The Clintonville Common Council recently voted 7-3 in favor of tabling a recent petition seeking to eliminate the city administrator position. Their decision to do so will prevent the measure from going to a ballot vote.
Many hope this action will put an end to the political turbulence, allowing the city to move on to other issues. Others continue to contend that local government for a smaller-sized municipality like Clintonville can do without the city administrator position.
Living in recession-era times produces hot debates over how governments should be spending taxpayer money. It seems that the knee-jerk reaction to an economic downturn is shortsightedness-especially in the local political arena. Two hours of comments from the public on the subject at the Wednesday, Sept. 28 meeting provided valuable insight.
“I’m a city planner and real estate broker. I’ve worked with many municipalities, and the trend is to go towards having a city administrator, not away from them,” said Mark Lake, a principal with Midland Commercial Development Corp. “The mayor is not a professional public administrator; neither are the council members. This is why the city administrator position is a very important, professional position.”
Jerre Cummings, a member of the Clintonville Facilities Committee, wrote a letter to the council to express the importance of the petition to local government.
“Elected officials have a tendency to change through the years and policies and procedures can be unintentionally ignored or incorrectly applied. An administrator provides consistency to the application and enforcement when conducting city business,” wrote Cummings. “Government regulations, including Federal, State, County and Local, are all getting more technical and burdensome. Someone with proper training has to keep up to date with all these changes. The most logical person to do this is our city administrator.
“Somebody must be available to supervise and coordinate all of the activities and job functions of the city hall employees,” continued Cummings. “If we did not have a city administrator available to do this, we would have to hire or promote someone and pay them to do this. Our city administrator does all of these things for us plus many other things in the background that we do not see. Some examples are coordinating with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Transportation (DOT) the expansion and relocation of Klein GM; coordinating with city agencies to assure that Kwik Trip opens a location in town; coordinating the land transfers necessary to create an additional road at Hwy. 22 and 45 to help provide a location for a new Walgreens in town; and helping manage the airport since we eliminated our part-time airport manager.”
Current County Board Chairperson Dick Koeppen-a former Clintonville mayor and alderperson-said he remembers when the city administrator position was first introduced.
“The position was created in 1989, and I was elected to the council in 1990. I wasn’t sure about the city administrator position, so I went to question Wally Thiel, who held the position at that time,” Koeppen commented. “He gave me a great explanation of how city government works. After that, I made regular visits to his office. The city is an $18 million business-it can’t be run by a part-time mayor and council.”
Koeppen said Kuss has helped make Clintonville’s industrial park the envy of Waupaca County.
“The County Board took a tour of Clintonville’s industrial park a few years ago. Lisa guided the two-hour tour, explaining how tax increment financing (TIF) programs were used to build up the park. We all went back to Waupaca shaking our heads with envy,” Koeppen stated, referring to the park’s success under Kuss’ administration. “She’s an expert. With 14 years experience, she takes a back seat to nobody.”
Koeppen also pointed out that Kuss is the president of the Waupaca County Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC) and has helped boost businesses and municipalities county-wide.
“Under her guidance, the WCEDC has loaned out $3.6 million to businesses and municipalities in the county,” he commented. “Of that amount, $1.7 million came to Clintonville. The city would never have seen that benefit without a city administrator.”
Others at the county level have also taken notice of Kuss’ work. John Penney, a county board member for 22 years, said communities across the county only dream of having the industrial growth that Clintonville has seen during Kuss’ tenure.
“If not for Lisa, your industrial park would be somewhat bare. Look at New London and Waupaca-there isn’t nearly as much,” he said.
“Lisa is the only city administrator that has ever appeared before the county board,” Penney continued. “She’s appeared many times. Whenever a business wants to come to the area, she’s there to help. She’s done a wonderful job, and I can’t say enough good about her.”
Roger Metzger, who recently retired from the Council after serving for 10 years, said the city administrator brings everyone together and provides solid leadership.
“Lisa has done a terrific job. I was always very impressed with her leadership and how she made things a team effort,” Metzger stated. “The department heads and city employees do an excellent job. Lisa helped make this a winning team because she is a good leader.”
Clintonville’s success as a community can be strongly linked to the city administrator position. Local government-at both the city and county level-would not be as strong without Lisa Kuss.
Many Clintonville citizens at Wednesday’s meeting likened the idea of eliminating the city administrator position to “cutting off our nose to spite our face”. Fortunately, enough alderpersons can see Clintonville’s past, present and future reflection, and voted to encourage stability and versatility in government rather than cut it off.