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Willmar administrator choice picked as finalist for Wis. job

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. -- Willmar City Council's top choice for the city administrator position has now been named a finalist for the county administrator position in St. Croix County, Wis.

Charlene Stevens, currently the deputy county manager for Sedgwick County in Wichita, Kan., was one of three finalists for the western Wisconsin county's top administrator post announced Thursday. The other finalists are Patrick Thompson, the current Hamilton County administrator in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Bill Reynolds, most recently the deputy county commissioner for Chelsea, Mich.

Willmar City Council members unanimously named Stevens Wednesday as their choice to become the next city administrator. Council members also decided Wednesday to cancel a second interview round and directed the consultant firm Springsted Inc. of St. Paul to begin contract negotiations with their top candidate.

Council members cited Stevens' professionalism, her public service and her proficiency in Spanish. They were also impressed with her strong interview answers, which reflected she had done her homework and was familiar with Willmar and the issues facing the city.

The next city administrator will replace Michael Schmit, who is retiring in July.

Stevens has worked in Wichita since August 2006. Previously, she served nine years in township government in Pennsylvania, was a consultant for about a year to various cities in southeastern Pennsylvania, did neighborhood work in Wichita for one year, and was executive director for four years of La Casa Latina Inc., in Sioux City, Iowa.

She holds a master's degree in public administration, did course work on Latin American politics, Colombian history and Spanish at the university in Bogota, Colombia, and is a credentialed manager in the International City/County Management Association.

A finalist for the St. Croix County position is scheduled to be presented for board approval at its regular June 7 meeting. However, a finalist could be chosen in time for a May 25 special meeting.

West Central Tribune reporter David Little and the New Richmond (Wis.) News contributed to this article.