SHERIDAN — Mayor John Heath addressed his decision to appoint former Police Chief Rich Adriaens as the city’s interim chief of staff at the City Council meeting Monday, stating that he felt he needed help in his transition to mayor.
“I am not bashful to say I need the help to continue to grow this community as you want us to up here,” Heath said. “It will facilitate a good business environment for all, and we’ll grow our community in the right way.”
Heath said he has learned in his experience managing multi-million dollar restaurants with 200-plus employees that putting good people in good positions provides leadership and consistency for city staff and residents alike.
Heath is allowed by state statute to appoint a chief of staff, or what is sometimes called a city manager or chief administrative officer. The position primarily supervises department heads and manages the budget and day-to-day operations of the city, allowing the mayor to focus his or her efforts on community outreach and work with the state Legislature.
Heath noted in a memo sent to city employees July 14 that former Mayors Della Herbst and Jim Wilson worked with chiefs of staff.
Sheridan resident John Fafoutakis addressed the council during public comment to ask if the position of interim chief of staff would be temporary. Fafoutakis said he was worried about how similar the position is to a city administrator, which Sheridan voters voted down in 2008.
A city administrator, or manager-council, form of government is different than the strong mayor-council form of government currently used by the city of Sheridan in which the mayor is CEO of the city and manages budgets and staff, with the help of a chief of staff, if desired.
In a city administrator form of government, the administrator is appointed by the council and acts as CEO of the city over the mayor and council. This form of government is sometimes controversial because the head of the city is appointed and not elected by voters.
In response to Fafoutakis’ question, Heath said the position was interim and would be treated as such and be re-examined by the council at a later date.
When asked after the meeting to articulate just how the chief of staff position differed from a city administrator, Heath said “not by much” as far as duties go. He said the key difference is that a city administrator does not have to be approved by the people while a mayor and council, which can appoint a city administrator, do have to be approved by the people.
At this point, however, Heath remains the ultimate head of the city.
“A chief of staff is certainly going to support the continuity that we’re looking for in a government organization. As you know, we come and go up here, but we’ve got employees with the city that have been here for 25, 30, 15 years. It’s important that we maintain a good employment environment, and I do believe a chief of staff is going to help in that employment environment,” Heath said.
In other business, City Council:
• approved a request to allow System Land, LLC, to subdivide 10.9 acres of land between the Sheridan Links planned unit development and Mydland Road into one 8.01-acre lot and one 2.78-acre lot.
City Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs said in his staff report that System Land will sell the land to the developers of Sheridan Links, who have said they wish to purchase the land in order to keep its development consistent with the goals and design of Sheridan Links.
• tabled a request to replat a one-acre tract into three lots at 752 and 770 First Avenue West behind the Shoppes at Coffeen Avenue. The applicant asked for more time to work out details on the property.
• awarded in the consent agenda the Wyoming Avenue and Park Street area reconstruction phase three project to North Star of Gillette in the amount of $2.56 million to be funded with Water and Sewer, Optional One-Cent, Capital Facilities Tax, mineral royalty grant and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grant funds.
• approved in the consent agenda city staff to examine the possibility of reducing the speed limit on Papago Drive to 20 mph.
• approved in the consent agenda the appointment of Councilman Alex Lee to the Sheridan Economic and Educational Authority board, Councilman Jesus Rios to the Sheridan Area Water Supply board, Heath to the Juvenile Justice Joint Powers Board and Councilwoman Shelleen Smith to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities board.