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Wanted: A good communicator

Residents want a new administrator with fresh ideas, the ability to listen

Published: Monday, June 10, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

MORRISON – An outsider. Someone willing to stand up for what is right. Somebody good with budgets.

Those are some qualities Morrison residents said they want in their next administrator. But one quality seems to be paramount: good communication skills.

Mayor Everett Pannier announced May 13 that he would not renew Jim Wise’s contract; he was administrator for a tumultuous 2 years.

Like many others, Kimberly Martens, 39, hopes the city’s next administrator communicates better with residents and accepts their input better than the previous council and Wise.

The new city administrator should make an effort to publish a newsletter on the city’s Facebook page to let residents know what issues are going to come up at meetings, Martens said.

The only way residents can keep in the loop now is by going to the police department, where agendas are posted for council meetings, and most residents do not want to go there, she said.

Agendas also are posted on www.morrisonil.org and residents also can call City Hall, 815-772-7657.

Martens said she would like an administrator who is welcoming to businesses that want to come to Morrison, and who would create more events like Paint the Town.

“Whoever is going to come in needs to realize things need to change or the city will die,” Martens said.

Tim Ebbers, 50, said he wants an administrator who cares about the needs of residents and employees.

“I’d like to see somebody who’s going to work with city employees and residents instead of talking to them and saying, ‘Oh, well. We’re going to do it this way. It’s my way or the highway,’” he said.

Pannier will advertise the job on the Illinois City and County Management Association website and in northern Illinois newspapers. He estimates the new administrator will be paid $60,000 to $75,000 a year. Wise was paid $75,000 a year.

One key quality he is looking for, Pannier said, is communication skills.

“He needs to be able to represent the city and work with not just elected city officials, but needs to be able to communicate with the community, listen and give feedback,” the mayor said. “There are two sides to issues always. You need to be able to listen to both sides.”

Pannier said he plans to narrow the applicant list to the top five, then ask council members and city staff to meet with those finalists and choose two or three for an in-depth interview. That process will involve the council and members of city committees such as the historic preservation commission, the planning and zoning commission, and the board of Odell Public Library.

He hopes to have a new administrator in place by September, Pannier said.

The city administrator will propose the annual budget, make recommendations to the council regarding ordinances and will supervise all departments.

Pannier will propose the appointment, and council members will vote on whether to approve him or her. A simple majority will be needed to approve the appointment, City Attorney Tim Zollinger said.

Under the terms of Wise’s contract, the mayor had the authority to renew Wise’s contract without a council vote. The new contract, which has not been written, must be approved by the council, Zollinger said; it may or may not have the same provision.

Alderwoman Marti Wood said the city needs someone who will really listen to what residents want.

Wise wanted issues brought to him rather than department heads, and sometimes he did not respond to all of the people who had problems, Wood said.

“Everything that we did had to go through him, and he said he’d address it with the proper people, but who knows if it got any further,” she said.

“Residents would ask me questions, so I’d send a note to the chief of police, the mayor, the head of whatever department, and I was told, ‘You just send it through me, I’ll take care of it,’ A lot of times you never got any feedback of what was decided.”

Sometimes just a brief phone call can make a resident feel heard, she said.

Someone with grant-writing abilities also would benefit the city, Wood said.

Morrison needs more than a “yes” person, said resident Robert Fulton, 38.

The city needs someone who can advise the Morrison Business Advisory Group on how to make the downtown a destination for residents of other cities, Fulton said.

Like several other Morrison residents, he said, he hopes the appointed person will be from outside of the area and, therefore, objective and able to offer fresh ideas.

“My hope is that it would be someone ... who would not make it the status quo.”

Fulton said he wants an administrator who will stand up for what’s right for the city and who will be willing to sometimes break ranks with certain groups, such as the Historic Preservation Commission.

Gustave Bloom, 56, questions some recent uses of city funds, and said he would like to see the city, with public input, spend money better.

“All of the infrastructure needs to be redone as opposed to buying streetlamps.”

He, too, wants somebody from outside the area who will not be part of the “good ol’ boys’ club.”

“It seems as though they backdoor everything,” Bloom said. “If anything affects the people of Morrison, the people of Morrison should know about it. It’s a town. Everybody has a say in what goes on in this town.”

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