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Willmar, Minn., Utilities Commission to begin GM search

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission voted Monday to take steps toward hiring a new general manager.

The commission approved a motion offered by President Dave Baker that asks governmental consultant Springsted Inc. of St. Paul to prepare a job description and salary range for the commission to approve at the next meeting in May.

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Baker offered the motion after the commission received a summary of Springsted's organizational assessment of the utility that listed hiring a general manager as one of the utility's five most important priorities.

The motion included a request to have Springsted wrap up work on the full study. David Unmacht of Springsted, who worked on the assessment, said it could be completed in two weeks.

Also, Baker's motion requests a meeting with the City Council's Labor Relations Committee "to make sure the city is in front of this, that they can see what our industry is like and what it takes to get a quality administrator here to run this company.''

Baker said the utility is "starting anew'' with discussions under way on prospective power purchase agreements and power plant improvements. He said the utility has a lot of retirements coming and will be looking at new staffing structures.

"We have a very mature company that needs probably the strongest leader that it's ever seen,'' said Baker.

The new general manager will replace Bruce Gomm, whom the commission terminated Feb. 27.

The commission voted to terminate based on policy violations and findings resulting from an investigation into alleged misconduct by Gomm. Gomm has filed a lawsuit in Kandiyohi County District Court alleging breach of contract, discrimination and other issues.

Commissioner Matt Schrupp, chairman of the utility's Labor Committee, said the commission needs to review the issues raised in the assessment and decide what needs to be completed first.

"At this point I think we have some of that information and we should start moving that way,'' he said. "More decisions will follow when the full report is presented.''

Unmacht said important characteristics in the next general manager are collaborative style, effective communicator, someone who knows the utility business, an experienced manager, a leader who can administrate, an organizational leader and person of high personal integrity.

Unmacht said for the record he did not evaluate the work of the former general manager.

"I am not reflecting on what he did or didn't do,'' said Unmacht. "We took a look at this from the perspective of what is available out there, when is it available and how does it get delivered.''

Unmacht described the assessment as a very thorough process involving 22 interviews including commission members (excluding newest member David Becker who was not on the commission prior to the start of the study), management staff, union stewards, city officials and a City Council liaison.

Also, Springsted used information gathered from discussions with Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association and eight other utilities, and reviewed documents and comments from an online confidential staff survey.

Unmacht said utility staff favor a "people-person'' who can engage with individuals, has utility experience, is successful, open-minded and approachable, knows information technology and human relations, and knows budget and finance. They would like someone who is team-oriented, a communicator, has good diplomacy skills and is a leader in the community, said Unmacht.

He said there's a great deal of anticipation and interest about what will happen.

"The general manager is really the link,'' said Unmacht. "Getting the general manager on board with qualities that you want in a reasonable period of time in the near future is really the linchpin to all of the rest of this. The anticipation of change with the general manager is alive in this organization. People care a lot about it. They are interested and curious.''

Other priorities are:

n Establish a structure: Existing structure is inefficient. Develop a more efficient and effective organizational chart; identify vision; and use a foundation in the general manager hiring process.

n Strengthen the culture: Build on the organization's strengths; assess development needs and discuss ways to improve; and identify the most important values for the general manager and staff.

n Develop the team: Strengthen the utility's core vision and strategy; examine how the commission does its business; and communicate with ratepayers and stakeholders.

n Partner with the city: The utility was created under city code. Identify ways to partner, improve services and save money; and confer with city leaders on how to move forward.

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission voted Monday to take steps toward hiring a new general manager.

The commission approved a motion offered by President Dave Baker that asks governmental consultant Springsted Inc. of St. Paul to prepare a job description and salary range for the commission to approve at the next meeting in May.

Baker offered the motion after the commission received a summary of Springsted's organizational assessment of the utility that listed hiring a general manager as one of the utility's five most important priorities.

The motion included a request to have Springsted wrap up work on the full study. David Unmacht of Springsted, who worked on the assessment, said it could be completed in two weeks.

Also, Baker's motion requests a meeting with the City Council's Labor Relations Committee "to make sure the city is in front of this, that they can see what our industry is like and what it takes to get a quality administrator here to run this company.''

Baker said the utility is "starting anew'' with discussions under way on prospective power purchase agreements and power plant improvements. He said the utility has a lot of retirements coming and will be looking at new staffing structures.

"We have a very mature company that needs probably the strongest leader that it's ever seen,'' said Baker.

The new general manager will replace Bruce Gomm, whom the commission terminated Feb. 27.

The commission voted to terminate based on policy violations and findings resulting from an investigation into alleged misconduct by Gomm. Gomm has filed a lawsuit in Kandiyohi County District Court alleging breach of contract, discrimination and other issues.

Commissioner Matt Schrupp, chairman of the utility's Labor Committee, said the commission needs to review the issues raised in the assessment and decide what needs to be completed first.

"At this point I think we have some of that information and we should start moving that way,'' he said. "More decisions will follow when the full report is presented.''

Unmacht said important characteristics in the next general manager are collaborative style, effective communicator, someone who knows the utility business, an experienced manager, a leader who can administrate, an organizational leader and person of high personal integrity.

Unmacht said for the record he did not evaluate the work of the former general manager.

"I am not reflecting on what he did or didn't do,'' said Unmacht. "We took a look at this from the perspective of what is available out there, when is it available and how does it get delivered.''

Unmacht described the assessment as a very thorough process involving 22 interviews including commission members (excluding newest member David Becker who was not on the commission prior to the start of the study), management staff, union stewards, city officials and a City Council liaison.

Also, Springsted used information gathered from discussions with Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association and eight other utilities, and reviewed documents and comments from an online confidential staff survey.

Unmacht said utility staff favor a "people-person'' who can engage with individuals, has utility experience, is successful, open-minded and approachable, knows information technology and human relations, and knows budget and finance. They would like someone who is team-oriented, a communicator, has good diplomacy skills and is a leader in the community, said Unmacht.

He said there's a great deal of anticipation and interest about what will happen.

"The general manager is really the link,'' said Unmacht. "Getting the general manager on board with qualities that you want in a reasonable period of time in the near future is really the linchpin to all of the rest of this. The anticipation of change with the general manager is alive in this organization. People care a lot about it. They are interested and curious.''

Other priorities are:

- Establish a structure: Existing structure is inefficient. Develop a more efficient and effective organizational chart; identify vision; and use a foundation in the general manager hiring process.

- Strengthen the culture: Build on the organization's strengths; assess development needs and discuss ways to improve; and identify the most important values for the general manager and staff.

- Develop the team: Strengthen the utility's core vision and strategy; examine how the commission does its business; and communicate with ratepayers and stakeholders.

- Partner with the city: The utility was created under city code. Identify ways to partner, improve services and save money; and confer with city leaders on how to move forward.

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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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