Council backs 6-month extension for interim city administrator
Keith Kost to also receive city health insurance after Jan. 1
BY KEVIN BONESKE
After indicating he didn’t want to stay in the position indefinitely, Keith Kost received the Rhinelander City Council’s backing at a special meeting Monday to continue as the interim city administrator until June 30 of next year.
The council’s 7-1 vote, for which alderman Tom Gleason was the lone dissenter, calls for extending Kost’s contract by six months and also providing him health insurance through the city. Gleason objected to the contract being modified to add insurance coverage for Kost, who previously only received a salary for working part-time.
Based on an annual salary of $51,000, the extension would pay Kost $25,500 over six months plus insurance benefits totaling $6,500 for a total cost of $32,000. Council members agreed to approve the finalized contact at their next meeting Nov. 13.
Kost, a retired attorney, has held the city administrator’s position on a part-time basis since February. Prior to Kost’s hiring, the city had been without an administrator for more than five months after council members voted 6-2 on Aug. 29, 2016, to terminate the contract of the city’s last full-time administrator, Kristina Aschenbrenner, who had been in the position for not quite a year and received an annual salary of $85,000.
Kost said the proposed 2018 city budget includes money to be able to hire a full-time administrator.
The council’s discussion about the future of the city administrator position included how to go about replacing Kost. For instance, council president George Kirby suggested forming a committee or obtaining the services of a firm to hire a full-time city administrator, but that didn’t end up being part of the motion approved in favor of extending Kost’s contract.
Kost’s contract was set to expire at the end of this year. By extending it six months, city attorney Carrie Miljevich said that gives the city more time to discuss its options on how to fill the city administrator’s position in the future, “including full- versus part-time, and including who to use as a recruitment agency, if any.”
Miljevich, Mayor Dick Johns and some council members expressed concerns about the difficulty of being able to hire someone as a full-time city administrator in the middle of winter and having that person relocate to Rhinelander, compared to having a new administrator start in the summer. However, no formal action was taken at Monday’s meeting on the process to hire the next city administrator.
Alderman Mark Pelletier, who chairs the city’s Finance, Wage and Salary Committee, said the city would need a full-time city administrator if Kost wouldn’t currently be in the position on an interim basis.
DEFINING MAYORAL DUTIES
Council members also discussed what the mayor’s job duties should be and passed a motion in favor of putting together the wording to define those duties by state statute and city code before Dec. 1, when candidates running for mayor next spring will be able to begin circulating nomination papers. Seven of the eight council members approved the motion. Alderman Alex Young, who has already declared his candidacy for mayor, abstained from voting.
Though much of the discussion made reference to a “new mayor’ taking office next year, Johns has yet to publicly announce whether or not he will seek another four-year term.
The race for mayor also already includes Chris Frederickson, a respiratory therapist at St. Mary’s Hospital and youth sports coach in the Rhinelander area, who has declared his candidacy as well.