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Marengo City Council picks new city administrator

The Marengo City Council voted Monday to hire Gary Boden (left) as the new city administrator. Josh Blakemore (right) has been the acting city administrator for almost a year.
The Marengo City Council voted Monday to hire Gary Boden (left) as the new city administrator. Josh Blakemore (right) has been the acting city administrator for almost a year.

MARENGO – Gary W. Boden, of Clinton, Iowa, begins his job as Marengo’s city administrator today.

The Marengo City Council, by a 5-4 vote, appointed Boden, 57, during Monday night’s meeting.

The former administrator for the city of Clinton didn’t win the full endorsement from the council, which voted 5-4 in support of his hiring.

“Three people who voted no came up to me and told me it wasn’t personal, so that was reassuring,” Boden said after the meeting. “It wasn’t a comment on me, but a comment about their own philosophies about the organization and how an organization evolves.”

Boden emerged as the top candidate out of the 74 applicants who responded to the city’s job posting. Boden has been an assistant city manager for the city of DeKalb and the city manager for the city of Whitewater, Wis. More recently, the Rockford native served as the city administrator for Clinton from 2007 to 2009.

According to the city’s employment agreement, Boden’s salary is set at $104,000, with future annual salary raises depending on performance reviews.

Health insurance is provided with the same benefits as other city employees. Under the city’s employee manual, Boden is entitled to 20 paid vacation days a year because of his 25 years of service in municipal government. Up to 10 unused vacation days can be paid out. Also, the city will pay up to $5,000 for moving expenses.

For nearly a year, assistant city administrator Joshua Blakemore has been at the helm of the day-to-day operation at city hall while the council searched for a new administrator. Marengo’s previous administrator was fired in March.

Deborah Nier was paid $92,000 a year. City officials have said the decision to terminate Nier’s employment was not based on a specific cause but driven out of interest to “move the city in a different direction.”

Alderwoman Carole Bartman was one of the four who voted against Boden’s hiring. She was one of the three council members who spoke with Boden to explain that her vote wasn’t personal.

“I was pleased with the job [Blakemore] was doing,” Bartman said. “I believe in promoting from within.”

Still, she said she was confident Boden’s experience will help the city’s development. Blakemore will continue to stay on as the assistant administrator, she said.

“The position is certainly needed,” Bartman said. “We felt that we needed to keep him in the role.”

Earlier in the meeting, two residents expressed their frustrations about the way the City Council managed the hiring process.

Craig Beto, along with his father Wayne, took issue with the way the council managed the hiring of a new administrator, which involved a Deerfield-based firm to conduct the search for candidates. Beto criticized the council for not approving a recent Habitat for Humanity request to waive impact fees in Marengo, citing the city’s challenging economic conditions, while hiring the firm, Voorhees Associates, to conduct the candidate search.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Craig Beto said. “If times are tough, why are you turning around and spending all this money? Think about it.”

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