City Administrator Jeff O’Neill placed well on a zero to four scoring sheet, with council members ranking him a three or higher on the majority of categories during a recent job performance review.
The city administrator’s salary range is $84,679 to $110,083. O’Neill has been at the top of the range since 2013.
O’Neill was hired by the city in February 1988 and has been city administrator since 2006.
Each year, city leaders rate O’Neill and his management accomplishments, and address anything that needs to change, using a scoring worksheet to rate his performance.
This year, O’Neill’s review contained a bit of a twist.
Councilmember Glen Posusta did not complete a written review form reviewing O’Neill prior to the council’s Nov. 28, citing the fact he only has one remaining meeting as an elected official.
For the most part, Posusta listened quietly during O’Neill’s performance review, and did not respond when Mayor Brian Stumpf went around the table, asking each council member to supply a numeric ranking of review categories, which included overall impression of city operation, leadership traits, professional skills and status, relations with council, reporting, citizen and intergovernmental relations, city staffing and supervision.
Regarding leadership traits, Councilmember Lloyd Hilgart gave O’Neill a three ranking.
“The only thing I would point out is sometimes, you could be a little more critical,” Hilgart said. Perrault gave O’Neill a two.
“One of the things I heard during campaigning [for Wright County Commissioner] is that people have issues. Sometimes, it’s hard to break that,” Perrault said.
Stumpf gave O’Neill a three-and-half ranking for leadership.
“As mayor, I probably work closer with Jeff than anybody,” Stumpf said. “I agree with some of the things that Tom has said about past perceptions of Jeff as a leader. Those comments came up from time to time.”
According to Stumpf, when he was first was elected to the Monticello City Council, he said he had to learn how to read between the lines of an agenda item as presented by O’Neill.
“I brought that up with him for years and years,” Stumpf said. “I told him, ‘Jeff, lay it out and put it down on paper. Filling in the blanks just doesn’t do it for me. We’ve come a long ways from that.
Councilmember Charlotte Gabler gave O’Neill a three-and-half ranking for leadership.
Regarding professional skills and status, Perrault gave O’Neill a three overall ranking, as did Stumpf.
“I think what happens a lot of the time, Jeff, is you come up with a solution, then you question yourself,” Stumpf said. “Sometimes, you are on the wishy-washy side when it comes to the tough, tough decisions. I’d like to see that improve.”
Gabler said having a council with members having strong views and voices needed to be considered.
O’Neill replied, “I think what you are saying is that I have a tendency to check the political winds a little bit to see which way things are blowing.”
Gabler asked O’Neill what he was doing in terms of additional training to become a better city administrator.
O’Neill said he could go to more national conferences, but would rather send staff.
Posusta did comment directly when the relations with council category came up for discussion. “Jeff is effective in that way, even though he didn’t like me dissing him sometimes,” Posusta said.
O’Neill said he appreciated Posusta’s critical comments and position over the years. “I respect that,” O’Neill said.
Stumpf said council members, as individuals, often have a different take on certain things,. He gave O’Neill a four rating regarding professional skills and status.
“With the interaction that I’ve had with Jeff over the last year, it’s been a whole different ballgame. He’s been more involved than when I previously was on the council. I throw a lot of [issue-oriented] airplanes up in the air, and sometimes, you can’t get to all of them before they start dive-bombing on you,” Stumpf told O’Neill, adding he could not give O’Neill less than a four in that category.
Gabler, on the other hand, gave O’Neill a three. “Sometimes, I wonder if I’m reading between the lines, and I wonder if I’m getting the whole answer,” Gabler said. “I get that vibe every once in a while,’ she added.
Hilgart said in the last five years, it may have been difficult for O’Neill to attend conferences because he was dealing with FiberNet, the city-owned broadband utility.
O’Neill replied,“I probably know more about fiberoptics than any city manager in the country.”
Perrault gave O’Neill a three-and-half ranking regarding relations with the city council. Stumpf said that category was important.
“That’s one of the areas where you should be ranked the highest,” Stumpf said. “That’s because of the information that you do get to us, and its timeliness. That should be one of your highest ranking spots.
O’Neill commented that as mayor, Stumpf “works really hard” to stay involved. “He’s very careful not to overstep his authority in relation to the rest of you,” O’Neill said. “He’s the point man on a lot of questions the public will ask.”
Regarding citizen and intergovernmental relations, Hilgart and Stumpf gave O’Neill a four, and Perrault a three ranking.
During discussion, council members brought up the role social media was playing in their interactions with constituents.
“If we answer people exclusively on social media, people get the impression that’s the place they should be going for answers,” Stumpf said. “It should be contacting a department head, the city administrator, or the front desk at city hall.”
Gabler addressed her use of social media to respond to residents. “Some of our city superintendents don’t want us to be putting their names out there [all the time]. That’s not all Jeff’s fault,” she said.
O’Neill said city staff could be more aggressive on posting. “You need to keep getting out in public,” Gabler said, referring to O’Neill. “They need to see your face just as much as they need to see ours.”
Stumpf replied, “I don’t think you should be encouraging department heads to make certain decisions. “You, as the top dog out there, should be involved.”
Hilgart said the city is running on all cylinders.
“There’s the noteworthy accomplishment of passing the management baton on FiberNet [the city’s high-speed Internet utility] to Arivg. That’s made a big difference all around,” Hilgart said.
Perrault and Stumpf said they weren’t happy with the city’s animal control contract, and wanted O’Neill to review that management item next year.
“We got a lot done last year,” O’Neill said at the end of his review. “You have to give credit to the staff. We’ll get our goal-setting going in January. With the staff changes we’ve made this year, we can be more proactive, as well as reactive to things that come out of the gate.”
Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]