Roder’s a finalist for city admin job in Norfolk, Nebraska

The Nlfd News posted this at noon today: Roder a finalist for Nebraska job.

Roder, who acknowledged the appointment this morning, said he applied for the position for a number of reasons. The most important, he said, is his family. The assignment, Roder said, “would be a terrific move for my family, and the community is closely aligned with my values.”


  1. David Henson said:

    I think if Al Roder leaves then Northfield should seriously consider a ballet initiative to amend the charter to a strong mayor system. I think most Northfielders would rather vote for a local full time mayor system where the mayor would make a solid salary. The advantage to this system is 1) it improves home grown local talent financially and managerially 2) allows for better decision making where voters have made a clear choice in who will guide the city affairs for the election cycle 3) sheds the “yes-Minister” effect of bureaucracy (hopefully cutting consultant costs) 4) should through the voting process produce a stronger more consistent vision.

    The downside of a strong mayor system historically is favoritism but the electorate should consider 1) had a mayor favored one of the local banks over the others rather than putting funds in St Louis then Northfield would be all the richer 2) local blogs like this one, digital cameras, on line government documents etc are strong technological checks to mayoral favoritism that did not exist 10-20 years ago 3) many cities have stayed with a strong mayor system even when trends ran towards professional administrators 4) let’s face it Northfield is a tough crowd politically and giving the mayoral position a little backbone might provide some needed balance.

    Does anyone else agree ?

    PS. The above suggestion is not meant as a criticism of Al Roder who served under tough circumstances.

    May 14, 2008
  2. David: I agree 100% and also with your PS. Perhaps more to the point, does anyone disagree?

    May 14, 2008
  3. David Koenig said:


    I’ve spoken with both Jim Pokorney (City Council) and Peter Dahlen (Charter Commission) about my belief that the real source of the problem in Northfield is a lack of clear accountability that has been brought about by the semi-transition away from a semi-strong mayor to a semi-strong administrator/manager that took place several years ago.

    My area of work is risk management and governance at the top levels of organizations. In best practice governance, “clear accountability” is a one of seven key principles for success of a governance framework. Without it, you not only remove the ability to implement change and vision, but you create an ability to obfuscate the responsibility for failures.

    Back when I served on the City Council, the Charter Commission wanted to change our form of government to a stong Manager. We forced the Charter Commission to seek approval of their plan by the voters. The voters, in turn, rejected the plan.

    The Chair of the Charter Commission then presented a slightly watered-down version of their proposed change to the Council after I had stepped down. The Council approved the change and the result is that we have lost any real center of power or primary source of accountability in city government.

    David Hvistendahl has put himself forward for Mayor by stating several things that “he would do” as Mayor. Under the current system that the Charter Commission of the day designed, he would be unable to “do” these things.

    I’m sure that Paul Hager will also have a list of things that he plans to “do” as Mayor. He will also be plagued by the lack of power given to the Mayor to effect change.

    With the vacuum of power in the Mayor’s seat, the problems of accountability extend to the Council and the Adminstrator. Each Council Member begins to believe and act as if he/she is in effect a mini-Mayor because their powers are not substantially different from the Mayor’s. The City Administrator realizes he has no clear leadership and begins to take leadership-like positions on issues with staff, in effect being the unelected leader that the voters had rejected.

    You are absolutely correct that we need to go to a strong Mayor system. Not just back to our old semi-strong Mayor, but fully in the direction of one that allows the Mayor to set the agenda, control debate, veto resolutions, direct the Administrator to direct staff, etc. The Council can be a check on the Mayor by super-majority blocking or override and the citizens can be the check via election and recall.

    One might shake their head in wonderment about what the current Mayor would have gotten away with had he the powers described above. That challenge to the argument is specious, though. If we know in advance that whomever is elected Mayor will have such powers, we’ll pay a great deal more attention to what their personal interests are. In the current case, we SURELY would have recalled this one for his actions as an abuse of his power. In other words, we would have held him accountable because it would have been clear that he was responsible for what had happened.

    Consider the leaders whom you know in town or elsewhere. Business leaders, non-profit leaders, volunteer leaders, etc, are all successful when they are given the ability to implement their ideas and to effect change. They usually have the ability to bring others along with them without too much resistance, but not always. So, they are given the power to make decisions and to succeed or fail, being held accountable in both cases.

