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Willmar, Minn., City Council authorizes administrator to fill Public Works vacancy

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WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council on Monday night approved a Labor Relations Committee recommendation to authorize advertising and filling the vacancy for the Public Works Department superintendent.

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The committee had supported City Administrator Charlene Stevens' request for authorization to fill the vacancy due to the pending July 8 retirement of longtime superintendent Ron Gilbertson.

Chairman Steve Ahmann reported the committee's action and the council approved the recommendation. The committee favored posting the vacancy internally within the city organization before advertising externally.

During brief discussion, council member Bruce DeBlieck asked why the committee would not advertise internally and externally at the same time.

Ahmann said Stevens thought the vacancy would be opened to the public.

Stevens said the vacancy would first be posted internally for approximately two weeks and then would be opened to the public, which was the committee's recommendation.

Stevens had told the committee that the position was critical to operations of the Public Works Department.

In other business, the council approved a Labor Relations Committee recommendation to have Stevens begin plans for a council retreat to be held in the fall of 2013 at an offsite location, with a facilitator to be determined.

"I think there were three or four of us that all agreed that we needed to get this on the agenda to talk about it,'' Ahmann said. He said committee members stated it would be important for all council members to participate.

Audrey Nelsen asked why the council would wait until fall to hold the retreat.

Ahmann said fall was selected because it would take some time to get all eight council members, Mayor Frank Yanish and staff members to coordinate and set a date and to schedule a facilitator. Ahmann said the retreat probably could not be held in the summer when people are taking vacations.

"It's going to take a little coordinating. But the intent is have it as soon as we can,'' Ahmann said.

During last week's Labor Committee meeting, Denis Anderson raised the idea of holding a council retreat. He said the idea has been discussed and he said the idea should be moved forward and have Stevens look at times, locations and facilitator.

Anderson said committee member Ron Christianson was correct in saying there are things that council members "need to put on the table.''

Also, Anderson recommended time be spent discussing the results of the organizational study underway by consultants Brimeyer Fursman of Maplewood.

The last time the council held a planning retreat was April 30, 2011, at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.

During that meeting, council members agreed their biggest issue was replacing longtime administrator Michael Schmit, who retired at the end of July 2011.

Council members also discussed issues relating to stormwater flooding, increasing cost of electricity, revitalizing downtown, economic development, railroad crossing noise, diversity, transportation, privatizing government services, declining revenue and the level of city services.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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