Archive for Tuesday, March 7, 2006

City manager evaluation discussions to continue

Commissioners call for third day of review of Wildgen’s performance

March 7, 2006


City commissioners are conducting an unusually long evaluation of City Manager Mike Wildgen following a year of tough questions about whether the community has adequately planned for growth.

Commissioners on Monday called for a third day of closed-door meetings to discuss Wildgen's annual evaluation, saying they still had more things to discuss.

"I can't tell people what to read into this," Mayor Boog Highberger said following a nearly two-hour executive session at City Hall. "What I would say is that the city manager's evaluation is one of the more important jobs that we do. We want to be thorough."

City commissioners did not set a time to meet again about Wildgen, who has been the city's top executive since 1990. Highberger, though, said another meeting likely would happen before the end of the week. He said commissioners might set a date at tonight's city commission meeting.

Commissioners also did not rule out that Wildgen's job was in jeopardy. When asked if the review was focusing on whether Wildgen should be retained, several commissioners either declined comment or directed all questions to the mayor.

"I really can't say," City Commissioner David Schauner said. "We're just not finished yet. That really is the most honest answer I can give you."

Highberger said the issue of whether Wildgen should be retained was still on the table, but said that technically, that was an issue during every city manager evaluation. The city manager serves solely at the pleasure of the commission, and can be released with a simple three-vote majority.

Commissioners first met on Thursday to conduct Wildgen's annual evaluation. They met for two hours without Wildgen in a closed-door executive session. When they emerged, they said they needed more time and scheduled another session for Monday morning. Commissioners on Monday were originally scheduled to meet two hours, but came out 30 minutes early and said they hadn't yet finished their discussion. Wildgen was in the room for Monday's discussion.

Wildgen said he respected the commission's desire to conduct a more thorough review, and he was continuing with his normal duties.

"It is their call," Wildgen said. "I don't have any announcement to make."

Highberger declined to get into specifics about what performance issues had led to the lengthy review. But Wildgen and staff members have received tough questions regarding whether the city has adequately planned for growth. Concerns about whether the sewer system can handle projected growth in the northwest area of town has stopped some private developments from receiving final city approval.

Amid the concerns, longtime planning director Linda Finger resigned her position at the end of the year after being told by city administrators her future with the city had dimmed.

Commissioners also have expressed concern about a report by the Public Works Department that approximately 30 percent of the city's streets will need major improvements. They have deteriorated to the point where simple repairs will not be adequate.

Wildgen has had extended reviews in the past. Last year commissioners met for two days to discuss his performance, but ultimately voted unanimously to give him a 3 percent pay raise and publicly praised his experience and integrity.

In January 2002, Wildgen was put on a six-month evaluation schedule after commissioners said they wanted him to make city government more "user-friendly." Wildgen was evaluated six months later and received passing grades and a 3 percent raise, though current City Commissioner Mike Rundle voted against the pay increase.

Wildgen has a long history with the city. He came to Lawrence in 1974 as an assistant city manager, but he was made acting city manager following the death of then-city manager Buford Watson in 1989. Wildgen had the acting title removed in April 1990 after commissioners conducted a nationwide search. Wildgen is only the fifth city manager in Lawrence history.


lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

...imagine the 'tell all' he could write.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

It must be really frustrating for you two knowing that the two commissioners you despise so much are intellectually and morally several orders of magnitude above the either of you, meaning that you have to resort to endless posts consisting of little more the grade-school-level insults.

cowboy 12 years, 3 months ago

Replace the city management , city finaince director , replace the chamber of commerce management

Start over with a clean slate of professionals recruited from larger cities not western fricking kansas.

Lawrence can no longer function with the home grown sub par management group.

Steal shamelessly , Honorably adopt ! get some one with a succesful track record and experience

Fatty_McButterpants 12 years, 3 months ago

Geez, if they are going to take this long they might as well just fire him already. It seems fairly obvious that would be what their intent is. He seems like a nice guy but maybe it's time for some fresh vision.

Tallgrass 12 years, 3 months ago

Sometimes it's hard to know when or even how to leave gracefully. Without acceptable options, Mike or any public official, likely feels obligated to hang on for as long as possible. Resigning is always a good option if you are really ready to walk away.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Of course, they should also note that Nagin gained office by being "business-friendly," and he delayed calls for evacuation because those businesses were afraid that that would hurt their businesses.

avhjmlk 12 years, 3 months ago

And, those of you who like to gripe about how unfair it is that the Fed'l Government getts blamed for post-Katrina mishaps can look at your favorite scapegoat as another reason that strong mayors aren't such a hot idea--Ray Nagin.

common_cents 12 years, 3 months ago

I agree (albeit in a somewhat calmer fashion. grin)

It's time that the city elect mayors and they not be appointed. I find it incredible that a city this size doesn't have mayoral elections.

