North St. Paul’s search for a city manager won’t begin for several months


Mayor Mike Kuehn

It may take until spring or even later before North St. Paul begins accepting applications for a permanent city manager, said Mayor Mike Kuehn in a recent interview.

“We’re not going to hurry into the process,” he said. “We’re going to start with trying to better identify the kind of the culture not only of our city, but also inside City Hall.”

Both Kuehn and interim City Manager Craig Waldron said that all the key players are on board with the plan after discussing the hiring process at a Nov. 6 special city council workshop. Waldron took over after Jason Ziemer resigned as city manager Oct. 6.

Meeting minutes from that workshop state, “Finding the right fit in a manager is critical to the successful relationship between that manager, the council, staff and the community.”

Kuehn said the council plans to conduct the hiring process itself, instead of paying an outside search firm, and according to the workshop minutes, identifying the culture of the city and the way people work together in City Hall will help the council develop a job description and interview questions.

Kuehn said that by identifying characteristics that reflect the community and the personnel in city hall, the city will be able to find a city manager who wants to be in North St. Paul, rather than someone who is simply seeking a job.

Waldron said he will be working with the council members, as well as city department heads, to determine what type of applicant would be the best fit for city manager. Likely, this part of the process will culminate in February, and at that point the city council will have to figure out the best time to begin recruiting.

Waldron added that in next year’s election there will be the potential for three new faces on the council and the current council will have to decide how that may affect the timing of its search.

He explained the council will have to consider, “Do we want to press on immediately or are we concerned that we might lose some applicants because there’s an election on the horizon?”

Kuehn added that thanks to Waldron’s experience — he was Oakdale city administrator for two decades — and the experience of the city’s department heads, he believes North St. Paul could hold out for up to a year before hiring a permanent city manager, if it comes to that.

“I told the council that I committed to get them through the various processes and onto the next manager, so that’s a commitment that I made and that I’ll honor,” Waldron said, adding “I’m enjoying my time here too.”

Waldron became North St. Paul’s interim city manager Oct. 13. He works about 20 hours a week for the city, while continuing to teach public administration at Hamline University. Before his 20-year stint in Oakdale, he worked as Roseville’s community development director for eight years.

 

Looking back

The care being taken with the current city manager search likely resulted from the way Ziemer’s four years on the job came to an end.

Kuehn explained that Ziemer’s employment with the city “just wasn’t the right fit ... for him and for some of the council.”

“I think he was very smart and very intelligent, and I think he did a great job, but I think he sensed that it had become a struggle a little bit to get everything to be moving along and not running into some resistance and concerns by the senior managers,” Kuehn said.

According to Ziemer’s separation agreement with the city, he was paid his annual salary through Oct. 6, and will be receiving bi-weekly paychecks through April 27, 2018, as his severance pay.

“It was tough for me — I’ll tell you that — because I thought he was doing fine,” Kuehn said. “I wasn’t one of them on the council that thought that maybe we should make a change, but it worked out for him and for the city.”


 

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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