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Crosslake: Aitkin man hired for PZ administrator position

Council considers eight-year city employee too.

CrosslakeCityHall2.July2020.JPG
Crosslake City Hall. PineandLakes Echo Journal file photo
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CROSSLAKE — After agreeing both planning and zoning administrator candidates interviewed were nearly equally qualified, Crosslake City Council candidates debated whether they should hire an outside candidate or promote an existing city employee to the post.

The council ultimately voted 4-1 Wednesday, Jan. 19, to hire Peter Gansen, of Aitkin, over Cheryl Stuckmayer, the city’s planner/zoning coordinator who has worked for Crosslake for eight years.

Council member Aaron Herzog cast the dissenting vote.

The council unanimously approved City Administrator Mike Lyonais’ recommendation to offer the position to Gansen at an annual salary of $70,000 with 12 days vacation and five days sick leave, and with a six-month probation.

Gansen accepted the offer and will start Monday, Feb. 7.

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The position was open after Jon Kolstad resigned in November. Kolstad had worked for the city for eight years - two years as a city employee and six years before that through Crow Wing County - before resigning to take a job with a state agency.

Gansen recently started working for the city of Cohasset’s planning and zoning department. A third candidate the council planned to interview Jan. 13 had already taken another position, City Clerk Char Nelson said in an email.

Lyonais told the council both candidates were qualified and can do the work, both interviewed well, and references for both were positive.

“So you must decide as a council whether to promote from within or go outside the organization,” he said.

Council member Marcia Seibert-Volz cited years of experience - Gansen with 15 and Stuckmayer with eight.

Mayor Dave Nevin said the city needs two people in its planning and zoning department and already has one.

“I don’t know what we would gain by promoting from within, and I think the other candidate had a good interview,” Nevin said.

Council members John Andrews and Dave Schrupp spoke in favor of promoting from within the city department. Andrews said it’s good for staff to advance.

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“We have a candidate with experience dealing with our people and contractors and has done excellent work,” he said of Stuckmayer.

“What would we gain from that?” Nevin asked. “We’d have to go through this (hiring) process again.”

Schrupp said: “I would be inclined to promote from within. I hate to lose a good employee. They're not easy to come by, and depending on what we do decide there could be an opportunity to offer the backup job to him (Gansen).”

When Nevin asked if there was a reason Schrupp thought the city would lose Stuckmayer, Schrupp said: “It’s disappointing. The interview went well. She has done a great job for the city. She's quick. She’s efficient. It’s a positive thing for employees when you can do that. It gives them more opportunity.

“You wouldn’t lose a beat with that. I just fear she would leave,” Schrupp said.

Herzog agreed Stuckmayer is very much an asset to the city. She’s smart, quick to learn and willing to take educational classes to progress. She’s proven herself in her years with the city.

However, he said a concern is that Stuckmayer’s education is in an entirely different area than what she’s working in today.

“She has experience, but not the educational background,” he said, saying Gansen has an educational background related to engineering.

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Seibert-Volz supported Gansen because he has more education, more experience and he’s dealt with septic systems.

“He seemed to value customer service and respect. He’s been in community development for 15 years. He has taken extra education with the landscape architecture,” she said, adding she hoped the city wouldn’t lose Stuckmayer.

“That’s their option if that’s what they want to do. We can’t be afraid to hire a good candidate just because staff might be upset,” Seibert-Volz said. “The staff is not hiring the candidate. We would put the candidate, even internal, on probation.”

Nevin said he’d hate to lose either candidate and suggested having both work together with no titles for six months.

Seibert-Volz said: “We should hire the best for the position and move forward embracing the future and not staying stuck in the past.”

In the end, Andrews suggested the city hire Gansen and other council members - except Herzog - agreed.

Also Jan. 19, the council reconsidered a 3-2 split vote Jan. 10 to change an official city bank from Frandsen Bank to First National Bank. Council members asked Nelson to contact each bank in Crosslake to see which are interested in being the city’s official depository.

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSCROSSLAKECROSSLAKE CITY COUNCIL
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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