Though no formal action was taken during Tuesday’s work session, multiple council members verbally agreed with Campbell’s recommendation for a “cool down period” of around six months, with a restart of the search tentatively set for early 2023. An official motion may appear on Monday’s regular council meeting agenda, depending on requirements of the Baker Tilly agreement.
Interim City Manager Bryan Chodkowski on Tuesday said he agreed with the suggestion to pause the process, noting there is a shortage of professional managers. He said it’s crucial that “appropriate demeanor, manner, and professionalism be exercised” by members of council during this pause.
“I know every one of you up here is a professional and I know every one of you cares a great deal about this community and your ward,” Chodkowski said.
Following the resignation of City Manager Rob Schommer in March 2021, the interim position was first filled by Scott Falkowski until Chodkowski took over in November. Chodkowski said both he and Falkowski had felt it in the best interest of the city to hold off on implementing any “major changes” to city operations prior to the appointment of a permanent manager, but asserted that his outlook on the matter has changed.
“I kept the vehicle neutral, waiting for the next city manager to arrive,” Chodkowski said. “At the last council business meeting, it was clear to me and my 20-plus years of city management that our organization could wait no more. I made the decision at that point in time to begin leading staff as if I was the manager because we can no longer continue to be in the neutral position.”
Along with the city manager position, the role of economic development director and that of the planning and community development director are also vacant. Chodkowski said those positions now need to be filled sooner rather than later.
“We had restructured the organization to a certain degree with the anticipation of a new city manager coming in, and we had left those positions vacant as the permanent city manager should have the opportunity to assemble their team,” he said Wednesday. “We now find ourselves in a place where we cannot extend that courtesy to the incoming manager.”
While the city is in good standing, Chodkowski said, an excess of responsibility has fallen on his shoulders, as well as those of his team.
“We’re not failing and we’re not missing opportunity ... but, I’m busy from start to finish each day, and the staff is getting busier every day,” he said.
In his former role as assistant city manager, one of Chodkowski’s primary roles was within economic development. “That’s really taken a back seat to day-to-day management,” he noted.
Along with economic development and community planning, Chodkowski said organizational tasks like filing and record management, internal communication objectives, and workload prioritization have all been affected by the vacancies.
Even so, Chodkowski said it’s worth the wait to get a good candidate for city manager.
“Bringing in someone who’s not qualified or as qualified as they should be only makes it worse for us at the staff level,” he said. “We’re taking the time to ensure (council) can recruit the best qualified candidate.”