Is There A Problem with Unanimous Choice for Davenport City Administrator? Print
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 19 June 2001 18:00
On Monday, June 18, Davenport Mayor Phil Yerington announced that a candidate has been chosen to fill the vacant position of city administrator. Craig Malin, currently the Douglas County Administrator in northern Wisconsin, has a long list of favorable credentials responsible for a unanimous recommendation from the 14-person search committee appointed by the mayor to find the best candidate for the job. The search committee was composed of a broad range of citizens from the public and private sector, including four aldermen (Hean, Ahrens, Moritz, and Nickolas); John Stavnes—Wells Fargo Bank, Jerry Messer—Quad City Federation of Labor; Chuck Landon—Churches United; Dr. Guy Riekeman—Palmer College; Joyce Leavell—Mississippi Bend Area Education; Shirley McLemore—Iowa American Water; Julian Guiterrez—Oscar Mayer; Kent Kolwey—Acting City Administrator; and Sylvester Murray—consultant.

The search committee put out a nationwide call for applications and received 58 responses for review. Simultaneously, the committee constructed a position profile for guidance. The 58 potential candidates were then reduced to 21, who received questionnaires. Videoconference interviews occurred in seven to ten cases, which netted three finalists for the last rounds of intense review. The entire process occurred over a five-month period, with the committee meeting on weekly basis over most of that time. What shook out from this exhaustive process were three candidates, one of whom declined the public scrutiny. The other two then went through public interviews, meeting with various city department heads, community leaders, and business owners. For the final consideration, the entire 14-member committee, including the mayor, publicly interviewed both candidates utilizing a series of probing questions. (I believe a videotape of these two interviews is available through city hall for interested parties.) The committee’s unanimous, uncontested choice was Craig Malin.

Mr. Malin’s resume was impressively extensive. He was educated at various midwestern schools, including Western Illinois University, from which he graduated with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Public Administration. He continued on at the University of Illinois, from which he received his MA in Public Administration; and Webster University (Chicago), achieving his MA in Human Resources Development; and Northwestern University, from which he graduated with his MALS in Communications. Malin also attended Roosevelt University, where he received his MGS in Urban Planning & Policy.

Present duties as County Administrator include direct supervision of 23 department heads; Acting Zoning Administrator (a component to this individual’s qualifications that could potentially be a huge benefit to Davenport); direct labor relations and negotiations; management of a $150 million plus budget; budget preparation and oversight; focus on cost reductions without loss of quality of services; drafting and implementing numerous policies and procedures to improve operations; implementing “first performance evaluation and pay-for-performance programs”; participation in 100 plus public meetings annually; and a strong advocate and implementer of high-tech capability throughout county operations.

Mr. Malin notes tax rate stabilization as one of his important accomplishments as county supervisor. He also successfully reorganized multiple departments to better serve “owners” (his philosophy is that the residents and taxpayers of a community are that community’s owners, and should be served as such by the local municipalities. He has “acted upon hundreds of service opportunities (what others call complaints).”

For 10 years prior to his position as county supervisor for Douglas County, Mr. Malin was assistant manager for Vernon Hills, IL, a suburb of Chicago. His scope of duties included being responsible for all community and economic development; risk management; policy review and implementation; human resources; resident and staff omnibudsman; public information coordinator; technology support; direct responsibility for an annual $150 million community development budget; management of 120 employees; and events coordination.

