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Paynesville Press - June 14, 2006

City council to offer job to administrator candidate

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council is expected to offer the vacant city administrator position to Renee Eckerly of Cass Lake at their council meeting on Wednesday, June 14.

Negotiations with Eckerly will commence following the official offering of the position to her, which is also contingent on the completion of her background check.

Eckerly, who has served as the clerk/treasurer for Cass Lake since 2001, was selected by the council from a field of three finalists after two interviews in May. The first interview (on Wednesday, May 3) was with the two other finalists, after which the council eliminated the other two finalists and asked Eckerly to return for a second interview with the council and city staff.

The council held a second interview with Eckerly on Wednesday, May 24, and then held a personnel committee meeting (with the full council) on Monday, June 5. At this meeting, the council members agreed to offer the position to Eckerly, while still working out changes to a job description, a reworded contract, and a salary proposal. One change to her proposed contract is the city would like to limit salary increases to max out the contract in ten years, instead of seven, in an effort to keep Eckerly for a longer time.

Having a long-time administrator was one of the council's goals in its administrator search, as well as finding someone to deal with staff (including the pending unionization of city staff) and future growth of the city.

Cass Lake, population 860, is located 15 miles east of Bemidji on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Eckerly has served as its clerk/ treasurer since January 2001. While supervising a small staff at city hall there, she has experience with unions, since the Cass Lake Police Department was unionized when she arrived and the other city employees unionized last fall.

She has helped the city of Cass Lake balance its budget following a significant shortfall and has earned her clerk certification from the Minnesota Municipal Clerks Institute at the University of Minnesota. Originally from Farmington, Minn., she earned a degree in computer science from Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn., and worked accounting, data processing, and computers prior to being hired by Cass Lake.

During her interviews with the council, Eckerly expressed her positive impression of the Paynesville community during her visits to the town, especially the nice residential neighborhoods, the clean parks, and the safety that allows kids to play outside. She was also impressed by the city's good working relationship with Paynesville Township.

Should negotiations with Eckerly conclude, she would likely start work in Paynesville in another month or so. She would replace Steve Helget, who served Paynesville as its city administrator from January 2002 to February 2006, when he left to become city administrator in Montgomery, creating the vacancy. Public works director Ron Mergen has served as the interim administrator since then.

(Editor's Note: Melissa Andrie and Addi Larson contributed to this story, which was compiled from the candidate interviews and personnel committee meetings.)

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