Craig Clark offered city admin job

The Austin City Council voted Saturday to offer its vacant city administrator position to Craig Clark, currently the city administrator of Worthington. Jason Schoonover/ jason.schoonover@austindailyherald.com

The Austin City Council voted Saturday to offer its vacant city administrator position to Craig Clark, currently the city administrator of Worthington. Jason Schoonover/
jason.schoonover@austindailyherald.com

After 10 months without a city administrator, the Austin City Council finally found its candidate on Saturday.

The council voted 5-1, with Jeff Austin voting no and Michael Jordal abstaining, to offer the vacant city administrator position to Craig Clark, the city administrator in Worthington.

“I think he kind of plugged into the system,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. “He knows a lot about Minnesota.”

Clark was pleased with the city’s offer.

“It’s a great endorsement, and I’m very appreciative of the council’s confidence in me,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Stiehm and council members noted Worthington is a similar community to Austin. Both cities are along Interstate 90, both have meat packing plants and both are diverse communities. Clark was excited about the opportunities of coming to a larger city — Austin’s population is 24,763, while Worthington’s is 12,943, according 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. He’s also pleased to work with community betterment group Vision 2020.

“I’ve never shied away from a challenge,” he said. “The opportunity the city has before it with Vision 2020 is what’s exciting about the position.”

Council members Judy Enright and Janet Anderson said city staff were impressed with Clark. Both spoke highly of Clark and the skills he brings to the table. Both were pleased with his experience with Worthington’s economic development efforts in recent years.

“He’s done some strong things with economic development, which was something we were looking for,” Anderson said.

Anderson noted Clark has a strong working relationship with state agencies.

The council fired former administrator Jim Hurm last December. After several months of searching, the council brought four candidates — Kandis Hanson, Andrew Morris, Pat Oman and Steve Wilke — to Austin on Sept. 19 and 20 for interviews, but the council could not reach a consensus on a candidate. On Sept. 25, the council decided to bring in two additional candidates for interviews. One was Clark, but the second additional candidate declined to be interviewed. Before Clark was offered the job Saturday, Hanson and Wilke were still in contention.

Next, Clark will begin contract negotiations with City Attorney David Hoversten and Human Resources Director Trish Weichmann.

The offer isn’t necessarily a guarantee Clark is headed for Austin. Clarke, in Worthington since December of 2008, turned down an offer to become the city administrator in West St. Paul in 2012 after he and the city couldn’t reach a contract agreement.

However, council members and Clark were hopeful he and the city could reach an agreement.

“If we can reach an agreement on a contract, I’ll be making my way to Austin,” Clark said.

The council previously announced plans to offer the new city administrator a contract of $120,000 to $130,000 a year.

Clark and his wife, Anita, have two sons and a daughter: Garrett, 10; Peyton, 8; and Emma, 6. If he and the city reach an agreement, Clark noted it’d be at least a month before he started in Austin.

Clark visited Austin for interviews on Friday and Saturday, and he got the chance to tour the city he could soon help lead.

“It was just exciting,” he said. “Austin has a lot to be proud of.”

Clark, an Iowa native, earned his bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista College in Iowa with a double major in political science and history. He earned his master’s degree in public administration from Hamline University. Clark previously served as city administrator in Clayton, Wisconsin, and held staff positions in the state House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives.

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