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Committee advises seeking external candidates for city administrator position

The Hastings City Council's administrative committee recommends that the full council seek outside applicants for the city administrator position. The recommendation was made two days after City Administrator Dave Osberg submitted his official letter of resignation. His final day with the City of Hastings will be March 22.

At the committee meeting Thursday morning, Osberg presented details on two options for filling his position. The first was to provide notice of the opening and accept letters of interest and resumes from applicants. A proposed schedule included closing the application period March 29, selecting three to five finalists the week of April 1, conduct interviews the week of April 15, select the finalist the week of April 22 and begin negotiating an employment agreement, with final approval at the May 6 council meeting. During the process, Assistant Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee would be appointed as interim administrator.

The second option involved appointing Mesko Lee to the position, effective March 23.

Mesko Lee was present at the meeting as assistant administrator. Osberg indicated both he and Mesko Lee would be happy to step out to allow the committee to discuss, but the committee members did not make the request.

Tim Connell, a Hastings resident and a Hastings police officer, encouraged the committee to open the position up to outside applicants. He cited the hiring process for the chief of police, noting that there were internal candidates but that the council still decided to seek outside applicants. Ultimately, the council hired Paul Schnell, one of the outside applicants.

With the city administrator holding the highest position of authority in the city, Connell said he didn't feel the council should presume that the best candidate is already on staff. He said that an open process including as many viable candidates as possible would create a competitive process through which the city could find the best candidate.

Committee member Ed Riveness, who was recently appointed to the city council to fill the vacant seat left by Mike Slavik, disagreed with Connell.

"When we have what we need inside, there's no need to look outside," he said.

"Melanie has my vote.... I don't think we could find a better candidate even if we did go looking," he added.

Committee chairman Tony Alongi said that as a taxpayer, he would prefer opening the position. Then, he said, the public sees the city trying to find the best person.

Alongi and committee member Danna Elling Schultz voted to make a recommendation that the council post a notice of the vacancy and accept letters of interest and resumes. Riveness voted against the motion.

"I have faith in internal candidates to make a strong showing," Alongi said. "...I believe this is the right thing to do."

Schultz pointed out that the council could still reject the recommendation March 4.

If the council does follow the committee's recommendation, Mesko Lee would be appointed as interim city administrator following Osberg's departure.

The full council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, March 4, at City Hall to further discuss the matter.