MASON CITY, Iowa- On Friday all five of the candidates for the Mason City City Administrator position were available for the public to meet.
Joe Helfenberger is currently the Interim City Manager in Archer Florida. Helfenberger has 32 years of experience as a city administrator.
In that time he has served for 8 years in Ottumwa where he says he conducted projects much like the River City Renaissance Project. He says the project included an entire façade update to portions of Main Street.
He says meeting with everyone in the city is important to finding a direction he would like to see Mason City head.
“I’d like to meet with the public, the department heads and the council to find out what their interests,” he said. “What do they want Mason City to be and we want to be the best version of Mason City that the community wants.”
Helfenberger also discussed an investigation he was a part of where his finance director spent $100,000 without his consent. He stated that the finance director did later resign. He stayed with the city for two more years before resigning from the position himself.
“When I was hired there was a very pro-growth council and I had brought in a load of money, over $20 million, in a little over a year,” he said. “There was a complete change in the council and they didn’t want to go with the growth approach. They got rid of some of the projects. There was such a big change that I felt that I wanted to go in a different direction.”
Another finalist for Mason City’s top job is Randy Lansing. With 23 years of experience in city management, Lansing’s current job is Garner City Administrator. He started that position in 2011.
Lansing says he has big plans for Mason City if he gets the job.
“Mason City is on the verge of something wonderful with the River City Renaissance project and the staff,” said Lansing. “I think it would be a wonderful atmosphere to step in to. “
Cole O’Donnell is the next candidate we are introducing. O’Donnell has 23 years of experience as a city administrator. His last position was in Dixon Illinois. The Dixon City Council did vote in a split decision to fire O’Donnell from that position something he says he can’t talk in depth about because of the severance package that was agreed upon.
“Their idea of professional management is not what my definition of it was,” he said. “I think there were something I could have done differently that may have extended my stay, but I think the result would have been the same just because of the personalities that were there.”
O’Donnell says there are a number of things he feels he can help the city with such as finishing the River City Renaissance Project, housing needs, as well as working with the Mason City City Council on bike trails and walking trails to attract younger reisdents.
Jeff Pederson of Paducah Kentucky is also among the five candidates in the running for the position. Pederson has 32 years of experience as a city manager and has been at his current position since 2010.
He says he is very excited to help the city finish the River City Renaissance Project and feels he has the experience to do so.
“I was heavily involved in getting a hotel built in the downtown River Front area and that hotel opened this past July,” he said. I understand a lot of the reasons why this type of project is important to the community.”
Pederson was asked to resign from his position as City Administrator in Paducah this past year because of what he says is the council wanting to head in a different direction.
“Around 18 months ago I was asked to stay with the city for another three years,” he said. Following that contract there was a city election where two new members joined the board. The council asked me to resign so I did that. I leave a lot of emotions behind a lot of accomplishment.”
Pederson was asked to resign in January of this year, but that date was pushed back to May of this year.
The final candidate for Mason City City Administrator is Al Roder. Roder has 21 years of experience as a city administrator. He currently works in Independence Iowa where he has worked since 2014.
Roder says the experience he could bring to Mason City could really benefit the community.
“Mason City is at a crossroads,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity here, there have been some struggles, and I think the past folks have really poised Mason City for growth. Here's an opportunity to see what we can do with the community and build off of what was built in the past and build a community we all want to enjoy.”
Roder was part of an investigation in Northfield Minnesota where he says the mayor at the time misused his role and influence other members of the council and city staff. Roder said he would drop a demand severance pay and not sue the city of Northfield if the mayor would apologize for his actions.
Roder resigned from that position two years later. The criminal investigation in to Roder closed in 2012 with the county attorney’s office saying they are not going to file charges.