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Village Council — Reorganization moves ahead

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At their Sept. 6 meeting, all members of Village Council expressed support for a proposed Village staff reorganization that would eliminate two current positions, in an effort to reduce the work load on the Village manager by hiring an assistant manager.

The item was discussion only. Council will vote on the change at its Oct. 3 meeting; the reorganization will not be addressed at Council’s Sept. 19 meeting because Village Manager Mark Cundiff will be absent.

Cundiff proposed the reorganization at Council’s last meeting, after Council members this summer asked Cundiff to find ways to make his job more manageable. Currently, according to a written report, Cundiff oversees eight departments, and is the Village’s de facto community development director, HR director, public works director and parks director. While he backs up several subordinates when they are gone, there is no one on staff to back him up, necessitating additional work before and following vacations.

Cundiff recommended that the Village return to its previous practice of employing a Village assistant manager. Due to budget constraints, hiring that position requires letting go Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein and Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman, and having the new assistant manager assume the responsibilities of both positions.

“If there is an easy solution, I hope I would have found it,” Cundiff said at the meeting. “There is not.”

Since proposing the shake-up in August, Council has been contacted by several citizens asking Cundiff to fill the assistant manager position without letting go of the two current employees.

“I spent a great deal of time trying to figure a way to do exactly that and was unsuccessful in finding a solution,” he wrote in his report to Council.

Most Village managers have had the support of either an assistant manager or a professional planner, but he has had neither, Cundiff wrote. While Amrhein’s position is titled assistant Village planner, Amrhein was originally hired part-time to inspect construction and enforce the zoning code; the planning part of the job was added on following attrition of Village staff; Amrhein himself states that he has neither the training nor experience to perform planning duties, Cundiff wrote.

In the past 10 years, the Village has had five managers, three full-time and two interim, or an average of a new manager every two years, Cundiff wrote.

“Unless the expectations and workload are lowered or the manager has more assistance, recent history has shown that whoever is the manager does not last long in the position,” the report stated.

All Council members voiced support for the staff changes.

“Mark is a hard worker who puts in way longer hours than should be required,” Council President Judith Hempfling said. “He needs someone who can fill his shoes when he’s gone.”

And the problem is not just backing up Cundiff, but having a manager so overworked that serious mistakes can take place, according to Lori Askeland, who said the Village had experienced this situation during a previous manager’s tenure.

“It’s not about vacation time but what can happen when one person is trying to do too much,” she said.

Karen Wintrow expressed her concern that planning and economic development duties demand different skill sets, with planning requiring adherence to rules and development requiring creativity and flexibility. Expecting one person to have both skill sets may be unrealistic, she said, urging Council to make economic development the job’s first priority.

Wintrow also stated that she supports the proposed reorganization, as did Rick Walkey and John Booth.

“Sometimes you have to make hard decisions to progress,” Booth said.

Villager Dan Pelzl suggested that Council seek a volunteer to take on the assistant manager position. Roi Qualls urged Council to seek the advice of other business leaders regarding how to reorganize the Village staff before moving ahead.

Other items of Council’s Sept. 6 meeting will be covered in next week’s News.

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