Council may vote on the matter again in two weeks, after Weasner discusses options with consulting firm.

As the Crookston City Council this week established a revised, extended calendar relating to the search for a new City of Crookston administrator – finalists will be selected on July 21 in advance of interviews and public meet-and-greets Aug. 12-13 – the council fell one vote short of increasing the starting salary in the hope of attracting a wider, deeper pool of qualified applicants.

Instead, the council directed Interim City Administrator Angel Weasner to consult further with the firm the City has retained to lead the search on ways to, for lack of a better phrase, sweeten the pot for potential job candidates. It’s possible those discussions could result in the council voting again on a higher starting salary when they next meet on May 11.

Currently, the starting salary in the position description is $96,000. In the initial round of publicizing the position, the consulting firm, David Drown Associates, reported that only 11 people applied. Not only was that number less than hoped, the firm recommended that none of the 11 be sought for interviews. So the calendar was extended well into the summer, in the hope that maybe potential applicants would be more apt to officially throw their hat in the ring if some of the uncertainty involving the COVID-19 pandemic has given way to more clarity. Weasner previously said, and Mayor Dale Stainbrook reiterated this week, that many people who in normal circumstances might be interested in pursuing a job like the city administrator in Crookston are hesitant to do so, given the complications that come with switching jobs, uprooting homes and families, and starting over with new health insurance and other benefits in the midst of a virus pandemic. The consulting firm reported that Crookston is not alone in its struggles to lure a deep applicant pool to fill an administrator vacancy.

Stainbrook was first to suggest this week that the minimum starting salary be increased to $115,000. Some council members, like Ward 1’s Jake Fee, agreed. “It’s a very important position, one that we should be willing to pay for,” he said. 

Other council members, like At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten, were less supportive of a starting salary jump that significant. Vedbraaten said he wouldn’t be in favor of anything higher than $100,000.

Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier made the motion to boost the minimum starting salary to $115,000. Fee voted in favor, as did Ward 6 Council Member Dylane Klatt. Since it was a Ways and Means Committee meeting, Stainbrook was allowed to vote as well, and he voted in favor. Voting against were Vedbraaten, At Large Council Member Bobby Baird, Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs, Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson, and Ward 5 Council Member Joe Kresl.