Onalaska mayor wants council to look into city administrator position

Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen believes it may be time for a city administrator, instead of a full-time mayor, which is why he has asked the Onalaska City Council to look at which is better for the city.

Chilsen said the city should always be looking to be more efficient, he said having a city administrator might be one of those ways.

Chilsen said he doesn’t know if a full-time mayor or city administrator is better, but he wants the council to look into it.

“I want the one that’s the most efficient,” Chilsen said.

Chilsen said there are positives and negatives to having a full-time mayor or having a city administrator, but said a city administrator would provide some stability to city hall.

“Right now, there’s a potential for every four years having a new boss coming in and it takes a while to learn the job and so that’s not very efficient. With a city administrator that’s what they’re trained to do. They’re professionals at that right now and so they can add that consistency,” Chilsen said.

Onalaska resident and former City Council member Dan Ferries said he sees a need for change within Onalaska city government, and said a city administrator might be the answer, but he wants to make sure the people of Onalaska have their say.

“This is a big change for the city of Onalaska, it’s a whole different way of governing, and I think the people should have a voice in how we approach this,” Ferries said.

Ferries is currently on the La Crosse County Board and said he knows that an administrator comes with a big price tag.

“I’m concerned about the funding source,” Ferries said.

City Council member Jim Olson said basically everything about this potential position still needs to be worked out, but when it is, the information will be shared with the people of Onalaska.

“This is going to have us take a look at the efficiency of city government and see if we can’t find a way to streamline things and possibly save some money also,” Olson said.

The Onalaska City Council voted Tuesday night to have the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee look into everything that would make up the position of a city administrator, beginning with the job description. The meeting is Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. at Onalaska City Hall.

Chilsen said when looking at other cities around Wisconsin there is no clear cut answer to this question.

Onalaska residents are set to vote for a mayor in April of next year.