MOORHEAD – Christina Volkers, who has extensive experience managing court operations in Minnesota and California, has been picked as the city’s new city manager.
Council members interviewed Volkers and Larry Kruse, former city administrator in Willmar, Minn., Friday, Dec. 16, before choosing Volkers, who recently held the job of court executive officer, clerk of court and jury commissioner for San Bernardino (Calif.) Superior Court.
Regarding her recent court position in San Bernardino, Volkers was placed on administrative leave from that job in April, according to stories published online by the San Bernardino Sun. A court spokesman at the time would not say why Volkers was placed on administrative leave, stating it was a personnel matter.
The Sun reported on Friday that Nancy Eberhardt, the person appointed in April as interim court executive officer, had been chosen to permanently fill the position. The Sun’s story on Friday stated that Volkers didn’t return to work after she was placed on administrative leave.
The subject of Volkers’ administrative leave did not come up during her interview with council members on Friday, said Moorhead Human Resources Director Jill Wenger.
Sharon Klumpp, a consultant the city hired to help with its city manager search, said Friday evening that Volkers disclosed early in the search process that she was placed on administrative leave “and that it was resolved with no wrongdoing on her part.”
Klumpp said this information was provided to City Council members before Friday’s interviews with Volkers and Kruse.
Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams said she and council members were aware of the situation with Volkers. Williams said Klumpp told the council she had conversations with Volkers about her being placed on administrative leave and Klumpp had no concerns.
Earlier in the search process, Klumpp advised council members on the norms of the administrative profession, explaining that most administrators don’t stay on the job for more than five years, but the council should scrutinize those who quit in less than two years.
Klump told the council that sometimes administrators leave jobs without a clear explanation of what happened and that’s not a reason to be concerned as long as there aren’t problems with the jobs that follow.
Four candidates were scheduled to be interviewed Friday, but Shawn Henessee, county administrator in Marinette County, Wis., and Aaron Parrish, city administrator for Forest Lake, Minn., dropped out before the interviews got underway.
Council members cited Volkers’ charisma, energy and potential to bring healing to Moorhead city government among the reasons they picked her.
Current and newly elected members of the council also had praise for Kruse, stating he was a solid candidate who likely would do a good job as city manager.
Although the consensus on the council was to move forward with a job offer to Volkers, Joel Paulson, who will join the council after the first of the year, said he wasn’t sure Volkers’ experience with the courts would translate to municipal government.
He also said the extensive experience Kruse has had working with various city governments provided him with a valuable skill set.
Mayor Del Rae Williams said she could see Moorhead doing well with either candidate.
“They both have strengths,” Williams said.
Council member Steve Gehrtz said he liked the way Volkers handled Friday’s interview, while council members Heidi Durand and Brenda Elmer said they were impressed with Volkers’ skills at building relationships.
Council member Chuck Hendrickson agreed. “She (Volkers) is a bridge builder,” Hendrickson said.
Volkers’ previous work experience also includes being court administrator in Washington County, 10th Judicial District Court, in Stillwater, Minn., from 200 to 2009; senior administrative manager in Hennepin County, 4th Judicial District Court, Minneapolis, from 1996 to 2000; and accounting and administration manager in Ramsey County, 4th Judicial District Court in St. Paul, from 1988 to 1996.
Moorhead’s last city manager, Michael Redlinger, resigned or was forced out by the council in April with no public explanation given, though it appeared members were actually unhappy with Redlinger’s second-in-command, Scott Hutchins. Redlinger had served since 2008.
The council picked David Schmidt, who retired as the city administrator in Wabasha, Minn., in 2013 to be the interim city manager.