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Janesville city manager Freitag accepts new city job near Denver

GazetteXtra
GazetteXtra
 2022-08-10

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JANESVILLE

If Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag gets a vote of confidence from a new city council in another state, he is committed to leaving Janesville for a new job in a suburb outside of Denver.

The city of Janesville hasn’t made mention of the news, but emblazoned across the top of the city of Westminster, Colorado’s website is a screamer headline: “Mark Freitag: Selected as finalist for city manager.”

A deeper dive into that announcement shows that Freitag appears to now be the sole finalist in the running for the top administrator role in Westminster—a city of 110,000 that is a 20-minute drive from downtown Denver, nestled among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

According to a related city of Westminster memo posted to the city’s website, Freitag in a statement said he has accepted the position and is committed to leaving Janesville.

The city of Westminster in a memo on its website wrote that Freitag’s hire still must be approved by the city council at a meeting slated for Aug. 22.

"I am honored that the city council has selected me as Westminster's next city manager, and I eagerly anticipate their approval," Freitag said in a statement on Westminster's website.

It’s the second time in the last few months that Freitag has interviewed for a new job outside Janesville, where he’s been city manager since 2013.

In May, Freitag was one of a handful of finalists in what for him was ultimately an unsuccessful bid to become UW-Whitewater’s next vice chancellor of administrative affairs.

In the memo, the city of Westminster wrote that Freitag emerged as a top candidate because of his nine years of work as city manager in Janesville. But the city touched more on Freitag’s previous experience and accomplishments as a combat veteran and military base commander for the U.S. Army.

Among keynote moves in the city under Freitag’s nine-year tenure, the city manager has overseen a multimillion dollar, public-private revitalization of downtown Janesville along the Rock River and the removal of the decrepit Monterey Dam on the south side.

Freitag also has overseen the city’s role in the private sale, demolition and clearing of the former General Motors plant, a massive brownfield property that earlier this year earned an environmental release by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Freitag’s tenure spanned the reemergence of the local economy after the Great Recession and GM's departure as the city’s biggest employer and economic linchpin. The city has seen massive growth in net-new construction on Freitag's watch—along with some polarizing utility and fee increases the city has enacted to try to keep pace with water and street infrastructure.

The city also over the past few years has seen a pattern of retirements and resignations in upper ranks at City Hall, including the departure and rehiring of top leadership in the offices of human resources, public works, economic development, and within the police and fire departments.

The city of Westminster said it is now on the backside of a development boom, and now is seeking a leader who will help the city hone its operations.

Freitag is set to leave Janesville as the city is reviewing costs and a proposal to build an ice arena and conference center at the former Sears property at Uptown Janesville. It is a project that could be transformative to the struggling shopping mall and the retail economy on the city's northeast side, but support for the proposal is mixed over concerns about the overall price tag.

The city is releasing initial cost estimates for that proposal at a public meeting Aug. 22—the same day Freitag’s hire in Westminster will be reviewed by the city council there.

City council President Paul Benson said Wednesday that the council has been aware of Freitag status as a city manager candidate in Colorado and that Freitag has accepted a job offer there.

He said Freitag has not yet resigned from his job in Janesville, and he said the city doesn't have a firm date by which Freitag would need to start work in his new job.

Benson said the city council intends under state statute to wait until Freitag's hire and contract is vetted and voted on by the Westminster council Aug. 22.

He said it is likely the city would call a special city council meeting to discuss its next moves if Freitag does end up leaving. That discussion would include how the city might temporarily fill Freitag's role while it launches a search for a new manager.

Freitag publicly acknowledged last year that he had applied for a job as city manager of Reno, Nevada, but he indicated that he ultimately was not offered that position.

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