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Mesko Lee takes the helm as new city administrator

Melanie Mesko Lee is Hastings' new city administrator. She was formerly assistant city administrator under Dave Osberg. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)

Melanie Mesko Lee is officially Hastings' new city administrator. She was voted into the position at the council meeting Monday evening.

Local government work is something Mesko Lee has wanted to do since she was young, she said. She got her bachelor's and master's degrees in public administration and right after college took an internship at the state senate. A second internship brought her to the City of Oak Park Heights, and that turned into a two-year position. When the administrative assistant/city clerk position opened up in Hastings, it was more limited in scope than what she had already been doing, but there was something else that attracted her.

"I knew it was a well run organization," she said.

Mesko Lee has worked for the city for 14 years so far. Since then, she's worn several hats, which has allowed her to expand her skill set, knowledge and expertise without leaving Hastings.

When former City Administrator Dave Osberg resigned earlier this year, Mesko Lee saw three choices for herself, she said. She could remain as the assistant administrator, throw her hat into the ring or decide to leave Hastings altogether. There were several factors to her decision to stay and try for the city administrator position. One was because of how well run Hastings already is. The council has only gotten one new member in the last several years, and with the exception of a new Parks and Recreation director, all the staff is well seasoned.

"I understood the value of staying here," she said.

Another reason was because of what she could bring to Hastings.

"I believe that I have many skills that will compliment this organization and the city council," she said.

Mesko Lee has served the city as interim administrator since Osberg left in late March. Having worked with the city for so long has helped her make the transition, but she credits the staff with making it as smooth as it's been. Still, it's been a tough transition, and there's definitely a learning curve, she said, as she takes up the full responsibilities of administrator. She's thankful she can ask questions of staff and the council as she goes along, to help her get up to speed.

Looking forward, Mesko Lee has high hopes for Hastings. One opportunity she's excited to work on is downtown riverfront development. Work is already started for the redevelopment of the former Hudson building, and some talk has started relating to Levee Park.

"We're on the cusp of some really cool things," she said.

Internally, she talked about the turnover happening within city staff, and her goal is to turn Hastings into an organization of choice - a place with a high reputation and a place job seekers really want to be professionally and personally. Doing so provides residents with good value in their city government, she said. Hastings already has a tremendous amount of value and skill in its staff, she said.

"We want to continue to build that."

Mesko Lee is a resident of Empire Township. She and her husband, John Lee, have three children: Madeline, 10; Josie, 8; and Finnegan, 1 ½. In her free time, she enjoys running and reading non-fiction. She also loves music, so attends concerts as well, she said. Beyond that, she's involved in whatever her kids are in. Her daughters are getting into softball currently.