The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 15, 2014

Harrenstein praised in first-year review

New administrator had early challenges

By Dan Linehan dlinehan@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — NORTH MANKATO — Calling itself “pleased and grateful” with his work during a challenging first year, the North Mankato City Council praised City Administrator John Harrenstein in his first performance review.

A 2 percent raise has been recommended.

In his first week as city administrator, in March 2013, Harrenstein faced a credit downgrade for the city from Moody’s Corporation.

Harrenstein’s fast action mitigated the damage that could have been caused, said Councilman Kim Spears, who wrote the summary review with Mayor Mark Dehen. All five councilors rated Harrenstein, while Dehen and Spears wrote the review because they’re on the personnel committee.

The review said Harrenstein has been proactive in developing city-owned land in the industrial park and Marigold property on Belgrade Avenue.

It also praised his guidance in the selection of a new waste hauler and the city’s selection of a plan to replenish reserve funds.

The council asked Harrenstein to work with staff to plan the city’s strategic direction and begin succession planning in departments with retirements planned over the next five years.

Spears said fiscal expertise is Harrenstein’s biggest strength.

“We wanted somebody who was strong fiscally,” he said. “I think that’s what we got.”

The summary of his review doesn’t include areas in which Harrenstein could improve, but after being asked, Spears suggested he has a certain sharpness of temperament.

“Being a young man, he does have a little bit of an edge to him,” Spears said, though he hesitated to label that a deficiency. “You do have to have an edge if you’re going to command the authority you need to do the job.”

Overall, Spears is happy with the administrator.

“I personally am very pleased that we have John Harrenstein as our city administrator,” Spears said. “I think he’s one of the best things that’s happened to our city in a long time.”

The council may discuss a potential raise for Harrenstein during the Monday meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. If he receives a 2 percent raise, his base salary would rise to $114,240.