Wilson plans to retire sooner than originally anticipated
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
The City of Burlington began its search for a new public works director in earnest this week after learning Connie Wilson will retire from the position four months earlier than anticipated.
Wilson, 61, who originally planned to retire at the end of the year will instead leave in September due to “some family issues” she declined to discuss further.
That decision had Mayor Bob Miller scrambling to begin the search for Wilson’s replacement.
“The council was aware she was leaving Jan. 1, but in order to get this thing going, I had to go ahead without the council,” Miller said of his decision to launch the search without going through the month-long process of approval through the Common Council.
The city has contracted with the public management and consulting firm of Voorhees and Associates of Illinois to conduct the search. The firm is familiar with the city, having conducted the search processes that resulted in the hiring of City Administrator Kevin Lahner and Police Chief Peter Nimmer.
“They’re familiar with the city, its expectations and goals,” Miller said.
The ideal candidate
The mayor said his ideal candidate is an up-and-coming public works professional who has the expertise to run the city’s water and wastewater department as well as the administrative experience to oversee the streets and parks departments.
Finding someone who fits in well with the city’s current administrative team is key, he said.
“The city has come too far in the last few years to stagnate,” Miller said. “We’re looking for someone energetic – anxious to do the job and do it right. We’re looking for someone to help us keep moving forward.
“To lose that momentum would be a big mistake,” he added.
According to a recruitment schedule provided to the city this week, Voorhees plans to prepare materials and place advertising for the position this week. On Aug. 13 the firm will begin combing its own databases for potential candidates and approach qualified people to gauge their interest.
The deadline for accepting resumes is Sept. 7 with Voorhees taking several weeks to review the applicants before presenting a list of candidates to the city on Sept. 28. The firm will assist the city in the candidate interview process beginning Oct. 1 and plans to transition into the final assessments and decision the week of Oct. 8.
The starting salary for the position, which oversees 26 employees and a $6.4 million budget, is $71,500.
While he said his only regret was failing to convince Wilson to stay longer, Miller also said he is concerned that the transition comes at a time when the city’s wastewater treatment plant is about to undergo a $7.2 million renovation.
“That’s the biggest challenge we’re going to have,” he said.
However, both Miller and Wilson said they are confident that the current staff at what’s officially known as the Water Pollution Control Facility will handle plant upgrades and the transition.
“It think it will be a very smooth transition,” Wilson said. “We’ve got good people in place.”
Miller agreed: “Under her leaderships they’re prepared to keep things running until her replacement is found.
A long tenure
In her 30 years with the city, Wilson has held several positions of leadership including the last two as the public works director. She was hired by the city in 1974 and worked as lab supervisor in the treatment plant until 1985.
After working elsewhere for seven years, Wilson returned in 1993 as wastewater superintendent and later became utility superintendent overseeing water and wastewater departments. In 2010 she was named to oversee all of the city’s public works.
When asked what her greatest accomplishments were, Wilson didn’t hesitate to mention the revenue-producing private waste treatment program and the 17-year stretch the city went without a water rate increase.
Under Wilson’s direction, the treatment plant used excess capacity to accept wastewater from private haulers.
“We grew (the revenue from) it to $500,000 a year,” she said, noting the money was used to keep rates low and save customers money.
Wilson said her immediate plans for retirement are to travel and visit her children “who live in some interesting places.”
She also plans to volunteer, particularly at the local senior center.
“Burlington has been my home and will continue to be,” she said.