McNaul makes manager

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The city decided to offer Lawrence McNaul a full-time contract to be the next city manager of West Liberty in a 3-2 decision by the city council Saturday, March 15.

He and candidate Lowell Crow were called back for a second set of interviews in closed session by the council. Ultimately the members decided to give WL Police Chief and Interim Manager McNaul the full-time position.

"I think both candidates were very great, they both had leadership and accountability, they're almost cut from the same cloth," said Mayor Hartman after the decision.

In fact, the candidates' similarity may be the reason for the split vote. Council members Ethan Anderson, Melody Russell and Bill Cline voted in favor of McNaul while Jose Zacarias and Felicie Simmons voted against.

"The candidates were so good my vote was a way to give credit to Mr. Crow," said Zacarias, "But I support McNaul completely and everything he'll do."

As city manager, McNaul will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the city, as well as overseeing the various city departments in West Liberty. He was thrilled to get the position.

"I was very elated, I was happy to receive the phone call," said McNaul.

He has been West Liberty's temporary manager since last October; however, he was brought in as the new police chief last summer. He currently holds both roles.

As the council works out his final contract during its March 18 meeting, decisions will need to be made whether he will be allowed to stay on as police chief.

Some citizens have voiced opinions against McNaul holding both seats. While they're fine with the council's decision, they believe it would give him too much authority.

"I don't know what the council is going to decide, but it's not uncommon in this state to have a city manager oversee the police department," responded McNaul.

He believes that since the mayor has the final say over the police department, ultimately he still answers to the mayor and council.

And if the council decides to remove him from the police chief position:

"If that's what they feel is best I'll support that, but I think we should take some time and look at it all. I would like to see us take this opportunity to add a school resource officer."

McNaul would like to create a liaison police position between the department and the school, he believes this would be a much more valuable resource than looking for another police chief.

In fact, McNaul put in for the position because he has several ideas. During his time as the interim he didn't pursue many changes because he didn't feel comfortable making those decisions. Now that he's full-time, McNaul is ready to get to work.

"I'd like to see curbside recycling at no extra cost, it's difficult but I believe it would be feasible," he said. "Also, we have a lot of personnel rules and city codes that are outdated that need attention."

According to Karl Nollenberger, vice president of Vorhees Associates, McNaul is in for a large workload. Nollenberger and the firm were put in charge of the search at its beginning and have seen it through to the end.

"It's a smaller population in West Liberty with as much demand on the city manager as a city twice its size," he said. "Since it's a bigger operation than usual you have to make sure to get the cards to fit right."

West Liberty has a population nearing 4,000 and has control over several of its utilities, including water and electricity. Housing the Muscatine County Fairgrounds and the WL Community School District, it's a small town with a lot going on.

Nollenberger was also impressed with the number of community members that showed up for the candidate meet-and-greet at the library March 14. He said he often doesn't see turnouts this size from smaller towns.

The search for a new city manager began last October after the contract for former city manager Chris Ward was terminated by the council in a 4-1 vote.

His termination occurred after the city discovered many of the bins that the city sends to Muscatine for recycling were actually being dumped. Ward maintained he was unaware of the situation.

Afterward, it was decided to use outside help from Voorhees. The firm screened several candidates before presenting a list of around 12 to the council. The council brought the number down to four, then held several interviews Saturday.

From 8 a.m. until noon, candidates met with either the council or a specially selected community panel in closed sessions. After lunch the community panel and department heads discussed their choices with the council.

The council made its final decision around 4:30 p.m. after a long day of deliberations.

As McNaul takes over the position full-time he'd like to receive input from the community, stating that anyone who wants to talk to him can call city hall at 319-627-2418.

"I just want to encourage the community to reach out to me. My family came here to immerse ourselves," said McNaul. "Maybe someone already has a solution or idea."
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