With great regret, the Wadena City Council approved the resignation of City Administrator Janette Bower during their April 13 meeting. They met again April 22 during a special meeting to come up with a plan of replacing Bower who was hired on in 2018.
Bower, hoping to dispel any rumors, shared that often resignations mean there is something wrong. She made it clear that there was nothing wrong with her relationship with the city. Her decision to take a job in Alaska has more to do with her 15 grandkids living there. She has 20 grandkids total.
“We miss them,” Bower said of her and her husband's longing for their grandchildren. Bower also noted her husband, Dave, has had some health issues in the last year, which brought her to focus on the importance of family time.
Councilman Bruce Uselman accepted with regret her resignation and shared that it has been “great” having her the last three years. Councilman Jessie Gibbs added that Bower’s done amazing things for the city.
In stride with accepting her resignation, the council addressed making Utilities Superintendent David Evans interim city administrator. The council approved a pay increase of 25% to Evans pay as he takes on the role of interim city administrator with Bower set to vacate her position May 14, 2021.
Original conversations leaned towards pay being spread out to others beyond Evans, but after further conversations, it was decided that the city will evaluate the circumstances monthly to see how much extra work will be required to keep the many processes in motion. While Evans will see the pay increase, if more work is needed from other staff, the option is having them work more and earn overtime.
Evans said the added responsibilities come at a time when much of the utilities work is lined up and well positioned for him to take on the added job. He was comfortable for at least a couple months.
“I’m assuming this isn’t going to be a year?” Evans surmised.
There was some doubt that Bower’s replacement would come in less than 14 weeks. A timeline from one of the human resources groups the city is working with shows an approximate September start date for a new administrator.
Regarding the search process, the council reviewed proposals from David Drown Associates Company and GovHR to begin the search for the next administrator. Ultimately, the council agreed they liked how they worked with DDA in the last search that brought them Bower. Both HR groups were similar in cost, with GovHR at $22,000 and DDA at $21,000. However, working with DDA, gets a $7,500 reimbursement from Sourcewell, bringing a significant cost savings, thanks to their cooperative purchasing powers.
The council asked Bower if she would be so kind to be a part of reviewing candidates along with them, to which she said she could. Bower noted that while the last time did include many video interviews for those outside the immediate area, it will likely be even more video focused interviews this time around, thanks to COVID precautions.
Bower has served in her position with the city of Wadena since 2018 after the retirement of Brad Swenson. Prior to that, she served as city administrator in Menahga since 2016. Back further still, she worked in a variety of city government positions for 16 years in the Alaskan communities of Palmer and Bethel. The decision to hire Bower in Seward came after her March 17 visit to the city, according to the Seward Journal.
In other actions, Thursday, April 22, the council, with Councilman Gibbs absent:
- Approved transfers to the Sewer Fund and the Water Fund from the Capital Project Fund to close out the Highway 10 project bond. The city had to take out a $3.52 million bond to forward fund the Hwy 10 infrastructure projects to provide certainty regarding the availability of funds for the project. On May 1, 2019, the city closed on a short-term bond for the Highway 10 project. That bond comes to maturity May 1, 2021. The city is being reimbursed for the costs. “We have not been fully reimbursed by MnDOT, but we will be,” Bower said. As required by the MnDOT Cooperative Agreement, the city paid MnDOT $2,096,713.40 for Phase 1 of the Highway 10 project. Phase 1 included city water, sewer, and stormwater; and $1,124,505 was moved to the Capital Project fund. The city will pay the bond in its entirety and will continue to seek reimbursement from Minnesota Management and Budget for the remaining funds paid but not expended on the project by the city to MnDOT.
- Authorized hiring Kennedy Gravelle and Dawn Wright as golf course attendants at Whitetail Run Golf Course.