Nate Heffron’s employment as city manager authorized

HEFFRON

NEGAUNEE — The t’s have been crossed, the i’s dotted and after a couple of signatures Negaunee will have a new city manager.

The Negaunee City Council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Don Gladwell to sign a two-year employment agreement with Nate Heffron. Councilman David Kangas was absent.

“I think we have a beneficial agreement for all parties,” Councilman Jason Wallner said.

Heffron, who is currently the city clerk in Bayard, Nebraska, will begin his duties as Negaunee city manager on Jan. 18 — and he is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

“I am very pleased with the contract,” Heffron said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “There were some questions on how we are going to handle comp (compensatory) time, but I am kind of a traditionalist when it comes to a salaried position. More or less … whether it’s 40 hours per week or 60 hours per week, I am going to put in the hours to get the job done.”

According to the agreement, Heffron’s salary will be $67,000 the first year and $75,000 the second year. He will receive an $8,000 sign-on bonus within a few days of signing the employment agreement.

Heffron said the sign-on bonus is nothing more than an advance portion of his annual salary to help defray moving expenses.

“There was a hiccup on the sign-on bonus. The city really isn’t making any payment for my relocation — it sounds like a bonus, but it is obviously coming out of my pay,” Heffron said. “I think it’s just a matter of the language, which is minor. I am very grateful for all the other things the city is offering me in the agreement, and I think it’s a great deal for both parties. I look forward to serving the community. “

Charter language was one of the stumbling blocks in filling the position after former City Manager Jeff Thornton signed a separation agreement with the city effective March 9. The language stipulates that any candidate for the position have “experience in municipal administration as a city manager.”

City Attorney Raymond O’Dea said previously that Heffron’s experience as a city clerk in Nebraska is on par with the charter requirements.

“The duties out there in Nebraska — they don’t actually have city managers — and they fall in line with everything that we do here in the legal opinion from our city attorney,” Gladwell said. “(O’Dea) recognized that and thought that we were doing OK, and we could go ahead and offer him a contract if the council thought he was going to be in the good interest of the city.”

Gladwell said the council believes Heffron is the best fit for Negaunee.

“The council is very, very confident that we did a good job in hiring the right guy for this position,” Gladwell said. “We are looking forward to him coming here and we will be holding an open house for him sometime in the future.”

An open house will be organized with local residents, business owners and leaders from surrounding communities some time in mid-January to welcome Heffron to the area, Gladwell said.

For his part, Heffron said he plans to become a Negaunee resident, even though he is not required to do so by either the Negaunee City Charter or his employment agreement.

“We were able to find a house that we like and we are hoping to close on it soon,” Heffron said. “My wife and I both agree that if we can live in the community that we are serving, that is the most important. When setting rates for municipal services like water and trash collection, I would rather be part of the community those decisions are being made for.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.