Corbin H. Crable
For Edgerton’s new interim city administrator service to area residents isn’t just a job – it’s a career.
Mike Press, who took the reins from former City Administrator David Dillner on Feb. 7, has an extensive background in management at the county level. Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts, in fact, cited it as one of the deciding factors in hiring Press last month.
“I have a background of 10-plus years as Johnson County manager,” said Press, who had served in that capacity for a decade since leaving to serve as a consultant for the city of Edgerton last fall. “I have a familiarity with how counties operate.
“I’ve worked for the county my entire professional life,” he added, noting that he worked for nearly 20 years as director of the county’s Med-Act program.
Now, he’s drawing upon that experience in familiarizing himself with the basic operations at city hall.
“Right now, I’m taking inventory of how things operate here and the processes the city has in place for its day-to-day operations,” Press said.
Press said Roberts has asked him for a commitment of three to six months as interim city administrator. During that time, Roberts said, the city plans to hire a firm to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent city administrator.
Press said he fully realizes that although he will serve in the city administrator capacity for only a short time, he must work closely with the city, county, BNSF and the Allen Group as the intermodal facility and logistics park continues to take shape.
“I think the city is going to stand to benefit tremendously from having this major economic development project here,” Press said. “The opportunity for growth and development is there. And the ability to improve the infrastructure of the city, bringing it up to date, is important, because you have to have solid infrastructure if you want a community to be stable. ”
Press said the coming ancillary business and residential growth will eventually lead to the stronger infrastructure necessary to sustain a massive project like the intermodal.
“Certainly, the increased revenues from new buildings and tenants paying taxes are going to be important assets to help the city reinvest in areas such as wastewater and roads,” he said.
Some local residents, though, have publicly told the Edgerton City Council that the infrastructure development can’t come soon enough. One resident, at a council meeting last year, stood before the governing body and suggested that the city take the salary being paid to Dillner and instead use it to fix the city’s roads. Edgerton, he argued, doesn’t need a city administrator – the city got along fine without one before the arrival of Dillner, the city’s very first city administrator.
Press said he respectfully disagrees with that resident’s opinion, saying now that the intermodal will become a reality and the city is poised to see the largest growth in its history, a city administrator is indeed needed.
Besides, he said, the council isn’t in charge of the city’s day-to-day operations – that’s his job, and it’s one that will take up every moment of his time during the day.
“The governing body is part-time,” he noted. “Most if not all of them have full-time employment, so they can’t pay attention to the day-to-day operations of the city. There are decisions that must be made in a timely fashion, and they can’t wait until the next council meeting.
“I think their job is primarily policy-making, and that helps determine the future of the city,” Press continued. “The city administrator’s job is not to create policy, but to carry it out, provide professional support and ensure the council members have adequate information by which to make a sound decision.”
Besides, Press said, the city administrator’s job is to communicate with residents to ensure they, too, are well-informed on the city and its happenings.
“It’s truly important to have someone who is there to respond to concerns or answer questions,” he said, “to supervise city staff and ensure the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth out of our workforce.”