Friday, December 9th, 2016

Luther leaving for Peoria

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Bad news for the city of Waukesha, but not unexpected. Waukesha Patch is reporting City Administrator Lori Luther is moving to Illinois to become the County Administrator.

Becoming the Peoria County administrator is a step up for Luther, who will be overseeing a budget of $110 million and 27 department heads. The county has a population of 186,494. Waukesha’s budget for 2011 was $57.94 million.

Peoria County is located about four hours southwest of Waukesha. The population has increased slowly in the last decade, growing 1.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the last census data. The median household income in Peoria County is $47,330.

In comparison, the city of Waukesha’s population is 67,814 people and has grown 4 percent between 2000 and 2010. The median household income is $50,084.

I spoke with city of Waukesha Council President Paul Ybarra. He said Peoria is expected to vote on Luther’s contract tomorrow (confirmed by another source) and Luther could be gone in about a month. Ybarra said his first call will be to the city attorney in the morning to determine the procedure for finding a new city administrator.

While the process may be somewhat unclear, what is clear is that the council will have to approve any candidate for the position nominated by the mayor and the next city administrator’s contract. The council does not have to accept one of the mayor’s “smart people” just because the candidate is the personal preference of the mayor.

What will be interesting is how much the council will be involved in the search process.

When former city administrator Jim Payne left, Mayor Larry Nelson suggested and the council approved a professional search agency to look for candidates and to assist in the process. Given the mayor’s lack of professional skills, I would strongly suggest the council insist on this. The money spent on a search company could be a big saving compared to how much could be spent if Scrima asks an applicant the wrong question.

When Payne left, a search committee was formed consisting of the mayor, the council president, and the chairmen of each of the standing committees. If the search committee is formed with the same people today, that would be Scrima, Alderman Paul Ybarra, Alderman Joe Pieper, Alderman Joan Francoeur, and Alderman Steve Johnson. (Update! 7/5/11 6:32 PM I forgot to include Alderman Eric Payne.)

Luther had the unanimous support of the common council members on the search committee at the time she was hired.

Her new employers in Peoria do not seem too concerned with her conflict with Mayor Jeff Scrima. Peoria council member Stephen Morris said, “If we had learned that her board was after her, maybe it would’ve been a different story.”

The Peoria Journal Star reports Luther will make $145,000 per year. She is currently making $115,000 per year in Waukesha. In addition, Luther will receive a car allowance, a relocation package, and a budget for travelling to conferences.

The Journal Star also reports that one of the reasons they wanted Luther as their county administrator was because of the likelihood she would stay in the position long term. A source close to Luther told me Tuesday night that it had always been Luther’s intention to stay in Waukesha for the long term, but the current situation with the mayor caused her to search elsewhere. Or as another alderman said Tuesday, if Scrima wasn’t the mayor, he questioned whether Luther would even have applied for the position.

One of the challenges facing the council in the weeks ahead, what will be the quality of the applicants who would want to replace Luther while Scrima is the mayor? The other challenge, who was leaking to Waukesha Patch the details of this job search in Patch’s comments section, and will that breach of confidentiality also deter potential candidates for the job?

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