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Editorial: Council member Christianson’s isolated city view hurts Willmar

As the Willmar City Council discusses what it wants in a new city administrator, some council members apparently are seeking to isolate the new city leader and that role through a revision of the position’s job description.

This civic isolationism is a poor direction for the city of Willmar.

“I don’t think we should have an administrator that we rely upon being gone from the office and attending all these meetings,” said City Council member Ron Christianson on Wednesday at the Labor Relations committee meeting. The Willmar City Council met as a whole to review search firm proposals for a new city administrator and to discuss the job description for the new city administrator.

Christianson said he prefers an internal administrator and that it should be up to Willmar’s city department heads and other groups to work within the community.

One must question what Christianson fears about having a good city administrator being involved and providing leadership within the city and its greater community.

Wiser opinions within the council urged that the new city administrator’s job description call for working with internal and external issues within the city.

Mayor Marv Calvin said the city needs an administrator who is known throughout the community, not just in City Hall.

Council member Audrey Nelsen said she “thinks external relationships are important.”

Council member Denis Anderson said, “if we just have someone sitting at the desk (in City Hall), I think we’re totally missing the boat.”

Council member Andrew Plowman said he thought the city needs a (city administrator) to work on internal and external issues, “or we paint ourselves into a corner.”

And Labor Relations committee chairman and council member Steve Ahmann agreed that both (internal and external roles) are needed in the city administrator position.

We agree with this solid wisdom.

Apparently, Christianson just believes the city administrator should be a recluse and have no role outside of City Hall. Such civic isolationism is short-sighted and frankly harmful to the future of the city of Willmar.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Christianson told other council members he was not liking the negative comments that he was hearing at the Labor Relations committee meeting. He said good “things are happening” in Willmar and that “we’re going in the right direction.”

Once again Christianson’s ever-narrowing city view rejects the opinions of other council members and city residents. He continually wants to micromanage the City Council, the city administrator, city department heads and staff, all of which continues to hinder this city.

How can a city administrator responsible for administering all Willmar’s city affairs be successful in such an isolated role?

More importantly, why would any potential candidate for Willmar’s city administration opening want to apply for such a restricted role with our regional city?

City of Willmar leaders have a moral as well as civic responsibility to take an active role in the affairs of our city and its greater community.

Willmar’s leaders have a critical role to be involved and communicate with leaders of other entities, such as Kandiyohi County government, Willmar schools, local legislators, appropriate state organizations, business and community leaders, etc.

Willmar should act like and be a regional leader, not become further

isolated in the county and the region.