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Tribune editorial: Willmar City Council should follow its process and pick the best candidate

The Willmar City Council will soon be making a critical decision on a new city administrator. That decision will affect the city and its citizens for years to come.

Willmar's city administrator is responsible for managing all city operations and services, with the exception of Rice Memorial Hospital and Willmar Municipal Utilities. The position has supervisory responsibility for 105 regular employees and a $26- million city budget.

The new city administrator decision will literally be among the most important decisions City Council members will make during their tenure.

When a City Council is acting non-politically and following acceptable and approved guidelines, citizens should not be concerned.

When politics enter into the decision-making process or the City Council strays from its own adopted guidelines, citizens should be concerned. Unfortunately, this situation appears to be case for Willmar in 2011.

Among the position requirements, the City Council listed for the position was "a bachelor's degree in public administration, business administration, finance or a related field, Master's degree preferred, and seven or more years of management and supervisory experience in positions of similar complexity, preferably in local government."

Five of the six finalists announced last week meet these criteria. One of the announced candidates does not meet this requirement.

The most important thing for the city of Willmar is for the City Council to pick the "best qualified" candidate to be the next city administrator.

The second important issue is for the City Council to followed its announced guidelines and position requirements for the selection process.

The third most important thing is for the City Council to be united behind the process and, ultimately, the individual selected as the new administrator.

If fact, the current Willmar City Charter, Section 2.08, states "The appointment of the City Administrator shall require the affirmative votes of at least five (5) members of the City Council."

Currently, the City Council members appear to be divided on not only the selection process, but on the candidates. One City Council member has remained opposed to the current selection process, but has now even stated a specific preference for one specific candidate, even before the finalist interviews have been conducted.

This is unfortunate and may well damage Willmar's selection process as well as the potential candidate pool. How should the finalists feel when a council member has already made and stated his choice? Why would any qualified candidate want to take the administrator position if the City Council is split on the decision?

There is growing concern in Willmar about the City Council's selection process. Citizens as well as business people are concerned and they should be. This is a time to contact City Council members and voice your opinion.

Willmar's selection process goal should not be to make one specific individual the next city administrator, but to identify, select and hire the most qualified and experienced individual possible to be the next city administrator.

Anything less would shortchange the citizens of Willmar and be potentially damaging to this city.