Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

Johnson leaving De Soto for Wisconsin job

Resigning three-year city administrator praised for overhaul of city budget, finances

August 18, 2005

De Soto City Administrator Greg Johnson announced Tuesday he would be leaving his position with the city to take a job in his native Wisconsin.

"It was nothing planned," Johnson said. "It was just an opportunity that came along. It was a difficult decision, and one I hope I won't have to make again soon."

The 30-year-old Johnson's resignation will be effective Sept. 16, almost three years to the day after he started with the city. Johnson said he would return to his native state to work for Ehlers & Associates of Brookfield, Wis., advising cities in the state on matters of debt issuance, economic development and long-term financial planning. He was hired for the De Soto position after serving as town administrator of Rib Mountain, Wis.

Johnson emphasized he was leaving because of the opportunity and not any disenchantment with political leadership.

That was borne out by De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson and city council members reached Tuesday, who expressed regret over Johnson's resignation.

"We've been on a straight upward trajectory since he came here," Anderson said. "Besides being a very good administrator, he's been a confidant to me. He's someone who can handle city affairs and make the job of being mayor and city councilman an easier one."

Anderson pointed to the list of accomplishments under Johnson's tenure. During that time, the city council has updated the city's comprehensive plan, completed a sewer master study and is moving toward the start of construction of a new sewer to be completed early in 2007. In addition, the council put a successful bond referendum before voters that is paying for the pool now under construction behind City Hall, and started a water master plan that will give the council direction on the Sunflower water plant.

"I'd like to think credit goes to council and staff," he said of the last three years' list of accomplishments. "I just feel everybody's focus was just a bit more long term. Certainly, I hope I had a hand in that process."

One area Johnson earned unanimous praise was his reorganization of city finances. His first six months on the job were spent unraveling the city's financial books. During that time, he tracked revenue sources so they could be clearly linked to city departments or debt service accounts.

The result, De Soto City Council members agreed, was their first clear understanding of how city money was being spent.

"I'm disappointed, but I certainly understand," said Councilwoman Linda Zindler. "When we hired him three years ago, his strengths matched the city's weaknesses. So it was such a perfect fit.

"If he's going to be a financial advisor for cities, that just proves his strength."

Councilwoman Betty Cannon shared Zindler's praise of Johnson.

"I hate to see him go," she said. "He brought us a long ways in our understanding of the budget. He has broken everything down so we can see where everything goes.

"He had his job cut out for him when he came. I think the next one will have it a little easier because he will have a budget with everything broken down."

His work at De Soto didn't go unnoticed, Councilwoman Mitra Templin said.

"Word gets around when you do a good job," she said.

Johnson said he would be available through e-mails and the telephone for assistance after his departure.

Anderson said the city would hire an interim city administrator from a list Johnson developed. That would give the city time to do a thorough search such as the one that led to Johnson's hiring, he said.

"My hope is to have someone on board the first quarter of next year," the mayor said. "He (Johnson) raised the bar to make the position in De Soto quite interesting once word gets out it is available."

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