NORTH MANKATO — The North Mankato City Council has approved a two-year contract with Eudora, Kan., City Administrator John Harrenstein that Harrenstein is expected to sign, the final step in the city’s seven-month effort to find a replacement for retired administrator Wendell Sande.
The contract will pay Harrenstein, who has just over three years of experience as a city administrator, more than $116,000 a year when car and cell phone allowances are included — $3,601 more annually than Sande received prior to his May retirement.
Councilman Kim Spears questioned the salary at Monday’s special meeting to approve the contract, wondering why such a young administrator should start at a base salary of $112,000 — compared to a base salary of just under $108,000 for Sande, who was city administrator for 16 years and the city’s finance director for 15 years prior to taking the top spot.
“Wendell Sande had many, many years of experience and received high accolades for his work,” Spears said. “... And now we’re hiring a relatively new and young administrator for more than $4,000 in base compensation (than Sande’s).”
Mayor Mark Dehen, who negotiated the contract after the council unanimously decided on Dec. 20 to offer Harrenstein the job, said the contract reflects the marketplace for talented young administrators rather than a comparison between Harrenstein and Sande.
“We’re not hiring him in competition with Wendell,” Dehen said. “We’re hiring him in competition with what’s out there, available for city managers in the marketplace today. There are a number of city managers of Wendell’s age group that are now retiring. So we’re in competition with those other communities. And so that’s the marketplace we’re up against.”
Dehen also noted that the city will be getting two or three more weeks of work from Harrenstein each year because he will have earned less vacation time than Sande had. And the mayor said Harrenstein’s salary is comparable to that being paid to city and county managers in 28 other Minnesota communities with similar populations.