WILLMAR - With words of thanks and appreciation, Willmar City Administrator Ike Holland said his goodbyes Monday night to the Willmar City Council, as he and his family prepare to move back to Colorado.

Holland served as city administrator for just over two years and thanked the council for the opportunity.

"I want to thank the council and the community for allowing me to serve Willmar," Holland said.

Holland announced his resignation in April. He said at the time that his family wanted to move back to Colorado, following the sudden death of son Zachary in September 2018.

"I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support to me and my family during a difficult situation and tragedy," Holland said Monday.

The community of Willmar has been very welcoming and Holland said he made lifelong friendships while here, especially those in his church community. He also made sure to thank the staff at the city for their hard work during his tenure.

"They have been very professional, very loyal and they are dedicated," Holland said. "That to me speaks volumes about an organization, speaks volumes about a community. It speaks volumes about that these people are from here and they basically devoted their life to this community."

Replacing Holland, at least for the time being, is Brian Gramentz, who was hired to serve as the interim city administrator for at least six months. Gramentz was the city manager in New Ulm for over 17 years.

"He has served in administration positions for numerous decades," Holland said as he introduced Gramentz to the council during Monday's council meeting. "He has a lot of experience and, most importantly, he has Minnesota experience," Holland said.

Gramentz said he is looking forward to meeting the council, city staff and the community.

"I appreciate your vote of confidence in fulfilling the six to eight months here as you go through the process of advertising and filling the city administration position," Gramentz said. "I think it will be a very positive experience for both me and you."

As Gramentz leads Willmar for the next several months, a national search for Willmar's next permanent administrator - the third in as many years - will be conducted by search firm Baker Tilly.

"This is your process. I am here to help and guide you," Patty Heminover of Baker Tilly told council members Monday.

Heminover said she would start by gathering feedback from council and city staff to compile a comprehensive brochure about what the city wants in a new administrator.

"This is a very important process for us, because it drives what kind of person you will be looking for," Heminover said.

Baker Tilly will ask applicants to complete an in-depth questionnaire regarding their administration experiences, will do early "due diligence" on candidates and will record video interviews with the top candidates and look at candidates' management styles.

"We are also going to have them do a leadership and management assessment. This is a very powerful tool to determine if they will be a good fit for the city," Heminover said.

The search process will also include structured applicant interviews, and the City Council and staff will take part before the council makes a hiring decision.

"It will take about four months. ... It is a comprehensive process," Heminover said.

She said she will give the council updates throughout the search and will also keep the community in the loop about what is happening.

"We will be going out aggressively looking for the right candidate," Heminover said.

As the search begins for a new administrator, the council gave their thanks and best wishes to Holland.

"Ike, I have enjoyed working with you, I have enjoyed your sense of humor. I appreciate your service to your country, your military duty," Councilor Fernando Alvarado said. "You will be missed by me and I wish you and your family well."