Herald and Journal, Sept. 27, 1999

Former administrator offered HL position

By Andrea Vargo

Former Howard Lake City Administrator Doug Borglund will be offered the position again.

The Howard Lake City Council made its decision Friday morning at a special meeting.

Borglund will be offered a salary and benefits package early next week. If he accepts the proposal, he must pass a background check.

The task of selecting a new city administrator is far more complicated than any of the council members anticipated, said Councilman Don Danford.

Danford has been in the business world for many years and is experienced at interviewing.

"It is the most extensive process I've seen, but it is very good," said Danford.

He said the council received a total of 21 requests for applications, and 14 were received by the city.

These resumes were read and screened by the personnel committee, Danford and Mayor Gerry Smith. The process took six straight hours of work, said Danford.

The council relied heavily on the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) and its lawyers to make sure the process was legal and proper.

"One person had a political science degree, and we didn't know if that was something we could accept," Danford said.

The league said that was fine, answered all their questions and more, he commented.

The league supplied the council with a long list of questions appropriate to ask the finalists, and 25 of those questions were chosen by the council.

The league also informed the council of questions they couldn't ask, (personal or family questions, for instance).

LMC also aided the council by reviewing the final six candidates' resumes with Danford and Smith to make sure they met the city's requirements, said Danford.

"One candidate flew in from Colorado, and one drove from Missouri," he said.

Qualifications for the city administrator were divided into two categories.

Minimum qualifications include a bachelor's degree in public administration, business, finance, or a related field, and two years of public sector administrative experience. A master's degree in one of these fields may substitute for two years of the required experience.

Desirable qualifications include post graduate work and/or additional management seminars/courses.

Following is a list of the finalists:

· Jerome Driessen, Springfield, Mo. has a master's degree in public administration and most recently worked as a fleet systems technician for the city of Springfield, public works department.

· Dale Powers, Clear Lake, has a master's in public administration from Mankato State University and currently works as a driver for Quicksilver Express Courier, while he looks for a city administrator position. He has experience as an administrator for Spring Valley, Eagle Lake, and Albertville from 1994 to 1997.

· Doug Borglund, White Bear Lake, has a bachelor's degree with majors in city planning and psychology. His most recent work experience is with Robbinsdale as a city planner, and before that he was city administrator for Howard Lake for 16 months.

· Steven Robertson, North Mankato, has a master's in urban planning from Mankato State University. He currently works for Glenwood as a city planner.

· Garrison Hale, Annandale, has served as city administrator for Park Rapids and Albertville and has a bachelor's degree in business administration.

· Jennifer Hoffmann, Longmont, Colo., has a master's in public administration and is serving as administrative analyst for the city of Longmont, Longmont Power and Communications.

The league stressed that in the interviews, what is asked of one, must be asked of all, said Danford.

The council members each asked the candidates the very same questions.

Councilman Tom Kutz said the actual interviews with the candidates took a total of five and a half hours.

Kutz said, before the interviews, he spent three hours reading the final six resumes and making notes about them.

In fact, during the interviews, Kutz said all the councilmen took many pages of notes on the candidates for later review.

Having a management background, Kutz said he spent so much time on the resumes, so he could anticipate what he would hope to see in front of him at the interview.

"People can write down anything they want on a resume," he said.

Kutz watches body language.

"I'm looking for someone I hope we can keep," he said.

One of the questions Kutz found interesting was about the candidates' feelings on continuing education. Most candidates seemed eager and open for more education, he said.

Candidates all felt they were very hands-on people, and to Kutz, that was a very good thing.

There was a real variety of personality types and interview styles (too wordy, in one case), said Kutz.

Danford said the most difficult question for the candidates seemed to be the one about Tax Increment Financing, and Kutz concurred.

It is a state specific program, and it is very complicated, he said.

Another difficult one was when the candidate was asked to describe a situation where he/she was criticized and how he/she handled it.

Some of the candidates evaded the issue, but a couple did give direct answers, said Danford.

They all came well prepared with copies of work they have done. Most knew the names of the mayor and city clerk.

Many of the candidates came early to drive around the town, and at least three of them asked questions of the council, noted Danford.

"I was very impressed. The LMC process weeded out the candidates and left us with the best," Danford said.

"We put a lot of work into this. The whole council is very concerned (about hiring the best person for the city).

"This is an important decision for the city with the Highway 12 project and others that are coming in the near future," he said.

This is the second time Kutz has been involved with the hiring of a city administrator, and he said LMC prepared him well for the things that needed to be done for the interview process.

"I was more comfortable this time, because we asked LMC to make sure everything was fair," said Kutz.

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