    None of the leaders that I know would be drawn to a situation in which they are handcuffed like our present system handcuffs the Mayor. The chances for failure are far higher than the chances for success. Who would be drawn to that?

    Still, just changing our system such that it gives the ability to effect change and enable a vision might not be enough. We should change the compensation of the Mayor to ensure that giving of oneself to the role would not result in substantial economic hardship for oneself or one’s family. Successful leaders are also often well-compensated professionals.

    Consider, for example, a compensation package that paid the Mayor 90% of whatever he/she had been earning in the years prior to becoming Mayor. That figure could be disclosed in the election process and the voters would have full information to determine if the value of his/her leadership was worth the price.

    In the end, by giving the ability to make change to a true leader, with the necessary checks to overide abuse, and the removal of any economic hardship, we will attract successful leaders to run for office, have a government with clear accountability and we’ll see results. The vision and decisions of these leaders won’t always be right. But, no true leader would ever claim that they have always made right decisions. True leaders, though make enough right decisions to be successful at realizing their vision. Let’s give our Mayor that opportunity as well.

    May 14, 2008
  4. Marcea Frazier said:

    I disagree, Lee Lancing probably would have done far more damage to Northfield if he would have had that much control.

    May 14, 2008
  5. Remuneration calculation apart, David, a brilliant analysis and ‘way forward’.

    May 14, 2008
  6. David Henson said:

    Marcea – the field of candidates for mayor would be very full if the position came with a salary (I like Lee but he may or may not have run/won in that environment) and with a full salary on the line a mayor would have more to lose thus shying away from ethical gray areas.

    May 14, 2008
  7. David Henson said:

    David K how does the process go for modifying the charter and getting a vote on the new text ?

    May 14, 2008
  8. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    In Illinois communities are run by Mayors and administrators, as a team. The council supports these leaders and staff usually does the heavy lifting. This being said, people need to be doing their jobs and the community needs to support the community they serve.
    Something is badly broken in Northfield.
    The community needs to pull together and get control.

    My job was to help Northfield become more business friendly. When things were brought to my attention, and I addressed the errors or issues, I was screamed at and sworn at. When I asked the HR Director if this was acceptable behavior, I was asked to resign.

    I have no idea why my story has to end this way. When I spoke to three council members, they all said they were very upset and concerned. So I ask you Northfield, who is running the City?

    May 14, 2008
  9. David Henson said:

    Charlene Coulombe- Fiore – even not knowing you, I think your situation calls for an investigation. I think the council should publically call forward those whom sealed your fate and let everyone know the process they used(assuming you don’t object ?). If this council can’t make that happen then they should step aside for those who can lead.

    May 14, 2008
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    I disagree. I oppose a strong Mayor system, and favor a strong Administrator system.

    With a Mayoral system, you’re stuck with drawing from the local talent pool. This city is too big to be run effectively by a lay person who doesn’t understand the ins and outs of management, and the laws governing how to manage a city.

    Northfield is also too small to ‘develop from within’ mayoral candidates with years of experience in government.

    The beauty of an administrator system is that you can recruit from a wide pool, and that person serves at the pleasure of the Council. If they screw up, you don’t have to recall them or even accuse them of anything in particular. You just end their contract.

    At least, that’s the way it worked where I grew up.

    May 14, 2008
  11. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    I was informed by the EDA Board, my direct supervisor and several council members, I would be contacted.
    I also informed the HR Director, the instructions I was given to resign were in direct violation of the employee manual, which I thought she had approved on October 1st.
    This now becomes a council issue.
    I am confident an investigation will unveil the truth.

    May 14, 2008
  12. john george said:

    Patrick- Interesting points on your part. One reaction I have to them is they seem to belie our society’s dependence upon “specialists” to do any particular job. I know that in your field, there are so many new developments in the last couple decades that any one general practitioner could never keep up with them all. That is really a benefit to the general public when it comes to medical care. Is it really necessary, though, for the governance of a smaller town like Northfield? Perhaps it is. I’m just not sure, so thought I would throw out the question.

    One thing about our government system is that it allows any citizen the opportunity to at least throw his hat into the ring. I think there is a place for learning things on the job. We do, after all, have a charter which spells out how things must be done legally. It seems that any citizen should be able to assume these responsibilities without having to be an “expert” or a “professional” in city government and management. We also have a city staff who should be able to carry out the respective responsibilities of their departments.

