Three of the four candidates for the next Lake Mills city manager have been village or city managers in Wisconsin, and all have worked for much larger municipalities than Lake Mills.
All four candidates have significant small-town experience, as well, having been administrators for towns, villages or cities smaller than Lake Mills.
The four – Drake Daily, Patrick Marsh, Guy Scaife and Nathan Thiel – attended a meet and greet and roundtable discussion hosted by Legendary Lake Mills on Friday, July 8, at the Lake Mills Municipal Building.
The purpose of the event was for city business owners and community members to meet the candidates and provide feedback on each candidate via a survey. Candidates briefly introduced themselves and then met with small groups of community members to answer questions and discuss topics of concern.
The event drew about 50 community members and about 40 members filled out feedback forms to help the city gain an understanding of the community’s consensus for each candidate, city attorney and human resources director Dan Drescher said in a call with the Leader.
The following day, each candidate interviewed with the city council, which met in a special closed session that night to discuss the interviews.
The council has selected a final candidate, but the announcement won’t be made until at least the July 19 city council meeting, Drescher said.
Between now and that time, a comprehensive background check will be conducted and, if necessary, the chosen candidate will notify their current employer of the planned departure.
Drescher said the entire process went smoothly and all four of the candidates were of high quality, making the final decision difficult for the council.
“I thought the city did a great job with the whole process and Legendary Lake Mills did a good job with the event,” Drescher said. “The feedback we got from the community and from staff was helpful and I was impressed with the applicants, too.”
Whoever is chosen as the new city manager will also have an overlap period with current city manager Steve Wilke, who is retiring at the beginning of September. This will allow the new manager to become acclimated to current city issues such as the EMS transition process and a new wastewater treatment plant site, Drescher said.
Wilke has been the city manager for more than 20 years. The former northern Wisconsin dairy farmer had worked as an administrator for two small municipalities in rural Illinois before coming here.
In an interview with the Leader, Wilke described what he expects the city to look for in his replacement.
“I think the city will look for someone who has a certain set of communication skills and a good background in city management,” Wilke said.
Council president Greg Waters did not respond to a request Monday afternoon for comment on the candidates.
Three of the candidates have had separations with larger communities that became contentious in one way or another.
Shortly after the mayor requested his resignation, Marsh sued the City of Fitchburg for allegedly not returning items of his, then later dropped the suit, according to reporting in the Fitchburg Star. Scaife settled a wrongful termination suit with Meriden after the city voted to terminate his employment in December 2017, according to the Record-Journal, of Connecticut. And Pleasant Prairie paid $160,000 to Thiel after deciding not to renew his contract amid a Racine County Sheriff’s Department investigation of the village’s public works director, according to multiple news outlets.
Daily has spent the past three years as the village administrator in New Glarus, which has just over 2,000 people.
Daily earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from UW-Madison in 2014 and a master’s in policy and public management from UW-Madison in 2015.
His experiences include working as an administrative intern with Waunakee and Middleton and a management analyst with Sun Prairie.
Marsh is an Illinois native who has been the city administrator in Fitchburg and Monona but more recently has been deputy city manager and interim city manager in Fernley, Nevada, a city of about 20,000 people near Reno.
Marsh earned a bachelor’s degree in business and public administration from Augustana College in 1988 and a master’s in public administration between Drake University and Northern Illinois University in 2004.
He worked in several cities in the Quad-Cities area before moving to Wisconsin, including assistant city manager in Eldridge, Iowa, and village administrator in Coal Valley, Illinois. After leaving Fitchburg in early 2021, he worked as a consultant with CWIowa before moving to Nevada.
Scaife is an Alabama native and Bettendorf, Iowa, resident who earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from the University of Alabama in 1972. He also completed Army officer training and Northwestern University’s Executive Program.
He was administrator or manager of towns in New Hampshire and Connecticut before becoming city manager with Meriden, Connecticut, a city of 60,000. He has since been an administrative services manager with Dead River Company in Maine and was interim town manager for Thetford Vermont from January 2020 to November 2020.
Thiel has worked for municipalities in Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin over the past 15 years.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications from Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2005 and a master’s in public administration from Syracuse University in 2007.
He was an assistant to the department of public works director with Riverside, Illinois, before becoming a budget analyst in Sugarland, Texas, the city administrator for Mauston and the village administrator with Pleasant Prairie. and most recently as the interim community development director with Whitewater, a role he’s held since April 2022.
Adams Publishing Group of Southern Wisconsin regional executive editor Jim Ferolie contributed to this report.