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City administrator resigns; council considers options
June 8, 2018

Ivan Raconteur

WINSTED – Winsted City Administrator Dan Tienter submitted his letter of resignation during the city council work session meeting June 5. His last day will be Friday, July 6, just short of his three-year anniversary with the city.

Tienter told the council he had not been actively looking for a new job, but an opportunity came up and he has accepted the position as director of finance for the City of Fridley, a city in Anoka County with a population just over 27,000.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Tienter, who grew up in Oak Grove, which is also in Anoka County.

In his letter of resignation, Tienter said he has “thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve the Winsted community.”

Tienter said he has reached out to three executive search firms, including Gary Weiers of David Drown Associates, the firm the city used when Tienter was hired after former City Administrator Clay Wilfahrt left to take a job as city administrator in Big Lake.

Tienter said he expects to have proposals from all three firms for the council to review at its Tuesday, June 19 meeting.

He said it will likely be a three-month process to get a new administrator in place.

Council members expressed the opinion that three months is too long, and discussed conducting the hiring process themselves, rather than using an outside firm.

Councilor Patty Fitzgerald asked Tienter if he had any ideas of people who might be interested and a good fit for the city.

Tienter said he knows some people who might be interested.

“What I think we can do if we don’t want to go through any of these executive search firms is go back and look at the questions and process we used the last time, and we could probably move forward a lot quicker,” Mayor Steve Stotko said.

Fitzgerald said she liked the fact the city could complete the process faster on its own, and could do it for less cost.

“We could save $8,000 to $10,000 easy,” Councilor Tom Ollig commented.

Tienter said in addition to collecting the three proposals from outside firms, he will put together information for the council regarding what the process would look like if the council or city staff handled the hiring process.

Stotko said he would like to include city staff in the hiring process, as has been done in the past.

Tienter said the process would likely include two panel interviews, one of which could include city staff members.

He added that the city could do what it did when he was hired, and host a lunch with all city staff members to allow them to interact with the finalists “and provide input on who they think they would work best with.”

Fitzgerald said she likes the budgeting process that Tienter put in place, and said she would like to learn more about it so she could help the new person learn it.

Tienter said he has given his budget model to other cities at their request.

Fitzgerald asked Tienter if he thought any “home run hitters” might be available.

“I think yes, for two reasons,” Tienter said. “I’m familiar with some folks that may be interested, and I think this position with the City of Winsted is an attractive role, and I think regardless of the folks I reach out to, you will have good candidates that will apply for the job.”

Tienter also noted that he plans to take one or two days off from his new position to spend time with Winsted’s new city administrator to share institutional knowledge to help with the transition.

Councilor Mike Henrich asked about background checks for finalists.

Tienter said if the city hires a search firm, the company would likely take care of background checks. If the city council chooses to handle the process, it could contract with a company specifically to do the background checks, it could ask the Winsted Police Department to conduct the checks because the city has qualified background investigators on staff, or it could ask another local law enforcement agency to conduct the checks.

Henrich said that (using another law enforcement agency) sounds better, “otherwise you’re backgrounding your own boss.”

Tienter said the city could reach out to McLeod County or a neighboring agency to conduct the background investigations.

He said typically a city would select a finalist and make an offer contingent upon passing a background check and a drug and alcohol test.

Tienter also told the council that by the June 19 meeting he will provide a recommendation regarding the interim management of the city. He said there are four basic options, including:

• appoint a current staff member as interim administrator;

• hire a firm or retired administrator as an interim administrator;

• have the mayor, if he is interested, serve as interim administrator as has been done in the past; or

• have department heads handle day-to-day operations of the city by committee.

In response to a question whether a council member could serve as interim administrator, Tienter said he would research this prior to the next meeting.

Tienter said his priorities in his last 30 days will be to focus on major projects including:

• finalizing the strategic operations plan for the fire department;

• trying to get the new city website as close to finished as possible;

• wastewater treatment facility;

• water tower;

• airport.

He said he hopes to get them into a place to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The council formally accepted Tienter’s resignation during Tuesday’s regular council meeting, which followed the work session.

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