    I’m also not ready to throw my hat into the “all powerful” mayor system. I know that a rascal could be recalled, but think of the damage this would do to the general climate of the city. With all the falderall that has come out in the last year over some seemingly small issues (city hall prayer being one of them), I can’t imagine what would happen if someone really screwed things up. Depending on the person elected, my concern is that it would contribute to the divisiveness of the climate in town rather than bring unity.

    I like Charlene’s pattern of a “team” approach to city government. I thought we had the possibility for that pattern in place in our charter, but I probably don’t understand it completely. It appears to me that we had the potential for teamwork to happen, but personality and leadership styles got in the way. I think this is evident in some of the things Charlene has alluded to and in some of the other occurances at city hall. I don’t think cooperation is something that can be mandated. It won’t happen unless everyone involved makes the commitment to do so. Perhaps someday we will know the truth of all these events. Until then, lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    In Al’s comments in the News article, he said that Norfolk fit his values. I can understand that! With some of the things that have been expressed here and in News editorials, I’m not sure this city fits my values, either. But my residency here is not dependent upon what happens at city hall (thank God!), so you folks are stuck with putting up with me. I’m going to concentrate on trying to change the things I can, tolerate the things I can’t, and seek God for wisdom to know the difference.

    May 14, 2008
  13. David Koenig,

    A pragmatic concern: In the strong-mayor system for which you advocated in comment #3, would it be reasonable to expect that the mayor, being so highly compensated, should have to quit or suspend their (outside) profession for those four years?

    Not knowing the exact details of your plan, that’s what I would expect in such a system. If that were the case, how many people would step forward as candidates knowing that winning would mean stepping aside from a promising career?

    I’m not weighing in one way or the other, but that was my first concern.

    May 15, 2008
  14. Patrick Enders said:

    Yes, I think that effectively running a city is a specialist’s job. I think it is a job that many people could learn to do well, but how many people in this city have the requisite experience as personnel managers and city planners? And – as Brendon has asked – how many of them could leave behind their careers to serve 4 years as Mayor? Not enough, I would suggest, to give us a broad choice of candidates with the skilled leadership that our city located on the cusp of the expanding Twin Cities metropolitan area needs.

    As I’ve said, my main reason for liking the Administrator system is that I have seen it work well in a middle-sized city. But also, I can see the advantages of an elected city head who serves as the voice of the people. I am open to the idea of mixed mayoral-administrator leadership, but my experience here in Northfield suggests that such a mixed system leaves open the possibility of power struggles that do not serve the city’s interests. Perhaps Charlene could point us toward examples/more information on how such a system is run constructively, and the roles are delineated clearly?

    As for a strong mayoral system, I see it as rife with potential for corruption and mismanagement. Checks and balances are a wonderful thing.

    May 15, 2008
  15. kiffi summa said:

    Thanks, David K. for a thorough analysis, and accurate regarding the Charter changes around the time you were on the council.

    Any system, I’ll repeat ANY system, can fail when there are personality issues, and especially Power issues that are not dealt with by the system of checks and balances that ARE in place.

    Our council should have been the check; instead they joined the fray.

    Some people’s Lives have been seriously affected by the last year’s “perfect storm of personalities”.

    Our city council should be ashamed of their lack of capability to deal with these problems in a lucid way.

    May 15, 2008
  16. David Koenig said:

    Sorry for my very long first post. Once David raised the issue the “article” that I had in my mind to write for the NNews more or less just flowed out into one post. But, I’m very glad to see this discussion being had here and hope that it escalates.

    A couple of quick comments and responses:

    1. Amending the Charter, I believe, can only be recommended by the Charter Commission. If the Council approves their proposed changes unanimously, they go into effect. If one Council member objects, the Charter Commission can send the changes to the public for a vote if they wish.

    2. Either a City Manager or a Strong Mayor system will increase accountability. So, both approaches could solve the problem. Both systems have the potental for abuse and both require checks and balances. I have a strong preference for the former approach for several reasons. I’ll try to address those in a different post.

    3. A really bad Mayor would need at least two Council members to go along with them. Or, the super-majority of Council could stop his/her actions. In today’s situation, I believe that the Council would have frozen the Mayor’s activities while a recall was processed.

