‘New’ city job: whys and hows

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Economic Development Corporation (NUEDC) has decided to keep coordinator Brian Tohal on full time for 2018, but the future of Economic Development in New Ulm is still in limbo.

Last month, the City of New Ulm cut funding to the NUEDC. The city had been contributing $50,000 per year to the organization, but decided to cut the payment in 2018 in favor of hiring an assistant city manager.

New Ulm has been without an assistant city manager since Tom McCauley retired from the position on June 30, 2011. McCauley took the job in 1987. The position was first put in place in 1973. After McCauley retired, it was decided not to refill the position due to budget constraints. For the last six years, the duties shifted to department heads.

During a work session on July 18, the council considered re-filling the assistant city manager position to perform city/PUC activities as well as economic development duties and eliminating the $50,000 payment to NUEDC.

The news of this change came as a surprise to many members of the NUEDC board when first brought to their attention in late July, but Council President Charlie Schmitz said during a Sept. 5 council meeting this has been a subject of conversation for the last five years with the council and current City Manager Brian Gramentz.

With the approval of the new assistant manager position, the city is working on creating a new job description, which is expected to be complete by Oct. 25. During the Sept. 5 meeting, councilors agreed economic development should account for over half the assistant city manager’s duties.

In a recent interview, Gramentz explained the assistant city manager position has always carried some economic development responsibilities. McCauley was in charge of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and any special projects associated with economic development, which typically included loan paperwork for new businesses and tax increment financing (TIF) districts. The position also calls for general administrative work and other assigned tasks as needed.

Gramentz said the emphasis of the new assistant manager position would be on economic development and it would be at least half of the position.

With the recent acquisition of industrial park land by the city, the council felt that city staff should take a more active role in economic development.

Gramentz said the NUEDC has an upfront role in working with new businesses, but the back end of economic development fell to the city.

Brian Tohal would work through NUEDC to identify grant opportunities through the state or loan opportunities, but the paperwork would ultimately go through the city.

“The city does 10 years of paperwork for every business loan or grant,” Gramentz said. The assistant manager was responsible for paperwork, but for the last six years, Gramentz has taken on this additional work which has overburdened his department.

“Every department in the city has an assistant position except the city manager,” Gramentz said.

Economic development is a top function but will not be the sole purpose of the assistant manager.

“One of the goals is to train someone to replace me,” Gramentz said.

Gramentz anticipates he will retire within the next three years. The idea is to bring in a new employee before Gramentz retires who could learn on the job. This is called succession planing. The hope is by hiring an assistant city manager now, New Ulm will have a good city manager in three or four years with experience in New Ulm.

The City Council is expected to initiate the hiring process before the end of the year, to have an assistant city manager in place by January.

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