Iraq veteran to take administrator job
“Intelligent, on the ball” Aschenbrenner coming to city hall
By Jared Raney
“Intelligent” was the most common word used to describe new administrator Kristina Aschenbrenner.
One of twenty-two original canidates for the position, Aschenbrenner left an impression with alderspersons and city leaders alike, despite an apparent lack of experience in the field.
“I think it was everybody’s impression that she’s a very intelligent woman, who will have a lot to learn about the specifics of city government,” said interim city administrator Phil Parkinson. “But she seemed to have the skills and the intelligence that as she learned this, she’d be able to put it to good use for the city.”
Aschenbrenner will start at city hall on Sept. 8, and will work under Parkinson’s guidance for the first week. She attended University of Wisconsin-Eau Caire, attaining both her bachelor and master’s degree in business administration.
“I was looking for more experience,” said Mayor Dick Johns of the hiring process as a whole. “I think this young lady has a lot of potential for the city, and I’m looking forward to working with her, that’s for sure.”
A lack of experience in city hall belies a rich background, including an impressive military stint.
Early in her career, Aschenbrenner spent ten years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and actually toured in Iraq.
Not only a tour, but a tour as a high-level organizational non-commissioned officer, in charge of tracking millions of dollars in military equipment. She even had “secret”-level clearance.
“I think she’ll bring a fresh, young perspective to the city, which I think we need,” said alderman Alex Young.
Aschenbrenner is currently the district court administrator for the 10th Judicial District Wisconsin Supreme Court in Eau Claire, and before that spent time as the Clerk of Circuit Court for Eau Claire County.
“I really enjoyed my position as clerk of court because it really put me in the community,” Aschenbrenner said. “I just really wanted to get back to that, that local involvement, that cooperative working together with different agencies to improve.”
The hiring decision came following a two-day interview session over the last weekend. On Friday, the council hosted an informal gathering with community leaders and conducted formal interviews the following day.
Aschenbrenner was one of twenty-two applicants, and one of four candidates who participated in the weekend’s interview activities.
“Saturday morning, each of the four candidates had a 45-minute segment, one of which was an interview with the city council, one was an interview with the department heads. One was a tour of the city given by a community member who toured them around the city, and one was a writing exercise,” Parkinson said. “So they all rotated through those four items.”
In June the council decided to hire Public Administration Associates, LLC, a hiring firm, to assist with the search. Parkinson said the group also helped facilitate the weekend activities.
“I’ve got 51 years [at city hall] and it’s one of the nicest interview sessions that I’ve had through the years,” Mayor Johns said. “It worked out very well for us.”
“I was so thoroughly impressed with the dedication and excitement of people,” Aschenbrenner said. “They really want to do things, and they want to really make their city the best it can be. And that’s obviously a team that I would want to be on.”
Intelligence, military experience and a strong interview weren’t all Aschenbrenner had going for her. Those involved also said a big selling point was her commitment to community.
“It seemed to me, overall, that she really wants to be a part of the community, and to be involved in the community,” Young said. “Which I think has been lacking.”
With a six-year old daughter and husband’s family in Three Lakes, Aschenbrenner, a local of Ashland herself, is familiar with the area, and has been wanting to relocate here for some time.
“I also think she was very focused on this as the area she wants to be, and this is the type of job that she is interested in,” Parkinson said.
More on experience in Iraq
“When our unit was first activated I was a specialist, E4, in the supply section, and literally on the busride down to Fort McCoy I was promoted to Sergeant. So I had a very quick learning curve, and I was in charge of, now, people that I had been soldiers with, and so that was a great learning experience. We were the first major engineering battalion in Iraq, so we built mini-cities basically, from the ground up. It was amazing to go through that whole process and work with the locals to purchase supplies and build roads, and we were able to do humanitarian missions, get out and help orphanages and schools… In Iraq I was the Proberty Book NCO, and my responsibility was tracking all the major equipment, so we’re talking millions of dollars of equipment that was spread out to the whole country. I was tracking it, and making sure we had all of our assets. So overall a very good experience… Probably one of the best internships anyone could ever have.