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Chief of Staff

Howard Lazarus makes time to stare into the future.

by James Leonard

From the March, 2018 issue

Between 2001 and 2012, the city cut its workforce by nearly a third, from 1,005 full-time equivalents to 706. It hasn't grown much since. "We're at about 720" FTEs, says city administrator Howard Lazarus. "We are administratively lean."

Being administratively lean has left the city administrator with lots to do. Lazarus has ten people who report to him directly, ranging from the fire chief to the city clerk, plus he's responsible for oversight of the city's boards and commissions.

But that's about to change. "We're going to bring on a chief of staff," says Ward Five councilmember Graydon Krapohl. "In large organizations, a chief of staff has the role of coordinating day-to-day activities. That leaves the commander free to have more a strategic and visionary role."

"We can never lose the ability of the senior leadership to have that time to contemplate," Lazarus explains, "to do professional reading, to continue to grow professionally, and sometimes to physically stare at the wall but metaphysically stare into the future."

To free up that time, the chief of staff will oversee the city clerk and several other departments, plus day-to-day operations. The police and fire chiefs and three area administrators--financial, public, and community services--will still report to Lazarus, who'll also continue to oversee the boards and commissions.

Lazarus expects the chief of staff to come on board in "the next couple months ... It's a long-term commitment, and I don't want to rush to satisfy a short-term need. The job is advertised between 140 and 170 [thousand dollars a year]. It's a competitive market, and you have to pay a going rate."

Lazarus will have plenty to think about. Besides a yearlong review of the city's solid waste and recycling operations ("Recycling at the Crossroads," February), there are some potential big-ticket items coming up in the city's water system; the long-delayed redevelopment of the former city maintenance building at 415 W. Washington; and a fire station master plan.

Lazarus says that plan will look at not just what buildings the city needs, but "how we're going to provide fire staffing. The vast majority of calls to fire houses are not for fires. When we respond to those calls, can it not be with a $750,000 piece of equipment?"    (end of article)

[Originally published in March, 2018.]


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