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New City Administrator Scot Simpson officially started his job Friday. Debbie Griffin photo

New administrator now on the job

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News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.riverfallsjournal.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/27/0613/newguy.jpg?itok=Fkp15vx_
River Falls Journal
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New administrator now on the job
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

New City Administrator Scot Simpson says the job leading up to his new position involved getting to know the community: "A lot of reading," meetings, watching recorded City Council proceedings and e-mailing with city staff members.

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Simpson said Monday amidst the scurry of moving, "There's some added complexity with the new building."

He says the City Hall makes a positive impression. Simpson reasons that the drastically improved functionality of the building, along with improved technology, will help the city operate more efficiently and serve citizens better.

The way the spaces are laid out will naturally boost communication and collaboration among departments, says Simpson.

"It's better in person than it was on paper," he said, adding, "I think the public spaces are some of the better spaces."

He referenced the scenic site by the river, plenty of parking, better cable broadcasts, and a large entryway with open and direct access to the two desks people visit most: Municipal Utilities and Customer Service.

Though aware that the new-building project has its critics, he deems it a "good building, not overly lavish" and one that will serve River Falls for 50+ years.

Fulfilling the role

Last November, after former City Administrator Bernie Van Osdale announced his retirement, the city advertised its open job:

River Falls "...is seeking to hire an individual with five plus years of progressively responsible municipal management experience to serve as city administrator....responsible for leading a multipurpose municipal organization with a workforce of 100 full-time equivalent employees and an annual budget of $17 million..."

The announcement said the job salary ranges from $87,000-$116,000 depending on qualifications. Requirements included a bachelor's degree in public administration or related field and master's degree preferred.

The city administrator reports to the mayor and seven-member City Council and is responsible for coordinating municipal services, supervising city department heads and preparing River Falls' annual budget.

The new administrator is expected to have skills and knowledge in collective bargaining; municipal finance; annexation, zoning and growth issues; and management challenges.

Simpson said, "This job doesn't adapt to you, you adapt yourself to this job."

He brings about 10 years' professional experience to the job.

Simpson's yearly salary is $96,500 with the same benefits as other city employees -- medical and dental coverage, paid holidays and vacation.

Simpson worked as city administrator in Lancaster (southwestern Wisconsin) for five years and before that in different capacities for the city of Janesville and for Waukesha County.

While in Lancaster, Simpson says that city experienced its biggest period of economic growth in 30 years. He helped guide the city through its first five-year fiscal and capital-improvement plan.

Simpson also helped develop a couple tax-increment finance districts in Lancaster, recruited an international company to build its headquarters there, addressed long-standing deficiencies to the municipal golf course, and helped secure about $2 million in grant funding.

The 32-year-old is a Wisconsin native with a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in public administration. Simpson said he also brings the city experience in implementing different technology and Web-based systems.

Impressions

The new city administrator said he was passively looking when he saw the job in River Falls.

He and wife Rachel wanted to move to a family friendly community in their home state.

"That seemed to be the case here," Simpson said. "And we found when we were in Lancaster, we really like the small-town feel."

Simpson says he wanted to work here for the same reasons people want to live here -- good amenities.

He hopes to close on his family's River Falls home Friday. Rachel, a stay-at-home mom and former schoolteacher, 5-year-old daughter Madeline, 4-year-old son Benjamin and almost-2-year-old son Sam will soon relocate here.

Simpson grins and says that unlike if they were teenagers, his kids look forward to the move. One daughter likes gymnastics; he envisions all the kids doing lots of Parks and Recreation activities.

He thinks having the university here makes River Falls more interesting. He sees many good partnerships in place already and anticipates maintaining a close relationship with the college.

As for challenges, he knows property taxes are at the top of people's minds. He said the economic slump coupled with a lack of development put a bigger burden on people.

"Property tax in Wisconsin is focused on residential taxpayers," he said.

Simpson agrees that more commercial development would spread and lighten that load.

He appreciates the council members' discussion regarding what they wanted in a new administrator. They clearly defined the role and their expectations.

Simpson mentioned the breadth of city services and professionalism of the staff, saying, "I've been really impressed with that."

Reach Simpson by calling 425-0900 or e-mailing him at ssimpson@rfcity.org.

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