Winnebago could fill vacancy soon

Local News

After meeting in closed-session for more than 30 minutes, Winnebago City Council may be a step closer to hiring a new city administrator.

City Attorney David Frundt was given the go-ahead to negotiate a contract with Jacob Skluzacek of Lonsdale, the lone finalist interviewed during a special meeting held Monday night.

Skluzacek withstood grilling by council members, followed by their discussion on whether to restructure current city staff to save more than $30,000 a year.

For 25 minutes, Skluzacek answered 10 questions covering areas such as management style, employee expectations, a capital improvement plan, handling difficult people and long-range planning.

“I think teamwork and working together is the best way to do something,” says Skluzacek. “I try not to hover over anyone and let them do their jobs. I don’t want to start telling people how to do things.”

The May 2019 graduate of Winona State University, with a bachelor of science degree in public administration, took a driving tour of the city before meeting with the council.

“It reminds me of home,” he says. “I grew up in a small community, southern Minnesota is where I want to stay.”

In his “first 30 days” on the job, Skluzacek stresses his primary focus will be developing a plan to achieve three main goals identified by the council.

“I’ll need a lot of information from you, nobody knows the community better,” he says. “I’d get to know the council and community members better … then I’d go head-strong on the three main issues.”

Overall, council members were quite impressed with Skluzacek and his answers.

“I liked that he focused on teamwork, he just didn’t use it as a buzz word,” says Councilman Calvin Howard. “I really like he’s from a small town, it’s helpful to keep things in perspective.”

Council member Jean Anderson says Skluzacek is, “A very enthusiastic young man who brings a lot of good ideas to the table. He stresses communication and good working relationships with everyone.”

Councilman Rick Johnson likes that Skluzacek is approachable and easy to talk to.

“He is very upfront and honest. And, he doesn’t play with words, ” adds Johnson.

Skluzacek’s response that working on a budget is the least appealing part of being a city administrator caught the attention of Mayor Jeremiah Schutt.

“It struck me wrong and sent a red flag up. It’s a huge part of the job,” Schutt says.

Council members eased Schutt’s concern, saying most city administrators would say that developing a budget isn’t something they like doing.

Johnson presented a recommendation offered by a five-member committee that interviewed city administrator candidates.

Under the option, current City Hall staff would be restructured to include a clerk/treasurer, part-time administrative assistant and two part-time office assistants.

“One of the reasons for doing this is money. It’s all about money,” says Johnson.

Currently, the annual wages for the three office staff totals around $145,000. The restructuring plan would save the city an estimated $35,000 annually.

Anderson says she wants to hire an administrator so the city has a “perceived leader,” someone who community members can go to with their concerns.

Howard says the debate over hiring an administrator is often more emotional than logical.

“Losing an administrator and hiring a city clerk I feel would be a downgrade,” he says.

Schutt and Anderson also wondered the quality of help the city would get from part-time workers.

If a contract agreement is reached with Skluzacek, the council could hold a special meeting or wait until their July 9 meeting to approve it.

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