After two decades of high turnover, Mendota Heights leaders think they’ve found a city administrator who will stay.

Mark McNeill, who held the same position in Shakopee for nearly two decades, is expected to start on the job Feb. 23, pending City Council approval.

Mendota Heights Mayor Sandra Krebsbach said she’s hopeful that McNeill will remain in the position for five or 10 years, breaking a pattern of younger administrators who’ve stayed for just a few years before moving on to another job.

“This time, we were looking for somebody that we knew was probably not going to be using us as a steppingstone,” she said.

Mendota Heights lost two administrators in the past five years to the cities of Farmington and Lakeville. Others have left for jobs both around the metro area and out of state.

“We have been really a training ground for … administrators,” Krebsbach said. “And we’ve been OK with that, but it’s hard on staff.”

McNeill left Shakopee in December, after the City Council requested his resignation. The decision split the council, with McNeill supporters saying it happened too quickly and opponents contending that a new vision for the growing city required new leadership.

City administrators and managers are appointed by the councils they serve and are responsible for overseeing day-to-day city operations.

Krebsbach said the resignation request was “not an issue for us at all.” Rather, she said, city leaders looked at McNeill’s more than three decades of city government experience, including administrator positions in Savage and Mason City, Iowa.

During McNeill’s 18 years in Shakopee, the city’s population tripled in size. Mendota Heights is smaller, but it’s also more fully developed, with easier access to Minneapolis and St. Paul than is available in third-ring Shakopee.

“It’s a really neat community,” McNeill said. “It’s just got a lot of things going for it.”

McNeill and Thief River Falls City Administrator Larry Kruse were finalists for the position, narrowed down from a pool of 27 applicants.

The final interview took place Jan. 29.

Tamara Schutta, the interim city administrator, said McNeill’s contract is still being finalized. The salary for the position was advertised between $115,000 and $125,000 — a drop from McNeill’s 2014 salary of $131,064.

The hiring decision comes at a pivotal time for the city. The City Council will do 2015 goal-setting this week, and it is also looking ahead to its next strategic plan.

McNeill said he’s looking forward to the experience of a new city.

“I’m really, really excited,” he said. “This is going to be a great opportunity.”