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Crookston City Council, mayor, offer city administrator job to Finch

Mike Christopherson
mchristopherson@crookstontimes.com
Amy Finch checks out one of the ponds in Nature's View Estates during Wednesday's community tour taken by her and the other three city administrator finalists.

After spending four hours Thursday interviewing four finalists for the City of Crookston administrator position, the Crookston City Council and Mayor Dale Stainbrook, after writing their first choice on a ballot, unanimously voted in favor of offering the position to Amy Finch, currently the city clerk in Ottawa, Kansas.

“I’m terribly impressed with her, and I think we’d be very fortunate to have her,” Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee said. “She blew me away.”

Liza Donabauer, management consultant with DDA Human Resources, Inc., said she’d be contacting Finch with the news immediately and to determine officially that Finch is interested in the offer and negotiating an employment agreement with the City of Crookston. Finch was due to catch a flight back to Kansas Thursday afternoon, Donabauer said.

Stainbrook said the council will likely schedule a closed session on Monday, Aug. 17 to discuss their salary offer to Finch. The job profile disseminated in the City’s advertising included an opening salary window of $96,000 to $124,000.

Finch has been city clerk in Ottawa for around four years. In the 2010 census, it had a population of 12,649. In the two years prior to that in Ottawa, she was assistant city clerk. Finch’s professional profile prior to her time in Ottawa includes positions as head teller, assistant bank secrecy officer and security officer for Kansas State Bank for around 10 years. 

Finch has a master’s degree in public administration from Wichita State University, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Ottawa University, Kansas. She has also received a master municipal clerk designation from the Kansas International Institute of Municipal Clerks Certificate Institute and is a Kansas Certified Public Manager (CPM).

Members of the Crookston council and the mayor didn’t put their names on their ballots. One council member put a second preference on their ballot as well, leaving the final tally as this: Five votes for Finch, three votes for Dana Schoening, and one vote each for Sally Dufner and Chase Waggoner.

‘Emerging leader’ with ‘potential’

Whether it was council member comments or public feedback offered by those who attended the finalists’ meet-and-greet Wednesday evening at the Crookston Inn – which Donabauer collected and read to the council prior to their vote for their first preference – Finch, who has two sons in the middle school to junior high age range, emerged as the finalist identified as an “emerging leader” with the most “potential” to make the changes that push Crookston toward a positive, successful future.

“I’m a big proponent of brainstorming in an environment where people feel safe and energized,” Finch said during her interview in the city hall council chambers. “Even if an idea seems crazy, I want people to be able to feed off each other. We all have a bit of expertise in our own areas and great things that we can offer.”

Besides the local media and Donabauer, the only person in attendance at the interview sessions was Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson.

Finch said she drove around Crookston when she had some time Wednesday, focusing on the Red Lake River, Crookston High School and RiverView Health, which is currently wrapping up a $50 million construction project. During her interview, she said she was checking out the community as much for herself as she was for her sons. “This would be their community, too, and their home,” she said.

Asked near the end of her interview what she likes to do for fun, Finch said she’s not an avid outdoors-person, but that she loves to walk and bought her first bike in many years when the pandemic really kicked in last March. She said she’s also an extremely avid reader. In addition to her sons, she said she has a yorkie dog.

Public feedback from Wednesday’s meet-and-greet disseminated by Donabauer included comments like these:

• “She’ll be a strong leader in the future.”

• “She’s a great money manager and strong in finance. Great communication. She’s an emerging leader.”

• “Is she the change agent Crookston needs? Maybe.”

• “She may or may not be a big picture thinker right now, but she has the most potential.”

With a few minutes left at the end of her interview and given the chance to ask her own questions of the mayor and council, Finch’s first question involved how the council and mayor would like to work better with CHEDA. Council members and the mayor stressed the importance of as much communication as possible between the two entities that rises to the level of an ongoing working relationship and continued positive collaboration. Finch said she felt she could help with that.

“I’m comfortable handling uncomfortable issues,” she added.

Ward 5 Council Member Joe Kresl said Finch asked the most questions during Wednesday’s community tour, and he was convinced she was truly interested in the answers and wasn’t just asking questions for the sake of asking questions. “She seemed the most interested in our community,” he said.

Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson said he appreciated Finch’s knowledge of state statutes and experience working with state legislators, and noted her comments on Local Government Aid in Minnesota and, especially, Crookston’s reliance on it and the need to be fiscally strong if the state ever slashes LGA funding.

Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs noted that, during Wednesday evening’s meet-and-greet, where the finalists held court at four tables socially-distanced in the ballroom, he observed that Finch’s table was full. “People were listening to her,” he said. “We want the public’s input, and I was happy to see that. And then today, she just blew me away.”

“She exceeded my expectations,” Fee added. “I’m sold.”

At Wednesday's meet-and-greet at the Crookston Inn, Amy Finch chats with, left to right, Public Works Director Pat Kelly, Ward 3 City Council Member Clayton Briggs and Steve Krueger.