Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — The city of Washington will draw from every resource at its disposal to compensate for the departure of City Administrator Brent Hinson after Aug. 6.
The council already affirmed the appointments of City Clerk and Development Services Director Sally Hart and City Financial Director Kelsey Brown as co-interim city administrators at a meeting earlier in July, with day to day administrative duties split between the two of them.
“It’s a big position, there’s a reason that we have a city administrator and that they do a lot of work,” Hart said. “I think it’s manageable, especially working together. Working with our really talented department heads will be helpful, and with our council and mayor. I think that while it won’t be easy every day, it’ll be manageable in the interim.”
At its July 20 meeting, the council also appointed Brown as deputy city clerk, a position formerly held by Hinson.
Hinson said the position was generally not called upon, but still necessary to fill in his absence.
“I am currently appointed as the deputy clerk, essentially as a backup in case Sally would need to be gone from a council meeting, for purposes of preparing minutes and signing documents afterward,” Hinson said in a memo. “With my impending departure from the city, I believe it is advisable to appoint Kelsey Brown to this position.”
The city also agreed to contract out preparation of the annual Tax Increment Financing (TIF) report and certification, another process typically handled by Hinson, who has a finance-oriented background.
Hinson said the bureaucratic process accounted for roughly $350,000 in city expenditures in fiscal year 2020, mostly aimed at economic development projects.
“It’s a highly technical process, and we’ve got to make sure that everything is done properly,” he said. “It affects what the city is going to receive and other entities are going to receive in tax dollars, and it’s really important that it’s done right … we wanted to bring in an expert to make sure that the city got everything balanced out right.”
Council members unanimously approved an engagement letter, hiring Kelly Groskurth as a TIF consultant for the FY2021 report. Hinson said Groskurth was a finance specialist with 20 years of city management experience and a “deep knowledge of TIF” in a memo to the council.
Hinson said the city also may contract out consultation on its annual budget preparation, depending on the timeline of his replacement process.
“Let’s say they can’t start until Dec. 1 or something like that,” he said. “They’re going to be in the midst of the initial preparation for the budget, and so they may need some help.”
That replacement process will likely cut it close to that deadline. The council agreed to a position profile, salary range ($105,000-$125,000) and minimum qualifications (a master’s degree in public administration and five years’ experience,) at last week’s meeting. A timetable from hiring consultant Elizabeth Hansen puts the start date of a new administrator in late October or November, assuming minimal delays.
Council members approved several city officials for a hiring committee to narrow the applicant pool to 10 or fewer candidates in that time, sending the finalists to the council for consideration. That committee includes Mayor Jaron Rosien, Kelsey Brown, Sally Hart, Police Chief Jim Lester and City Council member Illa Earnest.
While Rosien had previously discussed a “big tent” approach with maximum input, he said the hiring process had already met that goal with community consultation, giving the six-member committee an accurate picture of broader community needs.
“Our search consultant, as she begins the process of finding that city administrator and advertising for it, met with every group that I described,” he said. “So the group approach is still absolutely in play, it’s just that the official core group of our committee has been officially narrowed down.”
Rosien said the involvement of a community member panel in the final candidate selection process was still on the table, though the council has yet to outline such an approach.