    4. The question about giving up a career is an important one. At present, a typical City Council member will put in about 10-20 hours per week into a role for which they are paid about $400 per month ($5/hour). The Mayor typically puts in 25-35 hours each week and is paid slightly more, but still close to or below minimum wage. It creates many pressures on family, work, City and other obligations to make such a large commitment of time to serve in political office and invariably one or all areas of commitment suffer. I agree that some people would not be willing to give up, or take a break from a successful career to serve as Mayor for four years. But, at the margin, I am sure that there would be some that would run, who could not or would not if the compensation was not adequate.

    May 15, 2008
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    Good to have you join the discussion, David K.

    Just a reminder to everyone. Be sure to use last initials when addressing people whose first names are the same as others in the conversation. We have two Davids (a K and an L) thus far in this thread, and there could be an L and H Real Soon Now.

    May 15, 2008
  18. Marcea Frazier said:

    David Henson,

    With a mayor strong system, would the city do away with having an administrator?

    May 15, 2008
  19. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    A great example I can use is during the development process. Prior to any new development, first staff would meet with prospect and go over plans as well as any and all issues. From there, it would be brought to a land committee where the Mayor, administrator, chair of planning commision and council members would be involved. Everything was addressed in these meetings which were yes, open to the media.

    Then once it hit the floor for votes or approval it would be done. No surprises, no unanswered questions, just done or walked away. Projects that were not wanted or well received by the community were gone before they spent to much time or money on the deal. The developer or business would be gracious to leave without getting beat up in the process.

    No matter how the process is done the power and process is shared and worked out for the best interest of the community.

    I have worked with both strong mayors and strong administrators and council was always a part of the team. Chaska was a great example of getting things done.

    hope this helped.

    May 15, 2008
  20. David Henson said:

    As I read CHAPTER SIX of the charter, it appears to allow citizen petitions for ballet initatives relating to the charter with 10% of the vote. But for some reason it also appears to allow the council after 1 year to vote to change those changes. To gather all those signatures and win a popular vote for an initative the council can reverse after 1 year would seem like a lot of work.

    Searching the text of the charter also says very little about the Charter Commission having authority to put changes on the ballet.

    May 15, 2008
  21. Britt Ackerman said:

    I find Mr. Roder’s comment that the Norfolk community is closely aligned with his values to be very interesting. I grew up only 45 minutes from Norfolk, and worked there for several years and lived there for a few months.

    Norfolk’s “values”, IMHO, are the polar opposite of Northfield’s. I chose to stay in Northfield following graduation from Carleton because the community ethos seemed really great, really in tune with my values. I’m not talking about a political difference, per se, but something that goes much deeper.

    Norfolk is somewhat of an industrial center, an island in the middle of sparsely-populated farmland. When I grew up, you had to go to Norfolk to see a movie (3 screens to choose from), everyone went there to do their shopping (at the Super Wal Mart, where both my mother and I worked) and many people commuted many, many miles to find a job in Norfolk.

    When you drive in from the east on Highway 245, you could smell the beef processing plant on the outskirts of the town. The center of the city resembles an Apple Valley, with less landscaping and more blight.

    People in Norfolk are, generally speaking, poor. Factories such as Affiliated Foods provide many jobs, mostly at minimum wage. A great many people receive public assistance of some sort. They work hard and full time, but are paid nothing because there is a great supply of labor to choose from. Of course, the local processing plants and manufacturing corporations frequently employ unlawful immigrants, usually Latino. Examining the community’s economics would result in a case study of the difficulty of transitioning from an agrarian economy to an industrial one and beyond.

    The increase in Latino workers and residents probably began in the late 80s to early ’90s. These hardworking families were not welcomed with open arms, so to speak. Racism was open, hostile, and entirely tolerated while I was there. Not too long ago, there was a terrible bank robbery in which five people were senselessly gunned down. The perpetrators were Latino.

    What followed was a blind angry hatred towards all people who were different. People stayed indoors, afraid that a race riot would break out at any minute, or they would lurk around the streets with loaded weapons, waiting for the opportunity to “shoot a sp*c”. This is a place where such talk was not only accepted, but encouraged. If you dared to speak Spanish in a public place where you could be overheard, you would be prepared to answer for your lack of patriotism. Bilingual whites were seen as traitors. (Thankfully I only speak German!)

