If Winona City Manager Judy Bodway has another formal performance review, she may set a record. Last week, Bodway had her first performance review in 20 months. The review was Bodway’s second and only the fourth-ever formal evaluation of a Winona city manager’s performance in at least the last 26 years, possibly in the city’s entire history.
Bodway is the city’s chief executive with oversight of virtually all of the city’s functions, including management of the preparation of council agendas. She is also the city’s highest paid employee; in 2012, she received $113,517 in salary and $18,000 in benefits.
Per the current city manager contract, the City Council “shall make every effort” to formally evaluate the city manager at least once each year. Bodway’s last review was October 2012, just a few months after she was promoted to the city’s top post, when former Mayor Jerry Miller said she “had exceeded all expectations.”
Last week, the council met in closed session for over an hour to discuss Bodway’s performance. State law and Minnesota Department of Administration opinions require a substantive summary of all of the specific points discussed during the private evaluation. Mayor Mark Peterson read the following summary on Monday:
“Ms. Bodway has met and exceeded expectations of city manager. Ms. Bodway has extensive knowledge and experience, works hard, and has a significant knowledge of the community and city operations. Ms. Bodway is active in the community and works well with other city employees, the public, and the businesses.
“The City Council desires additional regular updates from Ms. Bodway regarding city issues of interest including changes of personnel.
“The City Council appreciates Ms. Bodway’s services and dedication to the city and looks forward to continuing its employment relationship with Ms. Bodway, and working toward the betterment of the Winona community.”
In an interview after the City Council meeting, Peterson declined to elaborate on the council’s desire for additional updates on city issues and personnel changes. He explained that City Attorney Chris Hood had advised him not to make any comments about the performance review other than to read the prepared statement and had advised him not to release written copies of the statement. Peterson declined to comment when asked who had written the prepared statement.
Conducting annual reviews of the the city manager was only added to city policy in 2011. Former city manager Eric Sorensen never received a formal performance review during his 23-year tenure. In a 2010 interview, just prior to his retirement, Sorensen made the case against formal performance reviews. He noted that the council is free to fire the city manager at any time. Referring to annual reviews that use specific metrics of employee performance, he commented, “Many of the systems are childish, you know, the grading system. For kindergarten, that’s OK. But here, it’s serious, and it’s continuous. My relationship with the council is on a daily basis; I’m constantly getting requests and points of view.” He continued, “The idea that once a year you sit down and talk and hold hands together, I think that misses the other 364 days in the year.”
As the city prepared for Sorensen’s retirement and reexamined the position, council member Allyn Thurley suggested including an formal, annual review in city policy.