A St. Paul housing and economic development consultant will take the reins at the Dakota County Community Development Agency (CDA) next week, replacing a longtime executive director who was fired last spring amid sexual harassment allegations.

The County Board, whose seven commissioners also make up the CDA board, approved a contract with Tony Schertler on Tuesday. He’ll start Jan. 11 at the local government agency, which administers housing and development programs throughout the county.

“I’m really looking forward to Tony’s leadership,” said County Board Chairwoman Nancy Schouweiler. “I think he’s the right person at exactly the right time for us.”

Schertler is leaving a senior vice president position at Springsted Inc., a St. Paul public sector advisory firm, where he directed its housing and economic development consulting group. Previously, he worked in planning and economic development for the city of St. Paul.

Schertler said he was drawn to the CDA’s reputation for high-quality work. “It’s a great organization,” he said.

As executive director, he’ll manage more than 30 programs and 2,700 units of affordable workforce and senior housing. His starting annual salary will be $140,000.

Schertler is arriving at a tumultuous time for the housing agency, as it reassesses its relationship with Dakota County and navigates arbitration with former Executive Director Mark Ulfers.

After nearly 40 years at the CDA, and about 30 as executive director, Ulfers was fired in May. He was accused of making unwanted sexual and romantic advances toward CDA staff, treating staff differently based on gender, making inappropriate comments regarding gender and age, creating a hostile work environment and retaliating against staff for participating in investigations about him.

Ulfers has repeatedly denied the allegations and said he’s entitled to a severance package including a year’s salary and benefits — more than $160,000. The arbitration date is tentatively set for late June, he said.

“I helped build this agency to be one of the premier agencies of its kind, not just here in Minnesota but throughout the entire country,” he said. “And I just want some respect for what was accomplished during that long tenure.”

In October, consultants hired by the county and CDA to examine their relationship recommended that staff collaborate more and develop a better understanding of how their partner agency works.

Another area to look at, Schouweiler said, is possible redundancy between the CDA and housing assistance the county offers through its social services department.

“I think there can be some efficiencies to looking at that and seeing if we can’t combine some of the work that we’re doing,” she said.

The responsibilities in Schertler’s employment contract include “any other duties as may from time to time be assigned by the CDA board.” It’s a catchall to ensure that, as the CDA and its relationship with the county change, the executive director job can evolve as well.

Asked about his replacement, Ulfers said he has “nothing but hope and good will” for Schertler.

“I love the CDA; it was the greatest job a guy could have,” he said. “And I want nothing more than for the agency to succeed and continue to expand its mission, which is critical.”

 

Staff writer Jessie Van Berkel

contributed to this report.