Fairfield now filling top 2 positions after assistant city manager departs for new job

Credit: Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy

The city of Fairfield will be looking to fill its top two administrative positions in 2021 as the assistant city manager was hired on Monday to be Vandalia’s top municipal executive.

Dan Wendt will start his new position as Vandalia’s city manager on Feb. 1, and Mayor Steve Miller said City Council will likely discuss its search for a new city manager Monday night during an executive session meeting.

“I’m not sure what the plan is now, but I don’t think anybody is until we get together and talk about it,” the mayor said. Council has not met since Dec. 14, the first meeting without Mark Wendling as city manager.

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Wendt could not immediately be reached for comment.

It’s anticipated Fairfield will hire a national search firm to assist City Council to find a new city manager, Miller said.

“It’s a long process,” he said. “If it’s done right, you should find somebody of excellent quality. Fairfield’s a great community and I think there will be a lot of applicants because I think they’ll want to come here because we do have a reputation of being a really good community.”

Fairfield hasn’t had to search for a new city manager since the 1990s, when they hired former city manager Art Pizzano, who retired in April 2015. Wendling was hired as assistant city manager a decade ago with the expectation he’d be promoted when Pizzano retired.

Miller isn’t surprised Wendt sought a new job.

“When Mark left and Dan wasn’t appointed acting city manager, I had a feeling he’d probably look to move on,” he said. “He’ll do well in Vandalia. Vandalia is a great community.”

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Wendling unexpectedly resigned on Dec. 11 and Fire Chief Don Bennett was named acting city manager.

The new Fairfield city manager will lead a city with a 2021 projected appropriation budget of $74.4 million.

Whoever is hired as city manager will hire the assistant city manager, and Miller said he hopes the city’s top two executive positions are settled within the next six months so “we can move forward with what we need to do.”

“I don’t see anything hindering us at this point to get anything done because we’ve got a good council, Don’s been around a long time so he understands the city and local government and he’ll do a good job, and be a great place holder until we can get somebody new in and start moving us ahead to the plan we’ve already laid out.”

Since 2015, there have been several senior positions turned over, including when Wendling was promoted. Including Wendling, the police, finance, development services public works, public utilities and parks departments have seen new leadership in the past five-plus years, though most have been due to retirements. The assistant city manager position has been filled twice since 2015, by Wendt in September 2018 and his predecessor, Greg Preece, who left for a job in California.

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