In 4 years, Herlofsky has helped bring stability
When Peter Herlofsky started his new job on May 1, 2006, he had his work cut out for him.
He came into the Farmington city administrator position after a few years of turmoil. Over the previous five years, Farmington had gone through two city administrators and three interim administrators. The city of Farmington and School District 192 were in litigation over the site for the new high school. The building boom of earlier in the decade was waning at a fast pace.
Farmington was in a state of change. The climate, in Herlofsky's words, "was a little unsettled."
Four years later, Herlofsky knows there is still plenty to do around the community, but at least he's done what he initially set out to do - create some stability.
As it turned out, the litigation between the city and school district ended within the first week of Herlofsky's employment, after both sides agreed to a settlement. The new high school opened last fall, and Herlofsky feels he has a good working relationship with superintendent Brad Meeks.
But that's not all that's changed over the years. When the unprecedented growth in the city's housing market came to an abrupt halt, the trickle-down resulted in budget cuts at the staff level. Then came cuts in state aid, forcing the city to pare down staff and services even more.
On the other hand, over the past four years, he's worked with council members and city staff to bring lots of positive change to the community - a new city hall, a new bridge over the railroad tracks. A new site for Rambling River Center. A farmer's market that attracts residents to the downtown area on warm summer nights. There have been new businesses opening. New infrastructure, new roads.
"I'm proud to be a city of Farmington employee," Herlofsky said.
An average week
There really is no such word as "average" when it comes to a week of running a community of 23,000 residents. Herlofsky comes to work every Monday with a plan of action - things he'd like to get done that day, that week - but often things pop up and change that plan by about mid-Monday morning.
"What makes this job so fun is that it's unpredictable," he said. "Each week offers a new opportunity to see what can go wrong, and what we as a city can do to make it right."
His job duties include keeping tabs on the budget, new laws at the state level, city policies and ordinances, and so on, but also making sure Farmington City Council members are always kept in the loop so they can make the decisions they, as the city's governing body, need to make.
That isn't always easy, because there are a lot of nuances that influence what happens at a local level. The governor cuts state aid and it affects the city's budget, and ultimately, the taxpayers. Building projects are subject to scrutiny by state agencies because they may affect the Vermillion River. Some projects are collaborative, like when the city joined with Dakota County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Empire Township to construct a roundabout on Highway 3. And it's Herlofsky's job to know all about those projects and more so he can provide the necessary information to the city council.
And then, he also has to follow up on priorities identified by city council members. In his first few years in Farmington, economic growth and revitalizing the downtown business district were among those goals. Getting those goals accomplished takes time, but Herlofsky is confident that, after two or three years, Farmington is making progress.
"What you do today, you don't see for a couple of years down the line," he said.
And, of course, maintaining the city's financial stability is a big goal. This year, he was called on to fill in as finance director after Robin Roland accepted a position in Cottage Grove and before new finance director Theresa Walters came on board.
Herlofsky and his wife have made Farmington their home. He's always believed it is important to live in the community where he works.
"I pay the same taxes as everybody else," he said.
Herlofsky has had a good run in Farmington so far. He's brought the stability the city staff needed. He's worked with two different city councils. The city's tax levy has not increased over the past few years, though residents have not seen a decrease in their services.
But probably his favorite memory of the past four years was the construction, and completion, of the new Farmington City Hall. He sees the project as an investment - a commitment - in downtown Farmington.
"That was probably one of the most exciting issues for me," he said.
Moreover, he's pleased with the relationships he has developed, between himself and city staff, and himself and the city council. He enjoys his job because of the people he works with, and the people he works for.
"Farmington is a nice community. It's not hard to get up and come to work everyday," he said. "Everything is not always perfect, but I'm enjoying it here."
As the top salaried employee at the city of Farmington, Herlofsky will make $125,000 in 2010.