City of Willmar facing a significant exit of employees

Shelby Lindrud, West Central Tribune, Willmar, Minn.
·2 min read

Apr. 19—WILLMAR — Over the next several months, the city of Willmar will be seeing a lot of change as it faces several high-profile vacancies.

Currently, the city is recruiting and hiring a new city administrator, Public Works director, Human Resources director and city planner. Other open positions include a finance assistant, Main Street coordinator and an assistant city engineer. The city has also discussed hiring an assistant city administrator and an outreach coordinator.

"The list is fairly long and seems to get longer as we go," said City Administrator Brian Gramentz at Tuesday's meeting of the Willmar City Council Labor Committee.


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Gramentz, who has served approximately two years as city administrator, first as interim and then full-time, will be resigning at the beginning of June. A national search is underway, though it is about a week behind schedule, Gramentz said. The council hopes to receive a list of semifinalists soon, with the hope to hire the new administrator sometime in May.

"We are moving forward," Gramentz said.

Public Works Director Sean Christensen's last day will be June 4, after serving seven years in his position. In an interview Thursday with the West Central Tribune, Christensen said the time is right for a change. He will be moving back to Wyoming, to eventually take over his father's farm. He is also getting married and the extended family lives out west.

Christensen said he has enjoyed his time in Willmar and is proud of the accomplishments he and his staff have achieved.

"I think they have the right people in those departments," Christensen said. "They are doing great work."

Sarah Swedburg, the city planner, has been hired as the new Business Development Manager for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

The former Human Resources Director Samantha Beckman resigned earlier this year.

Members of the committee shared some worries about the high number of open positions and resignations.

"I've never seen anything like this," said City Councilor Michael O'Brien. "Something isn't right here. I would like to find out what is going on here."

Gramentz admitted the number of openings was significant and that exit interviews will be attempted. The issue is outgoing employees don't always tell the whole truth about why they are leaving, not wanting to burn any bridges.

While losing people can be difficult, it is also an opportunity to bring in new ideas. Gramentz is positive Willmar will find the right people.

"We are hopeful we can get some really good replacements," Gramentz said.