With Tom Lindo's departure last week after being on the job for nearly seven years, the City of Crookston is currently without an information technology director and could be for quite some time if more qualified candidates don't apply. A decade or so ago, this wouldn't have been a huge problem for the city. With most services and functions of local government relying heavily on increasingly advanced technology, however, there is a sense of urgency in filling the position.
But how can this be done, given that City Administrator Tony Chladek informed council members earlier this week that only five people had turned in their applications by the deadline, none of whom were even considered for interviews due to their lack of skills and/or qualifications? The direction some council members at the Ways & Means Committee gave Chladek to reopen the application window – this time around keeping it open until filling the position from a better candidate pool – is a start. It is possible, after all, that the previous window, which coincided with the busy holiday season and end/start of the business year, was too brief and the timing of it just wrong for some IT folks who are considering a job change. Tweaking the minimum requirements, including removing the bachelor's degree component as suggested by Council Member Tom Jorgens, might also bring forth qualified people who have more hands-on experience and expertise but lack a formal degree in the area.
Until the position is filled, though, the city must deal with the problems that inevitably come up with technology. The more tech-savvy staff on hand might be able to smooth out minor glitches, although this would detract from their regular duties. Bigger, more complicated problems would likely require calls to IT services, vendors or whomever can be found to fix them in a timely manner. Whatever needs to be done will involve a hefty price tag.
While the absence of a current IT director makes this difficult right now, one option the city would be wise to consider in the future is employing U of M, Crookston students/interns to fill some of the technology gaps. They could do things like hook up equipment, troubleshoot certain problems and perform system tests to help keep everything running smoothly for the city and free up the IT director to concentrate on more pressing matters. It's a win-win for all: Students gain valuable hands-on experience and the city gets an extra helping hand in the IT department at a much-reduced cost.
Not settling for a lackluster, under-qualified candidate to fill the IT director vacancy was a smart decision on the city's part. Having the wrong person doing the job is just as bad, if not worse, as having no one doing it. For now, the city can only sit back and wait for more applicants to come, and hope it doesn't take months to get someone on board.
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