Striving to make Clintonville better
By Bert Lehman
Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland said her first nine months on the job have been hectic, busy and sometimes stressful, but she is happy she made the move to Clintonville.
“It’s been a great experience,” Eveland said in a recent interview with the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette.
She added that being city administrator has been mostly what she expected.
“As my first administrator position, sometimes you don’t really understand things until you’re doing it,” Eveland said. “I don’t think I fully anticipated just how busy the person in this position stays.”
The job can include working nights and weekends, which she said happened plenty of times while the city was finalizing its budget.
“Even though it’s stressful at times, I go home and I’m happy,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m energized. I know that the work that I, and everyone in the city is doing, is making a difference.”
Most of the community has been receptive of her, she said, which is one of the things she liked about Clintonville.
“They have some legitimate concerns and issues” after what happened with the former full-time city administrator, Eveland said.
She referred to the city council’s investigation against Lisa Kotter, who was the last full-time administrator. No wrongdoing was found, but Kotter resigned after reaching an agreement with the city.
She added that things cannot be fixed overnight and the past can’t be changed.
“I’m certainly here to listen and try to make things better where I can,” she said. “I try to encourage them: It’s been four years, we have to move past this. … We don’t need to focus on what happened, we need to focus on how do we make Clintonville better from here.”
The city’s dealings with the past full-time city administrator was something Eveland considered before applying for the city administrator position.
“As an administrator it is important to have a stable political environment because it does make it difficult for anything to happen if you don’t,” Eveland said. “I didn’t come here with any preconceived notions other than knowing that I needed to perhaps be a little careful because of those prior issues how I address things, how I approached certain aspects, and how much I tried to do at once.
“For the first six months I really tried to focus on getting to know the employees, getting to know how the city was functioning, just kind of taking an assessment of everything. I wanted to make sure I understood the city’s situation before doing things like that. And it did really help having that crossover with Chuck [Kell, the former city administrator]. I think that was really important to me.”
In addition to getting to know the city’s employees, Eveland said she has been trying to get to know the community and make sure the community knows her.
“I think it’s really important that the city build, and in some cases, perhaps repair relationships with businesses in the community, so I’ve been trying to do that,” Eveland said.
Eveland described her relationship with the city council as “great.”
“They understood when they hired me that there were going to be some things that I still needed to learn, especially coming from a different state,” Eveland said.
She said she was also surprised when she heard Clintonville Mayor Lois Bressette decided not to run for re-election.
“She’s done a lot of good things here,” Eveland said. “She’s helped the city.”
Eveland added that she was disappointed that three council members up for re-election initially decided not to run for re-election, but said it is a personal decision each council member has to make.
It is critical for new council members to take time to see what condition the city is in, and the steps that have been done to improve the city, she said.
“Ultimately it’s about having whoever is in those seats, it’s about having people who care about the city, whose only agenda is to make the city better, and that you’re able to work with other people even when you don’t agree,” Eveland said.
Eveland said conducting a downtown study was an accomplishment. This study will be presented to the council in February or March.
“The heart of the city is its downtown area and ours definitely needs some work,” she said.
She said finalizing this year’s budget was stressful, but the city’s department heads were great to work with through the process.
“Being able to produce a budget that is both understanding of the city’s financial issues and the citizens’ concerns while still achieving some of the things that we need to achieve in the city,” Eveland said.
Looking into the future, Eveland said the city will be working on a compensation study for city employees, which she said is very important.
She added she also plans to be more aggressive chasing after grant funding for projects.
“I think that the city is going to have to start focusing on grant funding,” she said. “It’s going to be critical to reducing that borrowing need.”
Developing a long-term plan for the city’s facilities is also on Eveland’s to-do list.
“We have some buildings that we shouldn’t really have. They’re in such poor condition,” Eveland said.
She added, “I would love to see most [departments] under one roof. Some of them can’t because of the nature of the equipment but I’d love to have more of the city to actually have one city hall facility where our department heads are based out of.”
Eveland said she is thankful to the citizens who have spent the time to give their opinion on city issues. She also encourages citizens to get more involved.
“We don’t want to, nor should we be making those decisions in a vacuum, but if the community doesn’t get involved, the community doesn’t speak up, that’s in essence what we’re having to do,” Eveland said.