    It seems as though all the doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities in the state are located in Norfolk. (They’re not, but it seems like it.) People travel for hundreds of miles to get an MRI there or see a physical therapist. Then they would spend their money at the Wal Mart and go back home.

    I understand Norfolk for what it is, and what it needs to be. But I would never, ever, go back to living or working there. Being there made me sad every day. Sad for my country, my state, myself. Sad for the apparent regression of society.

    There were good people there, of course. But you could not stand up and speak your mind without fear of retribution. Not just garbage dumped over your yard or a hostile, pointed comment directed at you in public. Real retribution. The kind where you’re beat within an inch of your life and dumped in a ditch. The kind where bricks are thrown through your windows when you’re not home. The kind where you’re shunned at church, and your children are shamed by their teachers because of your opinion. The kind where your husband has a responsibility to conduct “home correction” if you say the wrong thing in public. So you rarely see or hear these people; they know to keep their mouths shut and their gun nearby.

    May 15, 2008
  22. Patrick Enders said:

    You’re right, that is very interesting.

    May 15, 2008
  23. Curt Benson said:

    Wow, Britt, what a depressing picture you paint.

    In the interest of walking a mile in Mr. Roder’s shoes, how do you think he would describe his experiences in Northfield?

    I don’t know Mr. Roder. I claim no special knowledge in the controversies surrounding Mr. Roder. But I’ve heard the rumors about his alleged misdeeds. I’m guessing we’ve all heard the rumors. He is the apparent subject of an investigation by the impossibly glacial Goodhue County Attorney. He’s had citizens from Northfield travel to the last place he was employed trying to dig up any kind of dirt they could on him. I’m thinking the feeling in Northfield is that Mr. Roder must be guilty of something, if only they could come up with something.

    I’m guessing that if Mr. Roder wrote about Northfield from his perspective, it would be just as depressing as Britt’s description of Norfolk.

    May 15, 2008
  24. David Henson said:

    Marcea – I think that “strong mayor” basically means a full time or near full time “paid mayor.” I assume the police chief would report to the mayor and 2 or 3 city employees. One of those employees would likely take on some of the roles of the current administrator. Since Northfield is Home Rule, I would think “strong mayor” could mean whatever a ballet initiative defined as the role. I understand the Northfield City Administrator makes about $110,000 so if he shows up with a mayor making $7000 who gets seen as the voice of Northfield ? Personally, I think it is silly to invest in an individual that is going to split for career advancement and has no long term interest in the community. The idea that they will run the city better when $4 million is missing – well that’s tough ground for a garden.

    May 15, 2008
  25. David Koenig said:

    Governance is a tricky issue. In fact, over the past ten years or so, at least twenty or more documents have been issued by various international bodies trying to define “good governance”.

    Back in 2004, I had the opportunity to work with an esteemed “Blue Ribbon Panel” of risk management and governance professionals who went through existing governance documents and gleaned seven common principles that were common those documents. I cited one of them above (Clear Accountability).

    To address one question above, professional adminstration plays a highly important role in a sound governance framework. In fact, the first of the seven common governance principles is that an organization must have a Sufficiency of Key Competencies.

    In short, this means that the organization needs to have the technically, and administratively, talented people in place to carry out the realization of the organization’s vision.

    Because the composition of the Council and the Mayor will change with regularity, you can’t expect these technical skills to be present with consistency among the elected officials. So, in a government, you employ such talents on staff. In business, the parallel is the essential hand-off from the Board of Directors and those who run the company. But, in the case of government, it is the hand-off from the Mayor/Council to the staff, who are led by an Administrator.

    This is the part that gets tricky. For all to work well, you need a Mayor who can establish a vision, with effective advice and consent, or lack of override, from the Council, that the staff then works to realize. You need an Administrator that understands that their job is to organize and manage staff to achieve those goals, not to set different goals.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, the number two common governance principle identified by the group I mentioned above is that the organization must also have Sufficiency of Resources and Process.

    In short, this means that an organization’s budget needs to provide sufficient funding, technology, staffing, etc. and its operations need to provide sufficient process (gathering feedback, checks and balances, review) to enable it to achieve the organization’s vision. It’s fine to have a great vision, but if you don’t have the money or the talent to realize it, the effort bound to disappoint.

