by CHRIS ROGERS
Winona city leaders plan to discuss appointing a permanent city manager sometime after the New Year. Whether the City Council will conduct a search for outside candidates first or tap acting city manager and long-time parks department head Chad Ubl remains to be determined.
Back on Oct. 8, former city manager Steve Sarvi’s five-year tenure with the city ended after the City Council placed him on administrative leave and told him he could resign in a closed-door meeting. As assistant city manager, Ubl has been charged with running the city since then, and on October 18, the council formally appointed him as acting city manager.
At last Monday’s City Council meeting, Sherman proposed a rough timetable for the appointment of a permanent city manager. “While there is no specific timeline we must follow to appoint a regular city manager, I would suggest that we do something on this relatively soon, but hold off on doing anything for at least a couple months so we can get through this temporary transition, approve the city budget and close out the year, then we can address this at a future meeting next year,” he said.
In an interview, Sherman explained the rationale for holding off. “Again, it’s just to maintain consistency through the end of the year. The December agenda items … generally they’re pretty packed, and to add that specific discussion would only potentially take away from other agenda items,” he said. Sherman added that he wanted to get through the current budget cycle — the council has a major decision to make on budget cuts — and give Ubl time to adjust to his new duties.
The City Council appears to be in agreement with Sherman’s proposal. The council hasn’t discussed the issue yet, and members didn’t say anything in response to Sherman’s proposal at the meeting, other than member George Borzyskowski voicing his agreement. “Let’s get our budget done and go into search hopefully sometime next year,” Borzyskowski said.
In interviews City Council members Eileen Moeller and Steve Young concurred. “Considering where we are in the calendar year and the budgeting process it makes sense that we would get through the budgeting process first and then do a search,” Moeller said. Young told the Post, “Makes sense to me because we have a lot on our plate right now … We’re finishing up the budget, and the council needs to focus on that.”
Sherman said he is undecided about whether the city should conduct a search for potential city manager candidates. “I would have to be presented with a few items such as what a firm would cost, what the process looks like, what the timeline would be, and I also want to see how Chad does in the next couple months here. I think that’s fair … for that person to have at least an opportunity to get his feet underneath him,” he said.
Moeller supports conducting a search. “I think that’s best practice for any position of this level, whether it’s a municipality or a school district or any sort of large body like that where you’re looking for a supervisor,” she said. “There really should be a large search done to find the best possible candidate … And we’re fortunate to have Chad, and he’s done an excellent job as assistant city manager, and I really hope that he would throw his hat into the ring.”
“I’m hoping we establish our criteria and then determine whether we need to do a search,” Young said. “I think it’s criteria first, and then, do we need a search? Do we know this person already, and then, do we need a search?”