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Willmar starts hunt for city operations director

In an effort to reduce the workload of the city administrator, the city of Willmar is planning to hire a city operations director. The new position will act as the second-in-command to the administrator. At Monday's meeting, the Willmar City Council approved hiring Baker Tilly to conduct a nationwide search for candidates.

The Willmar City Council has hired Baker Tilly to conduct a nationwide search for a new city operations director. Stock art.
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WILLMAR — The city of Willmar will look nationwide for candidates to fill a new administrative position.

At Monday's Willmar City Council meeting, the council approved hiring Baker Tilly to conduct the search for a new city operations director, who will act as a deputy to City Administrator Leslie Valiant.

"This is going to be your second-in-command," Valiant said. "This isn't a position you want to take lightly."

The contract with Baker Tilly has a cost of $22,850. While it was not the low bid — a proposal from David Drown Associates had a $21,000 fee — Baker Tilly did say the search process would complete in March. David Drown's proposal said it would take until May to find a final candidate.

The resolution to hire Baker Tilly passed on a 6-2 vote, with Councilors Rick Fagerlie and Tom Butterfield voting against. Fagerlie felt the city should be able to conduct its own search while Butterfield wanted to see if there was a local job search firm that could be hired instead.


"We need to keep our money local," Butterfield said. Both expressed similar views earlier this year when the city was looking for its city administrator.

At the Dec. 6 meeting, the council had approved the job description and salary range for the new position, which is in the 2022 budget. The salary range was set between $102,000 and $132,600, based on job responsibilities and minimum requirements for applicants such as education and job experience. The reasoning behind the need for the operations director is the city administrator position has gotten too unwieldy for one person to handle.

"Span of control is too large," said LuAnn Sietsema, Willmar human resources director, at the Dec. 6 meeting.

Valiant and members of the council also commented that the council needs to be involved in the hiring process, as it was for the administrator hire, as there is a possibility the new operations director could end up being a future city administrator candidate for the city.

"It is vital for us to be involved in the hire, if this is going to be the succession plan," said Councilor Justin Ask.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.

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