by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Two top city administrator candidates emerged quickly after about five hours of interviews by the NYA City Council on Monday.
Narrowing down their top choice proved to be difficult though during a hour-long discussion.
Previously narrowing down the list to three for the interview process, the council tabbed Steve Helget and Bill Petracek as their top two choices, with David Murphy in third. Council members agreed they had two very strong candidates and, by a narrow 3-2 margin in an unofficial poll, chose Helget as their top choice.
Contract negotiations were expected to begin this week, according to St. Paul-based Springsted, Inc. Senior Vice President Sharon Klumpp. A special meeting is tentatively set for Monday, July 15, at 6 p.m. to officially approve the contract.
Helget and Petracek were both given the edge for their experience as Murphy has served as city administrator for Belle Plaine since January 2004. Helget has been city administrator with the city of Montgomery since March 2006 and has worked in city government since 1983, while Petracek is currently city administrator for the city of Fox Lake, Wis. and has experience as a paramedic and a city government employee since 1989.
The three candidates were interviewed individually in a round-robin format in front of council members as they vied for the position of NYA City Administrator Tom Simmons who announced his upcoming retirement in late April and will officially step down in August,
“All of these guys had come out of situations and grew from a bad situations and learned something from it,” said Mayor Tina Diedrick. “And they are working positively and see where they can continue to improve.”
Among the qualities council members highlighted during their discussion were communication skills, technology skills, knowledge of the budget, ability to wear different hats, potential longevity and the desire to truly get involved in the community.
Once narrowed down to two candidates, Klumpp acknowledged the difficult decision before the council.
“You may find what you have is a situation having two top candidates,” she said. “You still have to pick one that you want to proceed with, but the message that’s communicated to the second that it was a very, very strong sense you have in both of them.”
One concern brought up by the council was whether Petracek would be impacted by switching over from Wisconsin, which Klumpp said was not a major concern as regardless, the new city administrator will have to re-examine laws as they pertain to NYA.
Towards the end of their discussion, Klumpp urged the council to make a decision on Monday night, calling for a straw poll.
“I think it would be helpful who your number one is and who your number two is,” she said. “There is absolutely no question that if they were horses they were kind of nose-to-nose.”
In choosing Helget, council members valued his experience, hands-on approach to government and potential involvement with the community as some of the qualities that set him apart.
“I think the good news is that was a very difficult decision and both of them have great experience for the community,” said Klumpp. “And you have decided which one to go forward with even though personally you have stated you can work with either.”
The new city administrator is expected to start on Monday, Aug. 19.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]