Some question city’s restructuring moves

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Opinions varied in Albert Lea after the city council’s surprise decision to make City Manager Paul Sparks the full-time port-authority executive director and his impending resignation as city manager.

&uot;They should have gotten rid of him entirely,&uot; said Brent Smith in Albert Lea City Hall Tuesday evening. &uot;It’s time for a change.&uot;

He said he doubts that Sparks will stop exerting influence on city hall in his role as port-authority director.

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He also called the city council’s tactics &uot;shady.&uot; The council voted on the change at the end of Monday’s meeting, and the action was never on the agenda or discussed by the council publicly before Monday.

Others thought that Sparks isn’t the right man for the port-authority job, which focuses on economic development. &uot;If you’ve got a football team, you go out and get the best players to win the game,&uot; Paul Westrum of Albert Lea said.

He thinks someone with a background in economic development would be best. &uot;You’ve got to have a good salesman,&uot; he said.

He questioned Sparks’ ability to attract business, considering the city’s poor track record of attracting new businesses.

Dick Herwig of Albert Lea said the competition for businesses is fierce. &uot;Every city in the country is vying for industry and industry takes the offer,&uot; he said.

He said he thought Sparks did a good job as city manager, but said someone with a background in economic development, not public administration, would be better qualified.

George Oetjen of Albert Lea said he thought Sparks would make the transition to a new city manager easier, and dismissed the criticism of Sparks.

&uot;It’s really easier to criticize, but it’s hard to do better,&uot; he said.

He said he thought Sparks’ many years as city manager could be the cause of some of his problems. &uot;I just suppose that the first year he ticks you off, and the second year he ticks me off, and he’s been here a lot of years.&uot;

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock or 379-3438.)