Hompe were strong and sincere candidates who cared about doing a good job.
Hustedt said Hompe was experienced with and understood the detailed aspects of the Willmar Utilities, but was not as experienced in working with leaders of other government entities and did not have the same managerial experience as Harren.
He said Harren comes from a smaller community and utility, but he has more financial experience. He said Harren, the "external candidate,'' and Hompe, the "internal candidate,'' would look at things differently.
Salzer who offered the resolution to negotiate with Hompe, said Hompe is capable of managing and he said Hompe "knows our business.''
Gesch, who seconded the resolution, agreed and said Hompe was familiar with electric industry associations.
In an interview, Baker, commission president, said he was pleased the commission has locked into a candidate, wants to extend the offer and he hopes Hompe accepts.
"What helps in that case he has a very experienced staff around him that have done these jobs for years and years and will help him get to that level of knowledge,'' he said, as older workers retire and new ones are hired.