By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — Members of the Wausau City Council on Tuesday approved the city’s 2018 budget, but did not approve a request by council member Romey Wagner to hire a city administrator.
Wagner told his fellow council members on Tuesday an administrator would help Mayor Rob Mielke transform from a “good” mayor to a “great” one. But Council President Lisa Rasmussen responded by saying she believes Mielke is already the mayor the city needs.
Wagner first renewed calls for a city administrator during an Oct. 24 meeting of the finance committee, when he announced his plans to ask the council to consider adding $100,000 to the budget for a city administrator to add to Mielke’s staff. Wagner said the money would be a good investment in the city, giving Mielke another advisor who would work with department heads.
In a Nov. 10 email to Wausau Pilot and Review, Wagner stated, “I will propose a $100,00.00 addition with about $30,000.00 being used to identify the job tasks and responsibilities and do the search nation wide and up to $70.000.00 for salary and benefits for the person to be found and put in place by June 1, 2018. This money would add to the tax .04 per thousand and be the best reason to raise taxes in my opinion because that person would be educated in municipality administration and reel in some of the unwise extra expenses to help reduce our taxes in the future.
“On the day of the referendum 48 percent of the voters said they approved the administrator position and I believe I am speaking for them, “Wagner wrote.
But on Wednesday, council member Pat Peckham said the administrator discussion took him by surprise. The administrator issue was not a matter listed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
“Romey had only mentioned it at committee meeting before trotting it out and asking the council to embrace an idea that only five people outside of City Hall saw coming,” Peckham wrote in a public Facebook post.
Still, Peckham wrote, the idea is worth considering if the timing was right, but noted it would not be fair to the public to approve the idea with such little notice.
In April 2015, voters in a non-binding referendum selected mayoral government on a 52 to 48 percent split, making an administrator an unlikely choice at the time. But such a plan would not need to go to referendum, since the move would add a staff member rather than replace an elected position.