Craig Malin’s resume is vibrant and actually fascinating to read. (He obviously has a sense of humor, which will prove a vital component to his survival should his appointment be approved by the city council.) Mr. Malin emphasized his ability in the areas of consensus building and financial planning as critical professional assets to be considered. (He noted in his resume supplement that his predecessor lasted only 100 days as supervisor, so his success in the position is testimony to his ability to turn organizations around for the better.) As additional affirmation of his capabilities, exemplary performance evaluations were included with his resume. Mr. Malin also provided a comprehensive listing of the myriad accomplishments, experiences, and tasks performed over his past 15-year work history. It is impressive and certainly qualifies him for the position. Among these are some key points that should specifically benefit Davenport, including implementation of a “boot camp for managers” to provide supervisors with training; kept a proposed 42% increase in property taxes from occurring without reducing services; obtained resignations of 12 employees and 3 department heads without community controversy, legal repercussions, or loss of dignity for the employees; strongly supports development of employees for promotion and/or prominent career assignments; participated in all space needs studies and oversight for all community facilities in Vernon Hills; responsible for first long-term retail market study for Vernon Hills; guided three municipal comprehensive plan updates for Vernon Hills, and is presently creating the first comprehensive land use plan for Douglas County; drafted in excess of 500 ordinances and resolutions; largely responsible for the first large scale, high quality “neo-traditional” development in the Chicago region; implemented a sexual harassment and diversity training program in Douglas County; acquired CDBG grant to revitalize original section of Vernon Hills; served as staff liaison to the Planning and Zoning Commission attending approximately 200 public hearings for development; implemented a GIS/GPS inventory of Vernon Hills parkway trees that lead to forestry plan; completed training to become licensed public access television producer and produced several shows highlighting Vernon Hills operations and events; secured Vernon Hills presence on the Web; terminated contracts for a dozen or so consultants; delivered numerous “smart growth” presentations to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri communities and civic/planning groups; developed a streetscape program for Vernon Hills; had oversight of massive capital improvement projects ($7-$8 million in Vernon Hills and $41-$43 million in Douglas County), including extensive community development at the height of development activity in Vernon Hills; monitored between $50-$80 million of developer guarantees; completed the first strategic plans for Vernon Hills and Douglas County; has never raised a property tax rate; prepared numerous bid specifications and requests for proposals; and participated in the recruitment, selection or promotion of approximately 100 employees.

The fact remains that Craig Malin appears to be eminently qualified for the position of city administrator of Davenport. He should bring a new vitality to the position, and hopefully a new and healing energy to a very diseased city government. Most important of all, he appears to have the qualities that can restore the public trust and faith in our municipal leadership—something Phil Yerington has brought to his two terms as mayor of Davenport.

Craig Malin appears to be his own man, savvy about politics (the good, the bad, and the really ugly), yet committed to the public’s interests. As a newcomer, he won’t drag all the baggage stacked throughout city hall around with him. He clearly brings with him extensive knowledge and experience from areas of the Midwest that are quickly growing and thriving. Such a person could introduce a badly needed renewed perspective and vision. His work competencies demonstrate his leadership skills and capacity for meeting and even exceeding goals—two non-negotiables when considering a new city administrator. He also has the education and pedigree for the job.

On Monday, the mayor announced that he offered Craig Malin the position, and that Mr. Malin accepted. Now it is up to the city council to approve this appointment. Four aldermen—Hean, Ahrens, Moritz, and Nickolas—unanimously voted him as their choice for the position with hearty endorsements. So what could be in the way of moving forward? The answer appears to be in the persons of various business leaders and several aldermen (you guessed it, Aldermen Sherwood and McGivern), who are lobbying to stall the approval of this candidate. The $60 million dollar question is why? None of the Mr. Malin’s detractors can exactly articulate their reservations or concerns about his candidacy. A recent QC Times article reports that both aldermen claim they have concerns over his departure from his 10-year tenure as assistant city manager for Vernon Hills, even though his performance appears exemplary if evaluations mean anything. My guess is that they fishing because they are nervous that the gentleman might actually create change. They fear he can’t be controlled, or that he may question or not fully embrace their narrow agendas.

At least the four aldermen on the committee who unanimously favored his recommendation must support the mayor and Mr. Malin with their votes of approval on July 3rd. The rest of the council will have an opportunity to meet and greet Mr. Malin to better inform themselves about the merit of Craig Malin as the committee’s unanimous choice. Let’s hope that the political fear and manipulation of the few will not stop the appointment of someone who appears to have the juice to help make Davenport great again.