City Hall veteran comes out of retirement
By Jared Raney
After rumors circulated for weeks about the potential for an opening in the city administrator’s office, many were surprised when that space opened practically overnight two weeks ago. At the same meeting Oborn was expected to put in his 60-day notice to the city council, it was also decided that instead of the usual transition period, he would leave city administration that same day.
Fortunately, an experienced city hall man, seasoned in the ways of city administration, has stepped up to the plate, albeit with a small amount of reluctance.
“They asked me, contacted me and said would you come in and act as an interim while we look for another city administrator,” said Phil Parkinson, newly appointed interim. “And I said I would. It took me a while, I had to think about for a while.”
Phil Parkinson worked as the city administrator/city attorney for over twenty years before switching to a part time city attorney in 2008, and retiring in December of 2013.
“It sure is nice to have him back,” said Sherrie Belliveau, City Council president. “We’re thankful he was in town and able to take the job as interim.”
Back in 2000, Parkinson was the first official city administrator, a title that was created by former Mayor Mary Kinnunen. The role had previously been folded in with the city attorney position.
“To some extent it’s kind of a déjà vu scenario, coming back here, and doing these things. It makes me appreciate how enjoyable retirement was,” Parkinson said with a laugh.
Oborn left his position as city administrator to take a similar position in Lake Geneva, and though it was no secret he was considering other opportunities, the end of his time in Rhinelander came suddenly.
The change came following several incidents of disagreement between Oborn and the City Council.
“A couple of months ago they approached me about the possibility, that if Blaine left, because he had started looking for other opportunities, and had been a finalist in one or two other opportunities before Lake Geneva.”
Parkinson was quick to note he doesn’t intend to stay long-term. Though reluctant to leave retirement, he decided the city’s need was too great to ignore.
“Who else was going to do this job?” Parkinson said. “I was familiar with it, they were familiar with me, it’s not been that long since I left as city attorney. It just probably made sense to the city that I could function in this role for a limited period of time while the city transitions to its next long-term administrator.”
To that end, Parkinson confirmed that the council is currently evaluating two consulting firms in order to find a full-time replacement. In the meantime, Parkinson is doing everything he can to keep the city on track.
“I want to keep the city operating as effectively as possible during this transition. Continue on with projects that have been started so there’s no gap or falling off. Projects that we’re looking forward to, take the necessary steps so that we’re in a position to continue with those projects even if someone else is here to finish them,” Parkinson said.
“I’m not really in a position to think of things in a grand scheme,” Parkinson said. “I’m here to try and keep the city moving forward, to get that next city administrator so they can pursue the grand schemes.”
Though there are no guarantees, Parkinson anticipates being in the position for about three months before a replacement can be found. The council will be holding interviews with the hiring firms next week.
As for Parkinson, though he’s ready to do his part, he’s also looking forward to re-retiring.
“I’m going to go back to what I was doing before,” Parkinson said. “I was hunting and fishing and enjoying my life, and I plan on getting back to hunting and fishing and enjoying my life.”
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