    None of these three principles clearly argue for a Strong Mayor over a Manager. At this point, though, I would like to keep my comments focused on what elements need to be in place for “good governance” to be possible. Three of those are discussed above. I still promise to elaborate further, later, on why I think that the Strong Mayor is preferred to the City Manager in this model.

    May 15, 2008
  26. kiffi summa said:

    Britt: Tank you very much for your description of Norfolk, Nebraska… Do we need to keep watch for you in case some of the Norfolk vigilantes turn up in Northfield.

    It is very difficult to try and discuss a city employee, or any person, with whom you have widely differing worldviews, in a public forum such as this.
    But when it is an important employee of the city, one who has the capability to lead a “willing” council into …well, I must admit I’d have to think longer about how I’d want to characterize that.

    The atmosphere in City Hall is so depressing; surely most people know someone with connections to employees that can verify this. It used to be a fun stop on your “small town” errands; the support staff are helpful and friendly. It made you feel good about where you live , just dropping off your water bill!

    That’s all very different now; the atmosphere is so changed,and no amount of physical renovation to the building will change it.

    Anyone who has looked at Denison Iowa is criticized, as I think you did unfairly, in your comment above, Curt. No one was “digging up dirt”, at least Victor and I were not; we were trying to evaluate the comments put forward in a book by a Pulitzer Prize winning author. If you have no personal observations of the behaviors at the council, toward citizens or the mayor; if you only know what you read in the paper, then you cannot even approach a full circle of vision. Just look at the wording re: the Goodhue county’s investigations in the Roder article on the paper’s website.

    The employees at City hall, are by extension of principle, the community’s employees. We are the community; we have a right, you might even say a responsibility, to evaluate the needs of the community, and the efficacy of the employees in filling those needs.

    I’ve been a municipal employee; if you don’t like being in that sector the
    n you should get into the private sector where your responsibility is NOT to the citizens of a community (Only to the morality of being a citizen of the world.)

    I wish anyone well who hopes to live and work in a community that fits their values. I’m not so sure who would want to fit with Norfolk, Nebraska, as Britt describes it … doesn’t sound like home to me.

    May 15, 2008
  27. Britt Ackerman said:

    Now that I think about it, Norfolk and Dennison Iowa have a lot in common. (I read the book.). There is a challenging economic shift going on. How to bring money into the community, how to keep it there, what do we do now that we can’t farm? There is a similarity of opinions and beliefs, or perhaps I should say a singularity. You can almost hear the sucking sound of the brain drain as local high school graduates flee to Des Moines, Omaha, elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, a local immigrant populace moves in and does fairly well, relatively speaking. This causes resentment.

    It would be a challenging position, surely, and the city administrator would likely think our concerns and passionate actions over things like annexing a few hundred acres or supporting a local business were, well, trivial. Perhaps Mr. Roder would enjoy and succeed at working on serious, challenging matters everyday rather than dealing with piddly shit all day.

    On the other hand, maybe the greater challenge is to work in our setting, where you are continuously questioned and daily held accountable by the local, active community. It may be hard to keep things in check here without a singularity of culture, with an active constituency. Maybe that’s why our city government has broken down. Because you can’t please everyone all the time and you need to say NO and move on. Annex the darned land already! Do something! I am tired of focus groups and consultants and endless discussion. A timeline should be established, and when the end is reached VOTE! Instead of tabling action items to allow for more input, more questions, when everything has already been said, take action. Someone will always be unhappy, but you can’t capitulate to everyone all the time, or nothing will ever get done. Seven new potential liquor store sites again?!? This is, what, the fourth round of consultants? Build the darned thing already, how much more money are we going to spend hemming and hawing?

    May 16, 2008
  28. Felicity Enders said:

    A few quick thoughts:

    The real problem is that we need a single individual who is responsible at the top. The City Manager system sounds like it has no Mayor; even if that spot were replaced by another city councilor as a tie-breaker, no one councilor would be that responsible individual. Therefore I think I’m in favor of the strong Mayor approach. However, I don’t think this can be a full time position for the loss-of-day-job reason discussed above. Can we have a 50% Mayor (part time Mayor, part time day job) with responsibility over a City Administrator to carry out the vision that the Mayor has proposed and Council endorsed?

