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City of Mitchell looking to fill three top positions

The search is on to fill three of the city of Mitchell's top government jobs.

In the span of only a few months, three prominent positions within the city's government have become available. First, Tim McGannon retired in December after nearly 24 years as director of the city's Public Works Department. That same month, the City Council approved a proposal to add a city administrator, a brand new position, to the city's government. More recently, Mark Schilling abruptly resigned last week as director of the Corn Palace because of an as-yet unreleased state audit of the city-owned attraction's operations and finances.

"Let's just say that the hiring aspect of this job is a little bit busier these days than it normally is," said Billie Kelly, the city's human resources director, in an interview with The Daily Republic.

Of the three, public works director will more than likely be the most difficult position to fill, Kelly said. That's due in part to the fact that Mitchell's public works director has also typically acted as the city's engineer, and state law requires anyone in that position to be designated a professional engineer.

"We have had difficulty finding qualified applicants," she said.

When one round of advertising was completed with only two applicants to show for it, the city chose to reopen the position to applications with a new deadline of March 15, Mayor Ken Tracy said.

"We hope to get some more candidates for the position," Tracy said.

Assistant Public Works Director Terry Johnson has acted as the interim director of the department since McGannon's retirement, which he described as a rewarding experience.

"We've been looking at some new projects and continuing with the same mission we had before," Johnson said.

Johnson said he has applied for the director position.

The Public Works Department is one of the most far-reaching arms of the city's government. The director's duties include oversight of numerous divisions and activities, including the airport, building inspection, engineering, landfill, planning and zoning, streets, utilities, water and wastewater treatment.

Before McGannon retired, he was being paid an annual salary of $88,839 as of the city's required annual publication of its wages and salaries in January 2013.

The city could begin seeking candidates for the recently created city administrator position as soon as next week, Tracy said.

The city administrator will manage the day-to-day affairs of city government, but will be accountable to the elected mayor. There are 20 other cities in South Dakota with city administrators, according to information presented at a past council meeting.

Kelly plans to present specific qualifications for the city administrator to the mayor for approval in the near future. Kelly said she doesn't anticipate there will be problems finding qualified candidates for the position.

The council set the position's annual salary at a minimum of $90,000 up to a maximum of $110,000.

The search for a new Corn Palace director is still in its early stages, Tracy said.

"I'm not going to rush into it," he said. "But at the same time, I'm not going to continue on without taking some action to find a permanent replacement."

Tracy said he intends to focus mainly on filling the public works director and city administrator positions, and move forward with the Corn Palace director position as time allows.

Assistant Corn Palace Director Jeri Mickelson has taken over for Schilling on an interim basis. Schilling was being paid an annual salary of $66,059 before his resignation.

"The staff over there is just diving in and doing what needs to be done," Kelly said.

Kelly is hopeful the position, once advertised, will draw plenty of applicants.

"There is a strong tourism industry in the state we can draw from," she said.