City hires finance director after 1 1/2-year gap


Jeanne Day

After more than a year and a half without one, North St. Paul recently welcomed a full-time finance director.

Jeanne Day, who has more than two decades of local-government accounting experience, had her first day in the position March 3.

The city’s previous finance director, Al Mahlum, retired in July 2012 after 24 years working with the finance department.

In the interim, the city paid for a contractor, Abdo, Eick & Meyers, to help with its finances. Day worked with the city through the firm, until she left that job in November.

Day, who hails from South Dakota and moved to the metro area in the 1980s, has more than 26 years of accounting experiences, 23 of which have been in cities.

She was Medina’s finance director for more than five years, and then spent more than two years with Abdo, Eick & Meyers as a client services manager. Earlier in her career, she worked with the cities of Minneapolis, Chaska and St. Louis Park.

Challenges, ‘new heights’

In the 2014 budget process, the city decided to redirect the funds slated for contracting the job toward hiring someone who could actively lead the department and improve interdepartmental collaboration, according to city manager Jason Ziemer.

That would require someone to be onsite full-time who was working for the city, he explained, not a contractor given a checklist of tasks to complete.

Department heads and finance department staff helped winnow down a 12-person candidate pool to five interviewees, and then to two finalists. To choose one, Ziemer said he asked himself,  “Who’s going to challenge staff and help them achieve new heights? Who’s the best fit for the organization and the culture within the organization?” 

Now, with the right department leader in place, he said he hopes to boost employee engagement and staff empowerment, while finding ways to clearly, simply and transparently conduct the budget process for the public. Changes include new budget documents, quarterly budget meetings with the North St. Paul City Council and giving the “tremendous” staff of the finance department the leadership and guidance it deserves.

“From a staffing perspective, they really deserve to have a leader to help them,” Ziemer said.  “The finance department is an internal service bureau. They’re supporting the rest of the departments. That department really needs to be strong.”

Day also describes the finance department as a service within the city.

“We need to provide customer service not just to the residents of North St. Paul, but also to (city staffers),” she said. “They’re our internal customers.

“That’s something that’s going to be a big new push is to see how we can serve them better, instead of being off in our own area.” she added. “Citywide collaboration is going to come out of this.”

Day said she agrees with Ziemer that the city can improve the ways it communicates about budgeting.

“I am a big proponent of transparency and sharing of information,” she said.

Day lives in Wayzata with her husband and four children.

“We’re very involved in our community,” she said. “I’d like to be a part of North St. Paul in that same aspect.”

Other staff changes

As part of a restructuring, Paul Ammerman was promoted from economic development director to community development director.

Ammerman’s former position was then reclassified from economic development director to city planner, according to Ziemer.

Corrin Hoegen Wendell is expected to start as North St. Paul’s city planner on March 24. She’s coming from a planning position at the city of Jordan.

The council and city staff hope that reorganization, and the potential addition of two supportive positions, including assistant to the city manager, help the city offer better service to current residents and businesses as well as attract new ones.

“We’ve identified needs, and we’re addressing the needs,” Ziemer said.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.
 

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