Some EDA members would have liked to weigh in on hiring

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
The three citizen members of the seven-member Elk River Economic Development Authority (EDA) didn’t have any input into the hiring of the city’s new director of economic development, and they aren’t particularly happy about it.
The Elk River City Council had promoted Annie Deckert to the position May 16 without interviewing anyone. Deckert had been the city’s marketing and business development administrator. She replaced Cathy Mehelich, who left for a job in St. Cloud.
While the three citizen members of the EDA made it very clear that they support Deckert wholeheartedly, they took issue with the process during the Monday, June 13, EDA meeting.
The EDA is made up of citizens Pat Dwyer, Dan Tveite and Ron Touchette, who is the EDA president. The EDA also includes council members Paul Motin, Jerry Gumphrey, Nick Zerwas and Matt Westgaard.
Dwyer has been on the EDA for nearly 20 years, and said the EDA board has always been involved in the selection of the economic development director. He said he’s disappointed that the city council chose not to consult with any non-council members on the EDA regarding the director selection process or the selection itself.
“I would hope that in the future that the council would take more steps to communicate with its boards about major decisions like this,” Dwyer said.
Zerwas said the process of promoting Deckert was certainly quick. She was the one qualified internal candidate and, with a number of department head positions vacant, he saw promoting her as a way for the city to hit the ground running in filling a job that is vital.
Tveite is “100 percent supportive” of having Deckert in the job, but said it would have been a professional courtesy for the council to call one of the non-council members on the EDA.
Touchette called Deckert “an absolutely superb choice” for the position. While he understands the council seized an opportunity in promoting her and likes that the council did so, he believes the process could probably have been better.
“It did kind of leave the other people in the dust that were not on the council,” Touchette said.
Westgaard apologized to the non-council members on the EDA, saying: “We should have consulted.”
Motin said the EDA has been involved in the interview process in the past, but the hiring has been done by the council.
There also was some question as to what the EDA’s role should be in hiring Deckert’s assistant.
City Attorney Peter Beck will review the EDA bylaws on the matter of staffing and the process.
In a related matter, the EDA recommended that the council change Deckert’s new title from economic development manager to director of economic development. “In this case, titles are important,” Dwyer said.
When the city council met later that night, it agreed to change Deckert’s title to director of economic development.

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