Willmar City Council chooses Mo. city administrator
WILLMAR — In the end, it came down to what kind of administrator the Willmar City Council was looking for. After interviewing the final three candidates and holding a lengthy discussion, the councilors voted unanimously to offer the position of administrator to Isaac "Ike" Holland, someone the council felt had the communication skills to move Willmar forward.
"I thought he had excellent communication skills. He seemed very enthusiastic about it," Councilor Andrew Plowman said.
In his interview with the council, Holland said as an administrator he is there to push the vision of the City Council and mayor.
"I work for the council, I work for the mayor. I make that explicit on day one. What they want done is what I will focus on," Holland said.
The next step in the hiring process, if Holland accepts the position, is for the contract to be negotiated. Greg Weiers, of David Drown Associates, who has led the administrator search, said that Holland is a finalist for the city administrator position in Baxter as well.
Holland is currently the administrator of Chillicothe, Missouri, a city of about 10,000. He has served in that position since August 2011. Under Holland's leadership, Chillicothe has completed a $41 million city hospital, the Chilli Bay Water Park, an emergency training facility and new walking trails, and the city's fire department was named a 2016 Top Missouri Fire Department, according to Holland's resume.
Holland also said the Chillicothe council has in recent years updated its budgeting by creating a five- and 10-year outlook.
"Long-range planning is very important," Holland said, adding it acts like a road map as council and staff change.
Holland's career has taken him from Kansas, where he worked as the human resources compensation manager in Topeka and the assistant city administrator in Ulysses, to Colorado, where he was the town administrator of Orchard City and the county assistant manager of Montrose County.
"This is my 16th year in city management. I've been doing this a long time. I worked my way up," Holland said.
He also served in the United States Army as a finance and accounting officer. That took him around the world, where he worked closely with people of different cultures who speak different languages.
"I think I've learned from people over the years that I have worked with," Holland said.
His management and supervisor style is based on respect, which he said he wants to receive and give. Holland also said he is open with the people he works with and wants to give them the latitude to make the best decisions.
"Teams are built on trust," Holland said.
He believes a good work environment is built from the top.
"I think it starts with myself and my attitude. Working with people, being positive," Holland said. He also said he has a sense of humor, a good outlook and does not get overexcited when things don't go according to plan.
"Calm and matter of fact, make sure we get things done right," Holland said of his demeanor. He does not dwell on the negatives, but instead works to make sure misunderstandings and mistakes are not repeated.
"You've got to be good, you've got to work hard, you've got to be prepared," Holland said.
He also stressed how important it is for there to be trust and to not compromise on his ethical standards.
"I do preach we will have honesty and integrity and I try to live by that as well. I go out of my way to be out front with people," Holland said.
On Wednesday the Willmar city department heads had the opportunity to interview the three finalists. Human Resources Director Bridget Buckingham shared some of the staff's thoughts with the council.
"The public would respect and work well with Ike," Buckingham said Thursday in relaying the staff feelings, adding that staff felt Holland was a lot like current interim administrator Mike McGuire, would stay a while and was the most approachable.
The council liked Holland's approach to economic development, which is not just about bringing in new business but also retaining and expanding what is already here.
"I liked the fact he wanted to market WIllmar. I like that he wants to swing for the stars," Councilor Fernando Alvarado said.
While some councilors had concerns about Holland's experience in finance and budget responsibilities for a city the size of Willmar, Holland's communication skills, ability to build relationships with staff, community and others and his overall personality won the council over.
"I think we're at a point where Holland's skill set will serve us a little bit better," Councilor Shawn Mueske said.
Also interviewed for the position were Greg Sund, public works director of Hays, Kansas, and Darcy Long, city administrator/zoning administrator of Amery, Wisconsin.