The Platteville Common Council hired its new city manager this week.
The next city manager will be Duane Borgen, who will have the word “acting” added to the title for the seventh time since 1986. The Common Council approved Borgen’s temporary hiring Tuesday night.
The next permanent city manager will be one of the four finalists who spoke at a forum in the Municipal Building Friday afternoon and was interviewed by the Common Council in an executive-session meeting Saturday.
The forum can be viewed on the city’s website, http://platteville.org/?post=18155.
“My strengths are I’m a systems thinker — sometimes government can be very siloed, and I like to bring people together for the big picture,” said Karen Kurt, assistant city manager in Edina, Minn. “You need to know the right questions to ask.”
Kurt is looking for a community within two hours of her parents, who live in eastern Iowa. “I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to be closer to my family, so I have a very specific target,” she said.
About the role between the Common Council, which will hire the next city manager, and the city manager position, Kurt said, “The city council is really responsible for setting the central direction of the community. And it’s the city manager’s role to be really operational and carry out policy objectives.”
“It’s a larger community; it also offers a new set of challenges and opportunities,” said Nathan Thiel, the Mauston city administrator, of the Platteville position.
Of priorities in the position, Thiel said, “Communication’s always a big challenge, and trying to improve communication, how we feel about ourselves as a community, our sense of place, and that’s one area that I feel is a strength of mine.”
Nicholas Owen, New Glarus village administrator, touted his “good experience in New Glarus; being in a small community you have your hands in pretty much everything,” as well as his “strong financial background [and] strong economic development background.”
When asked about the relationship between the council and the city manager, Owen said, “The city council is the ones that set goals and direction, and the city manager works with department heads — the city manager’s kind of the boots on the ground.”
The one candidate whose title doesn’t have the words “manager” or “administrator” in it is Brian Chapman, organizational development specialist for the City of Oshkosh.
Chapman said his current position in the second largest Wisconsin city with a city manager entails “a lot of performance improvement projects for the city.” He described himself as “kind of a utility player for the city.
“I have a lot of experience taking things that don’t work and make them work. … As [city] manager, it’s creating that culture of continuous improvement. … You look at the processes and try to improve their effectiveness.”
The candidates were asked questions on such subjects as economic development and their community’s budget process.