Bill Reynolds sat in his new office at Shakopee City Hall on a Tuesday morning, sporting a city of Shakopee lapel pin and a gingham pocket square.
It was the start of his second week as Shakopee’s new city administrator, and he was already busy — meetings with local officials, interviews to fill job vacancies at City Hall.
After a monthslong search process, Reynolds, 49, replaces Mark McNeill, who was asked to resign in December after nearly 20 years on the job.
Reynolds comes to the position by way of degrees from Harvard and DePaul universities and administrative jobs in Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida. He’s a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and fought in the Iraq war. He spent several years in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a lobbyist and later as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.
Reynolds’ arrival in Shakopee comes at a time of major transition both at City Hall and in the city at large. He sat down with the Star Tribune to discuss that transition and the experiences that prepared him for it. Here’s an edited excerpt of the conversation.
Q: Tell me how your first week has gone.
A: Tremendous. You know, when I was interviewing for the job, I was intrigued about the area and intrigued about some of the things that were going on in the city itself. But frankly, I never had any idea about what a great organization it was until I got here.
Q: Previously, you were the city administrator in Pensacola, Fla. You were dismissed from that job for leaking a sexual harassment complaint. What happened?
A: There was a complaint against an individual in the office that I was very concerned about.
Q: Did you know when you leaked it that that could result in dismissal?
A: Well, there’s currently a case still in litigation on the issue, and I can’t talk a lot about it. But I can tell you that I feel very comfortable that having sunshine being let in on a situation like that is not necessarily a bad thing. And that if people are being harmed, sometimes you have to take extraordinary actions to ensure that that doesn’t occur.
Q: You were the only candidate for this job who was from out of state. What drew you to the Midwest, to Minnesota specifically?
A: I’m from the Midwest. There really is — I’ve lived East Coast, West Coast and now in the south — there is no place like the Midwest. Our value system is different. I think other parts of the U.S. may mock us a little bit because we are hardworking, we are nicer than a lot of places that you go to.
People care about their communities. You can drive around here and look at Shakopee and know that people care about their community. I can tell you there are a lot of places in the United States that you drive in and you look around and you see the way the community looks, and you just wonder, “How could people live like this? How could a group of citizens not get together and say, you know what, we’re going to clean this up?” You don’t see that here.
Q: City leaders have said they want a city administrator who can manage a growing city. What have you done in previous jobs to be able to lead in Shakopee?
A: I’ve managed a lot of bigger places with a lot more employees in the past. Pensacola was going through a very big growth spurt, but that was mainly in their downtown area, as opposed to Shakopee as a whole, which clearly is different. But the real issues behind it are whether or not you can identify the trends in that growth and try to find where that arc is. You really don’t know where that is almost until you’ve passed it, much like a recession.
I’m very comfortable with looking at data and looking for those forecasts. And then ultimately, the forecasts don’t mean a thing unless you’ve got something to do and put something in place, then, to address those issues. I’m very comfortable planning and putting together programs and policies to try to minimize that impact.
Q: There’s also been a lot of change at Shakopee City Hall. There’s been a lot of turnover; the mayor’s not going to run again. How are you approaching that on the staff level?
A: Times of transition are always interesting. In my brief interactions with staff, I think there’s some excitement; there’s obviously some trepidation as well. People are concerned about where we’re headed and what we’re going to do.
Now, are we going to get better? Absolutely. That’s what I do. I make organizations better. But in saying that, I want to give a lot of credit to Mr. McNeill and what he did in the time that he was here. He built an organization from a place that was a small organization up to this point. And I think he deserves a lot of credit for that, and everything I do will be built upon his foundation.