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Advisory panel helps choose a new city administrator

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news Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

When the five candidates for city administrator came to city hall Friday, the Farmington City Council wasn't the only group they had to impress.

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Before the candidates sat down with council members, they were interviewed by an eight-member advisory panel.

The panel was made up of four city employees including parks and recreation director Randy Distad; Independent School District 192 communications director Jim Skelly; planning commission member Doug Bonar; Rambling River Center advisory board member Charlie Weber; and Clyde Rath, owner of Lillian's and president of the Farmington Business Association.

In preparation for the interviews, human resources director Brenda Wendlandt asked each member for questions they would like to ask the candidates. She compiled that list, added a few from the city, and presented it to the group before interviews began. Each panel participant selected questions.

In many cases, the questions asked represented the interests of that individual. Rath asked several questions regarding economic development; Distad, whose department runs the Farmington liquor stores, asked how the candidates felt about cities being in the liquor business.

"Some (questions) were very specific to items the council is dealing with. Others were more wide-ranging," Skelly said.

The panel participants asked the same questions of each candidate. They spent an hour or so with each of the candidates. At the end of the day, the group selected two preferred candidates. Wendlandt took the comments of the group and put them into a report for the city council. Council members were to review those comments at this week's meeting to select finalists.

Involvement

Skelly commended the city of Farmington for running what he calls a "transparent" process. By including the input of the advisory panel members, he said, council members will be able to base their decisions not just on how the candidates answered to the council, but on how those candidates answered to the public.

"The more buy-in or input they have will help them in making the right decision," Skelly said. "Nobody looks at the city like the mayor and the council do. From a staff perspective, what I heard was that communication is important to them. Keeping the morale of the staff up. They are people providing services. They need a manager making sure they're operating as efficiently as they can."

Rath was pleased he was asked to participate in the interviews on behalf of the Farmington Business Association. In preparation for the process, he sent an email to FBA members, asking for their input. The questions he forwarded to Wendlandt addressed topics business owners raised.

"I think it's a very positive reflection on the Farmington Business Association and how that's come about over the past two years," Rath said.

Recommendation

All of the candidates were qualified for the position, Skelly said. But only two were selected for further consideration.

"It was my feeling, realistically, that any of those people could be a city administrator. It's more of who would be a good fir or who is right for Farmington," Skelly said.

The city of Farmington got the idea for an advisory panel from School District 192, which used a similar panel as part of its superintendent search. Late last week, Farmington school board members narrowed their field for a new superintendent. By late this week, Farmington City Council members will narrow their field of candidates, as well.

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