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Jury's out on a replacement for Downing



FORMER ADMINISTRATOR'S LAST WORDS Geneva — The town's first administrator had much to say when it came to the question of what she accomplished on the job. Being not only a former administrator but a former Walworth County supervisor, the active, energetic Downing offered the following sound bites. Don't forget about cost-sharing: "I support communication with other municipalities and cost-sharing," Downing said. "Even if the economy wasn't in the shape that it's in right now, we should still be looking at this." Proud of her intergovernmental agreements: "Even something as small as tornado sirens with the city of Lake Geneva and the town of Linn," Downing said. "We also talked with the town of Delavan." The Highway 50 substation idea: "I'm a huge proponent of the fire substation," she said. "The town has an opportunity here and I'm just not sure people fully understand what it is. I think it's the opportunity to not have the cost to purchase land for it. Mercy's offering land on Highway 50. To build a substation there would be a huge help to the town of Geneva. It could mean better response times to Geneva National and that whole western edge of the town." The town in general: "I care about where I live," she said. "A lot of people do. It's a good community."
October 13, 2010 | 09:09 AM
Geneva — Right now, no one's on deck to replace former administrator Margaret Downing.

But if someone does replace her, it may depend on the outcome of next April's election. By then, there's the possibility the job may even have a different title.

In a Sept. 15 e-mail, Geneva Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale stated he isn't actively seeking someone to replace Downing, whose last day as administrator was Oct. 1.

"At this time, I do not have a person in mind who could fulfill her role as town administrator," Lauderdale stated.

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Apparently, the outcome of next April's town chairman race may have something to do with the future of the position.

"Because my term concludes in April of 2011, (in) six months, I have told Margaret that I will not be filling her position at this time," Lauderdale stated. "I realize the fact that I may not be in office after April of 2011 and a temporary replacement may not be as productive. I will allow for the election process to take place and, if in office for a third term, I will then seek a replacement for Margaret."

Downing, a former Walworth County supervisor and the person credited for starting the town's annual FunFestival, began the town administrator's job in January 2009.

The Geneva Town Board established the part-time job in late 2008.

Prior to that, the idea of having an administrator had been brought up at town meetings.

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During a Sept. 16 telephone interview, Downing said she retired to spend more time with her grandchildren and "on the golf course."

"I'm retiring because I've reached a point in my life where I'd like to support some of my other interests," she said. "I've been thinking about this for four or five months. I'm a person who, when I make a decision, I'm going to do it. In fact, I've already booked a trip to Russia."

Although Downing said the part-time position is needed, she's not sure the term "administrator" should be in the title.

In an Aug. 16 memo to Lauderdale, she stated she is "not certain that the town really is ready for someone with the title of administrator."

On Sept. 16, Downing offered a different suggestion.

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"The town should have a chairman's assistant," she said. "Part-time, of course. … I think it is moving more into that vain right now."

Downing said currently, there is a space problem at the Geneva Town Hall. She said the town needs a new hall also because the existing one is "crumbling."

Aside from not having adequate space for one to perform an administrator's job, Downing said another reason she suggested changing the position is some of the tasks she performed.

"Preparing reports for supervisors, things like that, are more of an assistant's task," she said.

Downing said she enjoyed the job and her work for the town.

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On Sept. 15, Lauderdale in his e-mail set the bar high for whoever replaces Downing — if someone replaces her.

"Her professionalism, confidence, enthusiasm has spread throughout the workplace (and) was a huge asset for the town. … The potential new administrator will assume great responsibility in that of filling the shoes of Margaret Downing," he stated.

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