The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

June 12, 2013

Council commits to Jessica Kinser

By Charlene Bielema Herald Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Citing her educational experience and time on the job, Clinton City Council members have selected interim city administrator Jessica Kinser as their pick to fill the position permanently.

The council in its Committee of the Whole session Tuesday night voted 6-0 to authorize human resources consultant Paul Greufe to begin negotiating with Kinser to reach an acceptable employment contract for the position.

In a discussion that took place entirely in open session, council members one by one explained who would be his or her selection and why.

Six council members were in attendance, with five -- At Large Councilmen John Rowland, Jennifer Graf and Charlie Mulholland, Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann and Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee, who participated via conference telephone call -- initially stating that Kinser was their pick.

They cited her educational background in public administration and finance as well as her performance with the city of Clinton for the past 18 months as the reasons behind their selections.

Allesee described Kinser as unflappable, both during the interview process and on the job.

“She has an answer to every question we’ve had,” she said of Kinser’s performance.

The sixth member, Ward 1 councilwoman Maggie Klaes, said she was hoping the council would think outside the box. Klaes, the first council member to commit to a candidate during the session, said she would choose candidate Ben Benson, citing his experience as assistant city manager in Joliet, Ill.

When asked for his opinion, Mayor Mark Vulich said he had been told by a councilman that he has no vote on the matter, leading Vulich to say that he would not state his opinion during the meeting. Klaes, however, at one point indicated she believed Kinser didn’t respect the position of mayor, which quickly led other council members to remind her that the session was open contingent on keeping the conversation away from discussion that could be damaging to either candidate’s reputation or that addressed confidential matters.

Rowland made the motion to choose Kinser, with Graf seconding the motion.

When it came time for a vote, Klaes joined her fellow council members in supporting Kinser. Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman was absent from the meeting.

Kinser would replace former City Administrator Jeff Horne, who resigned in November. She has served as interim city administrator since January.

A community- and business-based committee played a major role in the selection process, which began with 24 applicants who were narrowed to a field of 17, then down to Kinser and Benson. The two finalists underwent an intensive interview process in late May.

Rowland pointed out that it cost $2,500 to test each candidate and that both did very well in the testing and were qualified to fill the position.

Graf also was impressed with both candidates, whom she described as top-notch, saying the committee did a great job with its research of the applicants.

“They were willing to take a chance on us. We’re kind of broken right now,” she said of the two candidates’ decision to pursue the Clinton position.

The city’s financial situation is what ultimately led her to choose Kinser.

“We need someone who can hit the ground running right now,” she said.

Hermann agreed Kinser best fits the community’s needs at this time.

“Jessica is not hesitant about confronting the council when we make a mistake,” she said. “She is proactive and works well with the council.”