North St. Paul offers Jason Ziemer city manager position

Maple Plain administrator ‘excited’ to be on board

After a quick three-month hiring process and two interviews, North St. Paul has chosen its new city manager: Maple Plain city administrator Jason Ziemer.

At a special meeting held at City Hall on Wednesday, July 17, council members grilled Ziemer about his leadership and communication styles, experience with municipal utilities and opinion on performance evaluations.

Ziemer handled the questions adeptly, detailing his interactions with taxpayers, city staff and city council members in his current city of Maple Plain, a western Hennepin County community with a total area of about 1.1 square miles and a population of about 1,800, according to the 2010 census.

He emphasized the importance of communicating with staff in order to build trust and cohesion, and explained the value of partnerships and collaborations with other cities and organizations to help improve North St. Paul.

When asked how he deals with public conflict or controversy, Ziemer highlighted his willingness to listen to residents’ concerns.

“I’m a very calm individual. I am good at sitting back and listening to what people have to say in a heated conversation,” he said.

After the hour-long interview, Ziemer left the room while council members shared their opinions.

“I wanted to say, ‘When can you start?’” council member Scott Thorsen said. “He was my No. 1 pick before (in the first round of interviews). He stood out.”

Council member Terry Furlong said he thought Ziemer was “likeable” and “genuine.”

Mayor Mike Kuehn echoed similar thoughts, saying he thought Ziemer was “trustful.”

Council member Candy Petersen said she thought Ziemer was a good fit for the city, but also expressed concerns about how current interim manager Nate Ehalt might interact with Ziemer. Ehalt had also interviewed for the position, but was not a finalist.

Council member Jan Walczak reminded Petersen that Ehalt, when asked, had told the council that he would be “happy” in his current director of community development position under a different city manager.

Ziemer was then invited to re-enter the room, and Kuehn offered him the job, pending contract negotiations.

Landing the job, Ziemer quipped, must have had something to do with the city’s iconic snowman sculpture, which is just visible from the Sandberg conference room where the interview was conducted.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “My wife really likes the big snowman. This morning, she told me to ‘Remember the power of the snowman.’”

Council discussed holding a special meeting in the near future to vote on a contract to make the new hiring official. After the contract is approved, Ziemer will have 30 days to get his affairs in order with Maple Plain. He expressed interest in possibly dividing his time between the two cities until early September as Maple Plain works through its budget process for the year.

“I’m trying to be respectful of my organization and still meet North St. Paul’s needs,” he explained.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7814.

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