What would it take to get this started?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

In fact, our mayors are elected. The mayor is selected from among elected commissioners, with the top two vote-getters in the commission elections traditionally getting that position.

Note: That tradition was ignored several years ago when the then chamber/developer-dominated commission skipped over what would have been Rundle's term.

And as far as the deterioration of our streets go, this has developed over decades, not just the last couple of years. It needs to be addressed, but there is no magic answer, and replacing the current commission by returning to a chamber/developer-dominated commission similar to the ones that presided over most of the creation of this problem won't supply any magical answers.

common_cents 12 years, 3 months ago

I can't let this one just go by:

"Commissioners also have expressed concern about a report by the Public Works Department that approximately 30 percent of the city's streets will need major improvements. They have deteriorated to the point where simple repairs will not be adequate."

Are they trying to make it look as though they didn't know the streets were in bad shape until this report? Holy cow, just get in your car and drive... ANYWHERE. And, how long have we, the community been telling the commissioners that the streets were in shambles?

When it all comes down to it, planning is done, commissioners approve. It's up to them, our elected officials to not only question, but scrutinize: every project proposal and its effects upon our infrastructure and every penny of our money they approve to spend.

Let's not try to take focus off our real problem.

common_cents 12 years, 3 months ago

What I'd rather have is both a mayor and a commission that runs the city like a business in need of an overhaul, not some spend-happy bunch of project seekers.

We hear of the need to attract more businesses to Lawrences. That has to start with a sound infrastructure, not pretty flowers on the corner, a happy bridge over the river brown, an archway over the end of a block, pretty new crosswalks, or other such things.

And I would agree that the problems we see are the result of many years of neglect and not just a few. That still does not excuse not only this commission, but the former commissions from the responsiblity of spending our money wisely.

Anyone can visualize the sea of red that is called our city's future budget and should be able to figure out where that money MUST come from.... us.

It think it's high time we start controlling where our money is going and paying more attention to the "little things" that keep adding up to a huge bill that can't be paid. The only way I can see this happening is if more people actually start stepping into the role of "watch dogs" and make our officials accountable for their own actions.

avhjmlk 12 years, 3 months ago

Well, common, if you've studied local government at all, you'd know that strong mayor cities have been decreasing in number for years, moving initially in favor of council-manager forms of government (i.e. what Lawrence has), and now the trend is moving, albeit very slowly, toward mayor-manager governments (i.e. Unified Govt of WyCo/KCK, which has both a directly elected mayor and an appointed city/county administrator).

The move away from strong mayor government is a reflection of the people's desire to have professional management in their cities with oversight from an elected body. Strong mayors have been associated with machine politics, sketchy political appointments, and fraud/destruction in local government.

In this day and age, considering what even the smallest local elections are like, the likelihood that a well-educated administrator would win in a mayoral race against a popular political candidate without relevant education is pretty slim. Ask yourself: Who do you want running your city? A professional educated in the ins and outs of local government administration (doesn't have to be Mike Wildgen), or a politician?

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

how wonderful to have an opportunity to leave lawrence in total disarray....too many very expensive roundabouts but not enough road repair (city commission?), ....not enough sewer for growth?>let's just forget about it for a few years (city commission?),....let's try to keep lawrence from growing. we need to stifle as much growth as possible from those damn corporate americans (city commission?). let's find a couple of fall guys to take the heat because even our supporters are discovering how inept we really are (city commission?). we need to have total control over everything so we need to get some puppets we can dictate through (city commission?).

not everyone smokes pot or does illicit drugs.....some lawrencians do have a memory.

simplyamazed 12 years, 3 months ago

If the general public only knew the real side of Wildgen! I was a city employee of 15 years and was terminated with Wildgens response of he just didn't have time to investigate the matter! Does he really have the city or it's people in the forefront of his concerns? Not....he is only concerned with himself. The people of Lawrence should get a round of questions for Wildgen and boy would he squirm!! Maybe someone needs to ask questions like how many people besides Linda were lost in the past couple of years..How many law suits are there against the city and how many have been settled without the people of Lawrence's knowledge. Boy would everyone be surprised at what goes on behind the closed doors that Wildgen claims is always open. The people of Lawrence needs to demand more knowledge of what happens to their tax money.

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