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This could be perfect time to look at administrative options



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July 14, 2010 | 08:31 AM
With this week's departure of City Clerk Diana Dykstra, Lake Geneva has lost eight years of experience and knowledge that makes City Hall run on a daily basis.

While Dykstra gets her feet wet in her new position as administrator/clerk-treasurer in the village of Darien, city of Lake Geneva officials will be in the midst of finding a replacement to fill her shoes.

But, with loss also comes opportunity.

Any time changes happen at the Regional News, specifically in the editorial department, it gives us a chance to re-evaluate. What's working and what isn't? Could an adjustment to job duties or change of a position improve the newspaper?

That re-evaluation comes more into play when a key employee leaves a top position.

This is an opportunity to analyze and maybe make a change that couldn't be made when that person held a given position.

The city must at the least look at the possibility of making changes to its administrative structure — namely the clerk and treasurer positions.

Currently, the clerk's position is appointed and the treasurer is elected. The clerk is a salaried employee and the treasurer's hours are varied, but for most of the year, it's a part-time position.

I have long disliked and voiced my opposition to having an elected treasurer. Based on membership information of the Municipal Treasurers Association of Wisconsin, I'm not alone. Their numbers state 11 city treasurers who are part of their organization are elected, compared to 159 of their members being appointed. They have a total of 476 regular members and more than 400 of them are appointed.

The issue is the treasurer must possess certain skills to perform the job effectively and elections don't always ensure the best, most qualified person is chosen, let alone even runs for the spot.

So now, Dykstra's departure offers some options to at least discuss these positions.

According to statistics from a recent Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association survey, it appears as though more than half of the cities in the state have combined the position of clerk and treasurer. Almost none of them are elected positions.

Among the larger cities with clerk-treasurers are Cudahy, DePere, Fort Atkinson, Middleton, Muskego, Watertown and Waukesha.

These cities in Wisconsin also have deputy clerk-treasurers. Those also aren't elected positions.

This change could do a few things in the city of Lake Geneva by creating a clerk-treasurer and deputy clerk-treasurer position.

It would have to eliminate the elected part-time treasurer position, which I believe will reduce future possibilities of having an unqualified person in that position. In the past, that type of change from elected to appointed for both the treasurer and the city attorney has gone to the voters for their decision. More investigation into the procedures for a possible change would determine who makes that choice.

This change also could make it so two people at City Hall know and perform two positions relatively equally. Continuity no longer would be an issue as both share the duties. This way, the city is not reliant on one person to do so much of the work. It's also not such a problem when the clerk-treasurer leaves or is on vacation because the deputy has performed the exact tasks and is in full understanding of the jobs to be done.

Currently, Dysktra performs her own duties, while her deputy clerk is involved in some. The treasurer does her own work. As it is now, neither the clerk nor the treasurer do each others tasks. In many ways, they don't know how to do each other's work.

It could save money. Instead of having a clerk, deputy clerk, treasurer and treasurer's assistant, there would be a clerk-treasurer, deputy clerk-treasurer and maybe a part-time assistant during property tax collection.

This idea to combine isn't perfect for sure.

There may be concerns about finding people who have the skills to perform both duties. However, many municipalities in the state have the combined positions, so there must be people capable and knowledgeable to perform both duties. There are likely other problems that I'm not thinking about right now.

I suspect the city's Personnel Committee will consider every possibility as they fill this important job at City Hall.

Sometimes what appears negative can turn into an opportunity to create long lasting change.

Seiser is the editor of the Regional News.

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