Retired attorney could fill position on interim basis
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Rhinelander’s Finance, Wage and Salary Committee wants to hire a retired attorney to fill the vacant city administrator position.
Committee members decided Tuesday to recommend to the full City Council that Keith Kost be hired on an interim basis, at least initially, with a contract that would pay him an annual salary of $51,000.
Rhinelander has been without a city administrator for almost five months since council members voted in late August to terminate the contract of the previous administrator, Kristina Aschenbrenner, who had been in the position for not quite a year. As a full-time administrator, Aschenbrenner received an annual salary of $85,000.
The city obtained the recruiting services of the Oshkosh-based Public Administration Associates in a search for a new city administrator. At PAA’s suggestion, the Finance Committee earlier this month had recommended that the job be posted as a full-time position with an annual salary of between $85,000 to $95,000, plus benefits. However, the full City Council put that hiring process on hold when Kost appeared at the council’s Jan. 9 meeting to offer his services on a part-time basis.
Kost, who began a law practice in Rhinelander in 1997 after practicing law in Illinois, said he didn’t need to become the city administrator for the money.
“Not having to have the job for a means of income to support my family brings something interesting to the table,” he said. “The only obligation I have is to do my best for the city, which is carrying out the policies of the City Council. And I don’t need to worry about whose feelings are hurt, whose toes are stepped on, and I think that would bring some cohesiveness to the city at this time.”
Kost suggested he be hired at 60 percent of a full-time salary and noted he didn’t need retirement or life insurance benefits as city administrator.
“All these (benefit) costs, I have no desire for them,” he said.
To carry out the duties of city administrator, Kost suggested that the City Council gives him a list of 3-5 things it would want him to concentrate on now, and then he would report back to the council and move on to another 3-5 things.
“So it might be a situation that if there’s not a problem in one of the committees, you don’t need to go to every committee meeting,” he said. “That’s up to the council to decide whether that needs to be done or not.”
Finance Committee members left open the possibility that a full-time city administrator would eventually be hired, or that Kost might be able to continue as a part-time administrator, when they asked whether he would be interested in starting the job on an interim basis.
“If you want to go that route, I’d be happy to help sit in on the interview process and give counsel and memorandum of what I’ve seen in three or four months, where I see there are problems, and say, ‘Here’s where I think you’ve got some problems. Here’s what needs to be worked on,’” he said.
Committee member Alex Young said hiring Kost on an interim basis “may educate our decision down the road in terms of hiring a permanent position.”
“That might give us, with an interim (administrator), the opportunity to decide for sure whether a part-time or a full-time (administrator) might be appropriate,” added Finance Committee chairman Mike Pelletier.
Given the questions remaining as to what the job duties of the next city administrator should be, Finance Committee members decided to hold off until their Feb. 7 meeting on putting together a job description for the position. They noted that there would still be enough time at their next meeting to do that before the full City Council meeting Feb. 13 when the hiring of Kost on an interim basis would be up for consideration.
Committee members also agreed to have Kost meet with city attorney Carrie Miljevich to work out the details of a city administrator contract for him.