    May 16, 2008
  29. Mary Rossing said:

    Perhaps it might be helpful to look at the way the many of our non profits work in this town to see how the city could/should operate. The board functions to make policy and to decide the direction in which the organization should move. They are elected by the membership, and are volunteers who have a interest in serving their community/organization.

    The executive director is hired to carry out the mission. They get a salary. The president of the board works closely with the director to establish initiatives, but is also in charge of the board–keeping them engaged and focused.

    Boards and commissions do the committee work. They get guidance and direction from the board and support from staff. They can work and think independently but need to always be reporting back to staff and board to make sure they are moving in the right direction. They can recommend policy changes to the board or just carry out initiatives.

    The key is to have visionary but strong leadership at the top, a good hire(s), and the ability to communicate with the committees what it is that we want them to do. Oh, and inspire them to do it–and to thank them when they do!

    It shouldn’t be that hard to have a functional government. We have a town full of thoughtful, positive, careful thinkers. We have many non-profits that are functioning very well with volunteer leadership. We have hundreds of volunteers who give of their time to make this town such a great place to live.
    But we all have to decide that that’s what we want to have for our government, and demand that it be so!

    Do we need to have a town meeting? A pep rally? It’s spring, the sun is shining… and I’m heading down to the Cow for one more meeting about how to improve downtown. We can do better for Northfield if we decide we want to.

    May 16, 2008
  30. Julie Bixby said:

    What a great comparison! Perhaps you should think about running for mayor!
    (wink, wink)

    May 17, 2008
  31. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Thanks for the non-profit comparison, Mary. I noticed, however, when I was on the planning commission and ran for local office that friends and acquaintances who actively volunteer in various non-profits expressed amazement that I would want to get involved in government.

    The impression I got was that people perceive local government to be time-consuming, difficult and at least somewhat painful. Volunteering at their church, through the CAC, Arts Guild, schools was seen as a very different and far more pleasant sort of activity.

    We do have a town full of thoughtful, caring and committed people. Perhaps we DO need a pep rally (you could lead it, Mary!) to attract some of them to local government participation.

    May 18, 2008
  32. Griff Wigley said:

    Two finalists for the Norfolk city admin job have dropped out, leaving Roder as one of the two. Here’s the blurb from a Norfolk radio station web site:

    Another one of the four finalists for the position of Norfolk city administrator has pulled his name out of the running. City Human Resources Director Sheila Schukei says she was notified Wednesday evening that Jeff Bridges of Andover, Kansas has asked to have his name taken off the short list because he has taken a job in the private sector in Kansas. That comes on the same day that another finalist from Michigan, withdrew after he became a finalist for a position in the state of Maine. The remaining two finalists are Al Roder of Northfield, Minnesota and Gerald Clausen of Carroll, Iowa. Public interviews with the two men will be held next week in the City Council Chambers. Roder’s is set for Monday morning at 9, while Clausen’s public interview is the following day at the same time.

    June 2, 2008
  33. Howard Merriam said:

    I am reading and following this discussion with much interest…and not terribly surprised by this turn of events in the City’s administration.

    June 2, 2008
  34. Oooh, you tease, Howard. Tell us more!

    June 3, 2008
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    Hey, Howard, welcome!

    FYI to others, Howard Merriam was Director of Resource Planning for the City of Northfield until he abandoned us.

    June 3, 2008
  36. kiffi summa said:

    Maybe until he (Howard Merriam) decided he “couldn’t drink the Kool-Aid” …

    June 3, 2008
  37. Alfred E. Neuman is now a contributor to Locallygrown under the pseudonym Howard Merriam? Brendon got some grief for his ugly stepsister alter ego. What next?

    June 3, 2008
  38. Susan’s got my back! Take that Alfred!

    June 3, 2008
  39. Jessica Paxton said:

    Howie! You are indeed a tease. When are you going to hightail it on down here and spill the beans?!? (Just try not to gloat too much, okay?)

    By the way, nice gravatar — although Alfred doesn’t really do justice to your boyish good looks!

    June 4, 2008
  40. Howard Merriam said:

    All that I can say is that although Hillary may not be our next President, a female mayor might be a good thing in Nordberg.

    I understand the 5th and Water St. project is well underway…I truly hope this helps vitalize the Downtown District.

    Also, the Kool Aid is just a different flavor in the Big City…make it YOUR town down there. You have all the opportunity in the world!

