Just like printing money
June 22, 2018
by Ivan Raconteur

The best job in the world has got to be that of an executive search “expert” in charge of hiring city administrators.

All you need to do is get a few gullible cities like Winsted lined up, convince them that it’s impossible for them to do their own hiring, and you have it made.

These cities apparently have no problem forking over $16,000 in taxpayers’ money to have someone conduct the search for their next administrator – even when anyone who is paying attention knows that their “perfect” candidate is unlikely to last more than two years.

The members of the city council know this. They realize that Winsted – like any other small town near a large metropolitan area – is nothing more than a stepping stone for people starting their journey up the executive ladder.

In spite of this, Winsted continues to hire young guys who are just starting out and need to pad their résumés before climbing up to a bigger city.

These young administrators don’t even bother to relocate to the city where they will work. They keep their home base in the Twin Cities, and would apparently rather commute for an hour or more each way than go through the bother of moving, because they know they’ll only be doing it for a couple years.

It makes me laugh when I hear the fiction these people spew when they are hired. They talk about how Winsted (or whatever small town is doing the hiring) is “the perfect fit” for them, and how impressed they are with the quality of the community.

When they leave, they always say how sad they are to go, but they never waste much time packing up their desks and hitting the highway for the bright lights of the city.

The next picture we see is the executive recruiter licking his chops and smiling as he thinks about another big payday.

So what do Winsted taxpayers get for their money when the city hires an expensive outside firm to do the hiring?

Andrew Ebert lasted five months.

Brad Martens made it two years and two months before taking a job in Corcoran.

Clay Wilfahrt stayed 1.75 years before leaving to take a job in Big Lake.

Winsted’s current city administrator, Dan Tienter, raised the bar by staying almost three years. His last day will be Friday, July 6. He has accepted a job in Fridley.

I’m not blaming these enterprising administrators for moving on. Bright young people tend to go where the money is, regardless of what they say in an interview.

Why, though, does the city council insist on spending thousands of dollars on a recruiting firm?

I had high hopes for the Winsted City Council after its June 5 meeting. It seemed like the elected officials had seen the light and were prepared to conduct the hiring process in house, as they used to.

These are reasonable, intelligent people who have a wealth of combined experience.

They are certainly familiar with the qualifications they seek and the questions they would ask a candidate, since they go through the process every other year or so.

There’s no reason they couldn’t do a fine job selecting a new city administrator, and evidence suggests they could hardly be less successful than a search firm in finding a candidate who would stay in the job for awhile.

Unfortunately, it appears that the consensus at the June 19 city council workshop was to go back to the same consultant they have used to hire the past several administrators.

Apparently, council members still lack confidence in their own ability to hire a suitable candidate.

They also seem worried about their precious city employees having to do extra work in the interim. Heaven forbid that public employees should be subjected to the same stress that employees in every company in the private sector go through when an organization is filling a vacancy.

Of course, we do need to involve those employees in the decision, because it is apparently more important for the employees to be pals with the new administrator than it is to serve the best interest of taxpayers.

The council will take formal action on selecting a hiring process at its Tuesday, July 3 meeting.

Based on discussion during Tuesday’s workshop, it sounds like we can expect them to head down the same tired old road.

Too bad the council doesn’t seem to remember that all the personality tests, lunches with staff, and practice interviews in the world won’t change the fact Winsted is a stepping stone to bigger cities.

At least the recruiter is still smiling.

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