Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
Steve Shute, mayor, said he would make a recommendation to the Gardner City Council on the next city administrator during a meeting to be held on March 18.
Speaking to Gardner News during a reception for the three finalists March 11, Shute said that he alone would make the decision on who he thought would be the best candidate to replace Cheryl Harrison-Lee, former city admionistrator.
“I will be making a recommendation to the council on Monday. Who I recommend will be my decision alone. It will be up to them to accept it or reject it,” he said.
About 50 Gardner residents and community leaders met the three finalists to the city’s administrator position during a meet and greet reception at city hall.
During the reception the candidates introduced themselves and gave brief remarks before meeting one-on-one with council members during a special council meeting. The special meeting was in executive session and closed to the public; information prior to the meeting indicated no action would be taken.
The candidates are Nicholas Edwards who is currently an assistant city manager in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Jim Pruetting, Gardner police chief and Brian Wilson, the Village Administrator in Bellevile, Wisc.
Both Edwards and Wilson are members of International City Managers Association (ICMA).
Shute told Gardner News that he was pleased with the recruitment process.
“I think the process went exactly as it was expected to go,” he said.
Lee Moore, council president, said the process was thorough and the interviews went well.
“We got a good turnout and the interviews went very well. I think we got the best,” Moore said.
Wilson said that he believed Gardner was a welcoming community, and it has a great Midwestern feel to it.
“It’s just like home,” he said referring to Wisconsin.
Edwards said the people in Gardner were amazing, and the city has great potential.
Pruetting said Gardner is an incredible city, and the people are great.
“It has been an honor to serve the people here,” he said.
Several community members told Gardner News that they hoped the process would be fair.
“I hope they don’t have a preconceived outcome in mind as they go through this final stage of selecting the administrator,” a resident told Gardner News on condition of anonymity.
Another resident said he hoped the event and the process was not all for show.
“I don’t know whether all this is for show and they already have a candidate in mind. That would be terrible” he said.
Edwards has worked for Lee’s Summit for more than eight years, according to his social media. He is currently assistant city manager. Prior to that his positions included: director of administration; assistant to city manager, management analyst and public works management analyst. Edwards has a Masters in Public Administration from Missouri State University and his field of study was local government. He also has a bachelor’s degree in political socience and government from Missouri Southern State University.
Pruetting serves as chief of police for Gardner. Prior to being named Gardner Police Chief in Feb. 2015, Pruetting worked for 31 years in the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department. His background includes operational and budget management, policy development and improvement, labor relations,  strategic planning as well as training and development. He has a Masters of Science / Management from Baker University, according to his social media.
Wilson has a MSA degree from Southeast Missouri State University; and a bachelor’s of science in the field of criminal justice. He is an ICMA Credentialed Manager by the International City/County Management Association. He is administrator and statutory clerk and treasurer for a village of 2,401 people located in close proximity to Madison, Wisc. He answers to a village president and six board members elected on a non-partisan basis. Wilson manages a $5.5 million total budget with 17 full-time and nine part-time and seasonal employees, according to his social media.
The League of Kansas Municipalities posted the city administrator position on numerous professional sites. The selection committee consisted of the mayor, city council president and vice president, three citizens (one selected by each of the remaining council members), Gardner Edgerton chamber board representative, Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation representative, USD 231 school board representative, Johnson County Fire District No. 1 representative, and Laura Gourley, interim city administrator.
Cheryl Harrison-Lee, former city administrator resigned last fall and received a more than $300,000 pay out from the city.