Editorial: Yes, we ‘have a city administrator now,’ and she’s off to a good start

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    City of Crookston Administrator Amy Finch, who came here from Kansas last fall, last month suggested that the city council alter the way it goes about conducting strategic planning every year. Instead of camping out in a hotel conference room for an entire Saturday to talk about countless matters in a single, marathon session – which previous administrators and councils have done for several years – Finch suggested multiple shorter sessions in the evening at city hall with more focused agendas and a goal of adjourning within two hours.

    Council members liked the idea, and the first such session, with four agenda items broken into 30-minute blocks, took place last week. Amazingly, approximately 121 minutes – or, to put it another way, two hours and one minute – after convening the session, Finch did a run-through of the notes she’d taken detailing what needed to be followed up on prior to the council’s next strategic chat on March 1, she thanked everyone for coming, and everyone filed out of the council chambers.

    Nearing the end of the agenda, some council members urged Finch to engage with the leaders of the Parks and Recreation Department and, together, do their best to get a jump on a strategy for 2021 summer youth Parks and Rec programming. With everyone hoping the COVID-19 pandemic is finally starting to fade, what cannot happen this summer is a repeat of last summer, council members Kristie Jerde and Joe Kresl said as they, both parents to kids of the ages that utilize Parks & Rec programs and facilities, recalled with varying degrees of angst how basically Crookston’s entire 2020 summer Parks and Rec program and facilities were cancelled and shuttered because of the pandemic, while other towns in the area scaled back but didn’t entirely nix their summer youth programs.

    And that’s when City Attorney Charles “Corky” Reynolds, in attendance to offer input on other matters on the session’s agenda, sprung from his chair to offer the council an important reminder:

    “You have a city administrator now,” he said with emphasis, while motioning to Finch standing nearby.

    What Reynolds was getting at is that Crookston once again has a leader, a go-to person, someone whose job it is to bring people together, devise strategies and make the best decisions possible for the community, no matter how difficult those decisions are or how popular or unpopular they may be.

    When Shannon Stassen’s tenure as city administrator ended in December 2019, Finance Director Angel Weasner was asked by the council to step into an interim administrator role and she obliged...and less than three months later the pandemic brought just about everything to a screeching halt. Weasner did the best she could, and as “shutdown spring” was giving way to “surreal summer,” the decision was made to avoid as much COVID-19 risk as possible by cancelling essentially all summer youth Parks and Rec programming and closing all Parks & Rec facilities.

    It was a tough call and you can talk about hindsight all you want, but there’s no going back on it now.

    But you can look ahead, and absolutely it’s a wise move for Finch to commence with discussions right now on what the pandemic might look like come summer and the scope of 2021 Parks and Recreation youth programming in Crookston.

    Because, like Reynolds said, we have a city administrator this time around. And the thinking here is she is off to a great start. She’s a new, fresh voice who’s starting to put her stamp on some things, in a positive way.

Mike Christopherson, Crookston Times managing editor