By Katie Dahlstrom
Clinton city hall filled with applause Tuesday night as the Clinton City Council approved Jessica Kinser as the permanent city administrator.
The council unanimously approved a contract with Kinser, causing the department heads and community members who attended the City Council meeting to share their excitement for Kinser to ascend from the interim city administrator role she has held for the past six months.
In January, council members selected Kinser, who has been the finance director since October 2011, to fill the role of interim city administrator after former city administrator Jeff Horne resigned in November of last year.
“I’m happy. I’m relieved to get to this point and I’m excited to start working on all the things we’ve been talking about accomplishing,” Kinser told the Herald following the meeting.
Earlier this year, the City Council opted to have human resource consultant Paul Greufe lead a committee of community members in finding the next city administrator. The committee then selected Kinser and Ben Benson, the assistant city manager for Joliet, Ill., out of a pool of 24 candidates. The two finalists underwent an intensive interview process with community and business leaders in late May.
During the committee of the whole meeting on June 11 council members directed Greufe to negotiate an employment contract with Kinser. The contract language reads it was in full force once approved by council members Tuesday night.
Under the approved contract, Kinser’s annual salary will be $106,500 for the first 90 days in her role as city administrator and will increase to $107,500 after that 90-day period. Upon completion of a successful review annually, she will receive an additional $2,500 or an equal percentage given to non-union city employees, whichever is greater.
Mayor Mark Vulich questioned the part of Kinser’s contract stating the council would review Kinser, when under city ordinance it states the city administrator is responsible to the mayor and the council.
City Attorney Jeff Farwell told Vulich the contract specifically states the council will be involved in performance evaluations because the hiring and firing of a city administrator is strictly up to the council.
The approved contract also stipulates she will receive three months of severance pay if she is terminated while being willing and able to perform her duties or if the City Council suggests she resign. However, this stipulation might be increased in the future, council members indicated Tuesday.
At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf pointed out the previous city administrators have received six-month severance packages. Graf asked if the contract could be revised to six months, given the history of the previous contracts.
Farwell explained the ordinance dictating the benefit states the city administrator would receive three months, but it did not state if that was three months minimum or maximum. He suggested if council members wanted to increase the amount of severance pay, they should revise the ordinance to specify three months as the minimum.
Kinser said of the many items the city must address, she is most eager to establish a strategic plan.
“The strategic planning process is something I’m really ready to start because it’s not just a council or city administrator process, it should be a public process. I’m ready to get that going and get the community involved.”
As city administrator, Kinser will be responsible for hiring her replacement for finance director. Until one can be hired, she will serve as both.
“I’m going to brush off that job description and get that job posted as soon as possible,” Kinser said.