Timeline, potential testing of candidates among items discussed

By Kellen Olshefski


At its Nov. 1 meeting, the City of Elkhorn Common Council further discussed the timeline and steps toward selecting a new city administrator, with City Administrator James Heilman set to retire in April 2022.

Mayor Bruce Lechner said he and Heilman met with Kevin Brunner, president and partner of Public Administration Associates, a consulting firm specializing in local government recruitment and management studies, the previous week to discuss the process and to determine a timeline.

Brunner had previously worked as City Manager for the City of Whitewater and more recently as Director of Central Services for Walworth County, working alongside former Walworth County Administrator David Bretl, who is now a consultant for Public Administration Associates.

Lechner said they had emphasized the desire to have the new city administrator to start on April 1 when talking with Brunner so the timeline set forth follows those expectations.

According to Lechner, the city has a couple of dates it needs to meet in order to stay on track, with Jan. 31 and Feb. 15 being the dates to select potential finalists for the position.

In getting the ball rolling on the selection process, Lechner said Heilman had included paperwork in that week’s council packet, including the proposed timeline and a worksheet to give Heilman input on what councilmembers and city staff are looking for in a new city administrator.

Lechner noted that no testing of the applicants is included with the consulting services, though it is something that could be added for an additional cost to the city.

Alderman Scott McClory asked if the council would have any input on the testing, noting that with their years in law enforcement, both he and Elkhorn Police Chief Joel Christensen have experience regarding what tests are best for evaluating potential applicants.

Heilman said that style of evaluation would be entirely up to the city, to which McClory added he would be an advocate of conducting at least one multiphasic personality inventory test.

“The MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) is one of the best in the country and it’s been valid throughout a lot of occupations,” McClory said.

Lechner said the firm is receptive to following the guidelines set forth by the council.

“If they would be receptive to it, I think that would be smart money for us to spend a few hundred dollars to have some test scored and validated for our peace of mind,” McClory said.

Heilman said while it’s not a test, per se, Public Administration Associates does have applicants complete a written assignment on a topic that would be selected by city officials.

“They’ll write a paper on it, and then you’ll be able to read that and get kind of a feel for them,” Heilman said.

Lechner said the council also needs to determine a salary range for the position since they’re looking to advertise for it in December with the hopes of having potential candidates by the third week in January.

In addition, because he also serves as the city’s finance director, Heilman asked if councilmembers wanted to be involved in the process of hiring a new finance director to replace him. He said he would be taking on that hiring process and councilmembers have been involved in that process in the past.

Lechner said they had discussed the finance director position with Brunner and were told that it could be a difficult position to fill at this time therefore, the city might want to consider applicants from within the city.



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