An election always brings fresh faces to the table, but as 2021 approaches, the city will see more than two new councilors join Chanhassen City Hall.
Lucy Rehm and Haley Pemrick Schubert will fill Bethany Tjornhom and Jerry McDonald’s council seats in January. But a third seat will also be up for grabs — leaving Dan Campion and Mayor Elise Ryan as the only two members of the council from 2020.
Councilor Julia Coleman was elected in the Senate District 47 race, meaning she'll leave her city council term two years early when confirmed in January. Because Coleman has less than half of her council term left, the city can either hold a special election or appoint someone directly to her seat, explained Interim City Manager Heather Johnston.
Due to the time and costs needed for an election, it’s likely that the council will choose the latter, Johnston said. Applications will be open both internally and to the public.
New councilors won’t start until January, but Mayor Ryan and city staff have already begun work on strategic planning for both old and new councilors, which will help identify the council’s goals and align them with their newly reviewed financial situation, she said.
“Having a new set of eyes on city business, both at the staff level and council, will help identify deficiencies and areas for improvement and growth," she added.
Incoming councilor Rehm is studying up on her new role in preparation, she said. In the meantime, her and Schubert plan to attend council meetings and work sessions before their confirmation next year.
“There’s a lot of information and I’m sorting through it all. I’m prepared to help in any way I can come January,” Rehm said.
While the City Council will stay unchanged for the next few months, several long-time city staff positions have already been vacated. But unlike the council, many of their replacements are regulars around City Hall.
After 33 years, Parks and Recreation director Todd Hoffman retired in late July. The new director was an obvious choice — city recreation superintendent Jerry Ruegemer, who worked with Hoffman for 30 years.
Similarly, the city didn’t have to look far for a full-time city attorney when Roger Knutson retired in October after 37 years. Andrea McDowell-Poehler has been with the city for over 20 years; she and Knutson switched off every other city council meeting before his departure.
Finance director Greg Sticha also left at the end of October after 15 years. Before the city hires someone new in 2021, former city of Burnsville finance director Kelly Strey will fill the interim position.
The biggest change coming next year? The city manager position, which was vacated in June after Todd Gerhardt retired after 30 years.
The search for a new manager has been ongoing, spearheaded by Johnston and Assistant City Manager Jake Foster. After selecting a search firm a few months ago, the city just announced a special council meeting to review the candidates on Nov. 12. They hope to bring finalists to the new councilors in January.
“While there has been and continues to be change, with that change comes opportunity,” said Ryan. “I’m excited about the future. We have had great leadership for the past many years and look forward to working with the new members on economic growth, financial stability, and new opportunities for a prosperous future.”