    June 4, 2008
  41. Tracy Davis said:

    Howard, please come back! We miss you! 🙂

    June 5, 2008
  42. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    Resource Planning?

    I am not familuar with that position.
    What or who is in that position now?

    June 6, 2008
  43. Howard Merriam said:

    Charlene and All…the Resource Planning position was the brainchild of former Adminstrator Susan Hoyt and Landscape Architect Howard Merriam. The idea was to provide leadership, vision and guidance in the protection and enhancement of the City’s numerous resources…cultural, natural, historic, educational…you get the idea. When a new adminstration took over, a different set of priorities, values, reasoning and accounting took over.

    I suggest for all Northfielders, ‘Deep Economy’ by Bill McKibben. McKibben makes the case for places like Northfield…as I would make the case for places like Northfield. Northfield is poised and positioned for the New Order…the post Big Box, surburban, oil addicted present……

    June 9, 2008
  44. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    I see… Howard, thanks so much for explaining. Sounds like a good fit.
    Oh well, I am sure things will continue to change in Northfield.
    It appears the new job description for the ED Manager has changed a great deal as well. New direct report, two interns and almost a $20,000 salary increase. WOW!!!

    It appears they are also using the firm that placed Susan Hoyt in her position.
    Interesting….Thanks again for explaining.

    June 9, 2008
  45. kiffi summa said:

    From the articles in the Norfolk newspaper, looks like they have a devil of a choice. It would seem they want a long-term employee from some of the comments and their former admin. was there for twenty+ years, I think… So Mr. Roder is young, he could stay there for a long time (especially if he feels connected to their values, as he stated) but then he doesn’t have the history of staying long in one place.

    The other candidate looks to be considerably older, so maybe a shorter term hire, but I think he is from Carroll, IA, which if I’m remembering correctly is right next door to Denison, IA, (where Mr. Roder was from previous to NF)… Hmmmm…

    Mr. Roder is quoted as saying his strengths are “Economic Development” and “capital projects”… I have to think about that; I could certainly say Mr. Roder has been focussed on those issues, as well as some others.

    Just for curiosity’s sake: with reference to the “city council June2” thread, is what I said here “gossip”? comment? analysis?

    June 10, 2008
  46. john george said:

    Kiffi- Sounds like you are just expressing your evaluation of the information you have researched. If that is gossip, then none of us has a chance. Besides, I thought that was what a blog was for- expressing opinions. Opinions are subjective evaluations, and discussion can arise as we each evaluate what we are percieving out of our own biases. If we are going to consider a blog a source of verifiable news, then that is something different. A news reporter does open himself up to scrutiny just because of his professional responsibilities. Expressing an opinion on a blog is just that- an opinion. Griff- sorry if I should have posted this on the other thread.

    June 10, 2008
  47. Griff Wigley said:

    Decision on Roder could come early next week, according to this article.

    Norfolk has hired a former FBI agent to handle background checks on Clausen and Roder. The agent has interviewed several Carroll people about Clausen, including Daily Times Herald staff. The background checks should be finalized Friday with the decision then going to eight-year Norfolk Mayor Gordon Adams, a retired surgeon, who will appoint the city administrator after consulting the council there.

    June 13, 2008
  48. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve been told that the Norfolk City Council meets Friday morning in closed session to make a decision. There will likely be a few days delay on a public announcement until they know whether their offer is accepted by their chosen candidate.

    June 25, 2008
  49. Howard Merriam said:

    Grifley…oh, do tell when you hear…you sleuthful little devil you!

    June 26, 2008
  50. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Curt. We should know in a few minutes!

    June 27, 2008
  51. Griff Wigley said:

    Roder’s been selected. I just blogged it.

    June 27, 2008
  52. Howard Merriam said:

    Poor Northfield…you have to go through this tedious recruitment and selection process…again? Two choices:

    1) Susan Hoyt
    2) Victor Summa

    June 27, 2008
  53. Jessica Paxton said:

    Was just thinking about Susan this morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if she, too, finds all of this quite amusing (in a not-so funny way). Howie, would you be willing to jump back on board, too?!? I’d love to have you and Susan back in action around here.
    Geez. I’ve only lived here a little over 6 years and I think this will be the third change at the helm during that time. Is this typical?!? Very troublesome.

    June 27, 2008

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