By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Deb Boelter is resigning as clerk/treasurer for the City of Winsted later this month for a position with the City of Big Lake, leaving Winsted officials with short-term and long-term staffing questions.
What are the city’s needs? Should the clerk/treasurer role be split into two positions? What would be the best timing for a new hire?
After Boelter submitted her resignation notice April 28, City Administrator Dan Tienter explored the possibility of separating the clerk/treasurer position into a city clerk and a finance officer, a division that would cost an estimated $13,500 more than the current setup.
Due to the cost and the fact that most cities Winsted’s size don’t have a finance officer, Tienter recommended staying with the clerk/treasurer combination.
Tienter recommended hiring a new clerk/treasurer through an open and competitive process, with two rounds of interviews. Under this plan, the new person would be appointed near the end of June, with a start date in early July.
At the May 3 work session, Council Member Bonnie Quast asked why the city doesn’t just promote an internal candidate, namely deputy city clerk Raquel Kirkhoff.
“I feel she should be qualified,” Quast said.
Tienter noted that Winsted’s policy is to recruit through an open/competitive process when possible, in order to ensure that the best person is selected. He noted that oftentimes, the best choice does turn out to be an internal candidate, and current employees are guaranteed a first-round interview.
Tienter recommended appointing Kirkhoff as interim city clerk/treasurer (with a pay increase to reflect her additional responsibilities at this time), an action the council approved at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Mayor Steve Stotko suggested the city wait to hire a permanent clerk/treasurer for a while, in order to better determine where staffing is needed.
“I’d rather take a wait-and-see attitude than rush into it,” Stotko said.
When council members asked Boelter her thoughts on this approach, she said, “I think it would be a mistake, because it’s an election year. There’s extra work during that time.”
Stotko said he’s not doubting that there’s a lot going on, but noted that “people have a way of stepping up.”
Quast asked Tienter how other staff members’ duties would be impacted.
Tienter said the new part-time administrative assistant, Sandra Fleischman, who was hired April 5, is a “catch-all” position that can focus on data and records retention and long-term projects. Tienter noted that Fleischman has joined the team seamlessly, but since there’s a learning curve, it will take a while before she is proficient.
Summer part-time administrative assistant Leigha Felder, who will be with the city less than two months this season due to a study abroad opportunity, will be accomplishing special short-term projects, Tienter noted.
An intern is also being hired for the summer to help with special projects. Five applicants were set up for an interview, and one will likely be appointed at the next council meeting.
“To date, the city has been very successful with the current staff setup,” Tienter said.
He noted that waiting to fill the clerk/treasurer position would place more stress on the existing staff, and can affect morale. He added that fewer staff hours also means less time to accomplish the goals the council set in January, and the council may need to temper its expectations.
“Some of those things may have to come off the list,” he said.
Quast and Council Member Tom Ollig agreed with Tienter that it might be best to hire sooner rather than later, while Council Member George Schulenberg said he was “in limbo.” Council Member Patty Fitzgerald was not in attendance.
Stotko told Tienter to move forward on the hiring process, since most of the council was leaning in this direction.