Each of the three finalists for the City of Verona’s vacant administrator job has experience managing a city, town or village – or all three – of at least half Verona’s size, and all have ties to Dane County.
They are: Brian Wilson, village administrator, Belleville (population 5,200); Aaron Reeves, city administrator, Cloquet, Minnesota (11,800); and Dan Wietecha, superintendent, Bath Charter Township, Michigan (12,800).
Not on the list is interim administrator Adam Sayre, whom the council appointed in February after showing Jeff Mikorski the door with a six-month severance agreement. Sayre, the city’s planning and economic development director, has declined to discuss whether he applied for the position.
The position’s initial April 7 deadline yielded 71 applicants. A second round of applicants could be considered if the Common Council is not comfortable with the group, which has participated in two sets of interviews.
The first round, on April 29 and May 3, narrowed the list from six semifinalists. Second interviews were held Monday, May 20, and the city’s Personnel committee was set to discuss and presumably choose one to offer the job to Tuesday. The council will make the final decision.
The position, for which Mikorski was paid more than $137,000 annually, functions to some degree as the chief executive officer of the city in Verona’s moderately weak mayoral form of government. It is the liaison between the Common Council and the rest of the city staff, though it also takes some direction directly from the mayor.
The three finalists all earned their undergraduate collegiate degrees between 1991 and 1996, according to LinkedIn profiles, and resumes submitted to the city, and each has between 19 and 22 years of municipal government experience. Wilson works in Dane County; Wietecha previously worked in Evansville; and Reeves stated in his application materials he has familiarity with Verona and is considering moving to Dane County for his wife’s job.
Each was asked to prepare and present a 10-minute mock presentation on an assigned topic that has gone before the council in recent months to a panel consisting of members of the council, human resources director Mitchell Weckerly told the Press in an email Tuesday. They also interviewed with one panel from the council and another with department heads and toured city facilities.
Wilson has big-city experience, according to the resume he submitted, having spent six years as a neighborhood improvement specialist in St. Louis, from 2002-2008. He has been an administrator in a city, a village and a town before, with a total of 22 years of government experience overall.
Wilson also spent four years in the U.S. Army Reserves, reaching the rank of 1st Lieutenant and holding the position of platoon leader.
In Belleville, he has managed a $5.5 million budget with 17 employees – less than half the size of Verona’s – for the past three years, according to his LinkedIn page. That actually was a step down in budget from the Town of Beloit ($7.2 million) and number of employees at the City of Milan, Missouri (30), where he had been previously, spending four years at each stop.
A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, he started working for St. Louis in alcohol enforcement in 1996 while still working on his master’s degree.
A year ago, he was a candidate for Sauk County’s administrator job, according to a Wisconsin State Journal report. The newspaper reported supervisors claimed he had withdrawn from the search but he refuted that.
His cover letter claims he “has the courage to say what needs to be said while exhibiting tact and candor,” and that he’s looking to work in a larger organization.
Reeves, Cloquet, Minnesota
Reeves has also worked in much larger cities, including Rochester, Minnesota, where he was the junior of two assistant city administrators for just under a year and a city clerk for three years prior.
Cloquet, a suburb of Duluth, is his fourth Minnesota city administrator job, following stints of six years each in Cannon Falls (4,000) and Kenyon (1,800) and a year-and-a-half in Winsted (2,400), in addition to a three-month interim position in Wabasha (2,500).
Reeves got his education all in Minnesota, graduating in 1996 from Southwest Minnesota State and getting his master’s two years later from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“I have proven my ability to be a forward-thinking change agent,” he proclaims in his cover letter for the job. “I have shown through numerous projects my ability to create consensus among groups on all sides of an issue.”
Reeves’ letter also explains his interest in moving relates to his wife’s employment and their familiarity with the area, noting that his son is a two-time finisher of Ironman Wisconsin, which loops through Verona twice on the bicycle leg.
Wietecha, Bath, Michigan
Wietecha has spent the past five years as the superintendent for Michigan’s Bath Charter Township, which draws a few parallels to Verona.
It’s a suburb of the state capital, Lansing, and its nearly identical population has almost doubled in the past 20 years, just as Verona’s has; however, its property value is about a quarter of Verona’s.
His cover letter notes the proximity of Verona to Evansville, where he served for seven years prior to that and supervised a significantly bigger government operation than Bath’s, with five department heads and 40 full-time employees. Before that, he’d spent seven years as the Tri-City Joint Powers Board administrator for three small cities in Minnesota while earning his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota.
Wietecha, who calls himself “accessible in the office and active in the community” in his cover letter, cites multiple examples of listening to employees or citizens to make changes to municipal services and reaching out through newspaper columns, weekly reports and meetings.