Albert Lea hires new city manager

Published 2:40 pm Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unable to reach a contract agreement with Albert Lea city manager finalist Alan Lanning, city leaders announced Wednesday they have reached a verbal agreement with Interim Afton City Administrator Jim Norman to become the city’s new manager.

Norman, one of five finalists interviewed over the weekend for the position, tentatively will begin May 3, upon formal approval of the Albert Lea City Council.

The council will have a special meeting next at 4 p.m. Wednesday to review the contract, which was negotiated between Norman and Interim City Manager Lee Bjorndal and 6th Ward Councilor Al Brooks. Bjorndal is the city attorney.

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The contract gives Norman a starting annual salary of $95,000.

“We are happy to welcome Jim Norman as our next city manager,” Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh said. “We had five worthy candidates, and Mr. Norman was either the first or the second choice of all council members after our interviews and hearing input from both a staff group and citizens group. We’re looking forward to working with him.”

Murtaugh said after the council, city staff and a citizens panel interviewed the finalists Saturday, the council was down to a close decision between Norman and Lanning, who currently works as the city manager for Pines North, Colo.

At that point, Lanning was given an offer for the position, but when an agreement could not be reached with him — primarily because of the salary — the city began discussions with Norman.

Other finalists were Dean Torreson, city manager of Macomb, Ill.; David Torgler, former city administrator of Leavenworth, Wash.; and Greg Sund, former city administrator of Spearfish, S.D.

The contract discussions with Norman resulted in a verbal agreement.

Norman, who grew up in Blue Earth County, said he is pleased that he, his wife and stepdaughter will be moving to Albert Lea. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and I look forward to becoming part of the community,” he said in a news release.

Murtaugh described Norman as having “very good Minnesota experience.”

He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Mankato State University in Mankato in 1977 and a master’s degree in urban and regional studies from Mankato State University in 1988.

Prior to his position as the interim city manager in Afton, he worked as part owner of Norman & Associates in Ramsey; city administrator in Ramsey, population 24,000; city manager in Montevideo, population 5,500; city administrator in Renville, population 1,500; county coordinator in Dodge County; and assistant city manager in White Bear Lake.

“Having worked in Minnesota already, he’s very familiar with the issues we’re having,” Murtaugh said.

The mayor noted Norman also has a farm background, as he farmed early in his career before getting into public administration. He has also had lobbying experience at the state level.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for him to be in this community at this time,” Bjorndal said. “I think his enthusiasm is what really caught everybody.”

He said the citizens panel was also impressed with how well prepared Norman was for his interview on Saturday.

First Ward Councilor Vern Rasmussen said Norman understands city government well.

“I think we have an individual who’s going to bring a lot of experience to our town,” Rasmussen said. “He’s been in big towns, small towns and has also had private business experiences.

“I think he brings a lot of unique aspects to us that I’m looking forward to working with.”

Fifth Ward Councilor Larry Anderson said he thinks Norman will bring a fresh look to the community.

“He’s familiar with other communities, and he knows how to work with people,” Anderson said.

The councilor noted that he’s talked with other people Norman has worked with in the past, and they all spoke of him positively.

He thanked the city staff and volunteers from the community who were involved with the finalist interviews.

“It’s great to live in a community where the people are willing to come out and share their thoughts with you,” Anderson said. “That’s valuable.”