New administrator to start Oct. 13
Iowa official is village board's unanimous pick
RANTOUL — Rantoul has a new village administrator.
Jeffrey Fiegenschuh, a native Nebraskan who held the same position in Windsor Heights, Iowa, accepted the village's offer Monday, Mayor Chuck Smith said. He will start Oct. 13.
Fiegenschuh, 39, will assume the job formerly held by Bruce Sandahl, whose contract was terminated by Smith in late February.
The village advertised the position locally and in trade publications and received 31 applications. The board met with the two finalists — Fiegenschuh and Austin Edmondson Jr. of Morganfield, Ky., who last served as interim town administrator in Chapel Hill, Tenn. — in a three-hour closed session Thursday and unanimously selected Fiegenschuh for the job.
"They couldn't have made a better selection," Smith said.
Fiegenschuh will draw an annual salary of $118,500.
He has held six administrative positions in municipal government since June 2003, beginning with the city administrator post in David City, Neb., a community of 2,200.
Among his stops was Princeton, Ill., where he was city manager from 2008 to 2011. Fiegenschuh had expressed a desire to get back to Illinois to be closer to his children, who live in Princeton, and because he likes the state.
"I really enjoyed my time in Illinois. I've just found it to be a good state to live in. I was familiar with Rantoul (through his work on the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency board), and ... was impressed with it. I thought it was a good fit for me."
Smith took Fiegenschuh and Edmondson on a tour of the community Thursday, and they then met with village staff. Smith said he sought the opinion of the staff, and the majority favored Fiegenschuh.
The new administrator said he got a good feeling when he met with residents and staff last week. That hasn't always been the case in other interviews. In at least one instance where he was a job finalist, staff and residents ran their "community down," he said.
Fiegenschuh has served in Windsor Heights, a community of 4,900 that is a suburb of Des Moines, since December 2012.
Being surrounded by the large city "makes managing things difficult and fun at the same time because you have to be creative on how you get things done," he said.
"I love local government."
Fiegenschuh said Sidney, Neb., where he grew up, "is a lot like Rantoul."
He said Chanute Air Force Base is an important part of Rantoul's history, "but it doesn't have to be part of your future."
"There's a lot of opportunity here," Fiegenschuh said. "You're a home-rule community. You've got your own utilities. You've got a lot of assets. You've got a good mayor, a very progressive mayor."
Smith said he likes Fiegenschuh's experience working in other municipalities.
"He gave me a real sense of cooperative energy," he said. "He's focused on helping (lead) the direction of this community and also having the willingness to support the board in its endeavors to try to make the changes we're trying to make in Rantoul."
One change in the job is its scope. Smith said after deciding not to renew Sandahl's contract, he wanted the administrator's position to be less broad than under Sandahl.
In addition to other administrative functions, Sandahl had worked as the village's de facto economic development director and its human resources officer. Those jobs are now held by Mike Royse and Tony Peyton, respectively.
The new village administrator said he wanted to give his present employer a month and a half before he leaves "because there's some projects here I want to try to wrap up."
"This is a profession where you're dealing with a lot of different things and a lot of projects," Fiegenschuh said. "It's the only ethical thing to do. You owe your employer that."
At Windsor Heights, he has 28 full-time employees under him. He said that when he was at Princeton, there were 80 workers under him. That number was cut to 75 through early retirement and job consolidation due to the nation's economic downturn.
Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.