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Moorhead, city manager Redlinger expected to part ways

MOORHEAD - Mayor Del Rae Williams said Monday that the city is parting ways with City Manager Michael Redlinger after 15 years and the decision is mutual.

Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger in 2009. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger in 2009. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

MOORHEAD – Mayor Del Rae Williams said Monday that the city is parting ways with City Manager Michael Redlinger after 15 years and the decision is mutual.

Citing employee privacy concerns, city leaders still will not answer questions about Redlinger's job performance, one week after they whisked him behind closed doors for an unusual surprise performance review.

But former Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland spoke openly of his disappointment at the loss of Redlinger, who he described as one of Minnesota's top city managers.

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"I'm really disappointed," Voxland said Monday. "We're losing a phenomenal gentleman. I think we're going to be hard-pressed to replace him with somebody that has the skills that it takes to run a city of Moorhead's complexity, but apparently the council feels that that's not a big enough issue."


Voxland credited Redlinger with leading the city expertly through difficult times. Redlinger started the job in 2008, when the market collapsed, and showed "phenomenal leadership" during the floods of 2009 and 2011, Voxland said.

Williams declined to give a reason for the separation. She would not say if it should be characterized as Redlinger's dismissal or his resignation.

The City Council will vote on the separation agreement at a special meeting Thursday, March 31.

The special meeting will begin with a closed-door meeting for an attorney-client consultation about the terms of the separation agreement, followed by the council vote on the agreement.

Williams will end the special meeting by providing a public summary of Redlinger's job performance.

Voxland, in an interview Friday, said two council members, Brenda Elmer and Steve Gehrtz, have been looking for the chance to oust Redlinger because he retains a measure of independence.

"I'm not privy to what's been going on the last years, but I know when I was mayor, we had a couple people that are still on the council, Steve Gehrtz and Brenda Elmer, who seem to, every few months, want to figure out a way to get rid of Mike," Voxland said. "I'm guessing this is kind of a continuation of that. They seem to get frustrated because Michael will say 'no' if something they want to do is illegal or something they want to do is against policy."

Elmer rejected Voxland's remarks. "There is absolutely no truth to Mr. Voxland's claims," she wrote in an email Monday. "There have not been previous attempts by me or others to 'get rid of' the city manager. I cannot speak to the current personnel as the City Council is restrained from further commenting."


Gehrtz did not respond to a request for comment.

Voxland was mayor for 12 years, leaving public office at the end of 2013. He was the mayor in 2008 when the city offered Redlinger the city manager job.

Voxland described Redlinger as a highly competent employee who received excellent performance reviews "every time."

The most recent performance review of Redlinger for which there is a public record, in September 2015, was stellar.

"Other city managers see his work and are really impressed with him," Voxland said. "So it's really confusing what it is that some council members feel that they have to get rid of him."

Voxland criticized the current council for subjecting Redlinger to a performance review last week without advance notice.

"It sounds more like a witch hunt than anything truly being done," he said. Voxland said that in his 12 years as mayor, a city manager was never subjected to an unannounced performance review.

Yet that is exactly what happened March 21, when Elmer made a surprise motion to go straight into a performance review of Redlinger, though his normally scheduled performance review was not until summer.


Elmer's request stunned two council members, Nancy Otto and Mike Hulett, and seemed to trouble Williams.

Otto and Hulett said it was highly unusual and wrong not to give everyone time to prepare for a performance review. Elmer gave no reason for her request, but it was approved in a 6-2 vote. Otto and Hulett voted against the review, while Elmer, Gehrtz, Jim Haney, Mari Daily, Chuck Hendrickson and Heidi Durand voted in favor. Williams only votes to break a tie.

"What people have asked me," Voxland said," is how did it come about that with no discussion, and Brenda is making a motion ... two council members are surprised but the others just sit there like it was expected? That's something that right now in the community is a real sticking point."

After the vote, council members went with Redlinger into a private boardroom, shut the door, and came out two hours later.

Many City Hall observers speculated on the reason for the review, while city officials refused to make any public statements on the matter in the following days.

On Monday, officials remained tight-lipped. Williams said it is yet to be determined how the council would go about replacing Redlinger.

Redlinger, who is in his 30s, steadily rose in the ranks at City Hall. He started as an assistant to the city manager in 2001, rising to assistant city manager in 2003 and acting city manager in 2007.

Redlinger was offered the city manager job in 2008 after a three-month search involving 20 applicants.

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