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Wilmar, Minn., Utilities Commission OKs job description for general manager

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission on Monday approved the general manager's job description as proposed by consultant Springsted Inc. of St. Paul.

But the commission held off accepting a Springsted proposal to conduct and recruit for the general manager position and also delayed action on accepting Springsted's organizational assessment.

The commission will be looking to replace Bruce Gomm who was terminated as general manager on Feb. 27, based on policy violations and findings of an investigation into allegations of misconduct by Gomm.

Since the middle of last December, the utility has been operating with customer service supervisor Larry Heinen and staff electrical engineer Wesley Hompe serving as interim co-managers, with Heinen responsible for office functions and Hompe overseeing operations.

Hompe asked when a general manager might be hired. He said responsibilities have been delegated and he asked if some positions, which will open when a couple of retirements occur, could be filled before the new general manager is hired.

Commission President Dave Baker said the search could take three to four months, although Baker hoped the general manager could be hired sooner. He acknowledged some pending resignations will need to be filled.

"We, I think, as a commission would like the new general manager (to be) a part of those hiring decisions for the senior team as well,'' Baker said, which would include the director of finance or others. He said it is important that the commission get going on the search.

Support for waiting until the new general manager is hired was reinforced by David Unmacht, Springsted's director of organizational management and human resources group. But he said the commission could direct the interim co-managers to move forward with any of the assessment's components.

Unmacht on Monday presented the 55-page draft organizational assessment. The commission requested the assessment, which was the result of extensive review of utility documents and interviews with utility staff, commissioners and others.

The top priority is hiring a new general manager. Other priorities are to establish an organizational structure; identify the organization's strengths, issues and challenges; develop the team and list ideas and recommendations; and partner with the city and explore ways to improve services and create efficiencies.

Commissioners said the assessment was thorough and well-done, but they decided to wait until Unmacht presents the final version, possibly on May 29. Unmacht said he would make some final "tweaks'' to the assessment.

Part of Springsted's job in developing the organizational assessment was to create the general manager's job description.

The three-page description lists organizational relationships, essential duties and responsibilities, knowledge and abilities and qualifications. The summary states, in part, the general manager serves as the utility's chief administrative officer performing professional, managerial and leadership work to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities of the utility's programs, operations and services.

The general manager reports to the seven-member commission appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, and develops effective working relationships with the city, partners and other agencies.

The commission's Labor Committee is recommending a candidate have a minimum of five years of management level experience with administrative and operating responsibilities. The recommended salary range was $105,000 to $140,000. Gomm was earning $135,800 when he was terminated.

Although Springsted submitted a proposal to recruit a new general manager, the commission delayed approving the proposal after the Labor Committee recommended the utility seek proposals from independent consultants with more experience in working with the utility industry.

Commissioner Carol Laumer, a member of the Labor Committee, said the committee wanted to seek further proposals because of the nature of the job and "just to make sure we've got our bases covered.''

Baker said the commission wants the best person. Unmacht said Springsted has generally not worked with other search firms. But Unmacht said Springsted can partner with another firm in recruitment and screening to complement Springsted's knowledge of Willmar to a deliver a successful search.

Springsted worked with the council last year in recruiting and hiring Charlene Stevens as city administrator.

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