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City administrator committed to post amid family change

Randy PetersenMay 26, 2019

Rochester’s city administrator has been traveling between Portland, Ore., and Rochester in recent weeks but says he remains committed to his city post.

“I’m still spending the majority of my time in Rochester,” said Steve Rymer, who became the city’s top administrator in 2017.

The travel is connected to a move made by his son-in-law and grandchild. When they moved from Mankato to Portland, Rymer’s wife decided to follow and continue providing parenting support, as she has since their granddaughter was born.

To continue balancing work and family, Rymer said he’s downsized his home in Rochester and will split time between the two locations.

Rochester City Council members have known about the personal decision and been supportive.

“I think right now he’s continuing to do his job, and he’s handling his personal affairs the best he can,” Mayor Kim Norton said.

Council Member Michael Wojcik said Rymer’s already proven he’s a benefit to the city, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue.

“He’s addressed a lot of issues that went unaddressed for many years,” he said.

Since joining the city staff, Rymer has started an effort aimed at multi-year budgeting, helped define City Council priorities and initiated work to redefine operations of the Mayo Civic Center and local convention and visitors bureau, among other efforts.

Council Member Mark Bilderback said Rymer has also put a leadership team together that provides a wealth of experience, with several new department heads joining the staff since he took the helm.

“The people we have in place have worked in the government role for a good period of time,” Bilderback said, noting he’s comfortable with the recent change.

“It’s relatively new,” he said. “So far, it’s working,”

Norton said that as long as city operations keep running efficiently and Rymer is able to maintain leadership of his team, no reason exists for concern.

Rymer said he expects the work to continue, noting he already uses the phone and email for much of the communication with the city’s leadership team, meaning little will change in how he works when out of town.

Council President Randy Staver said he’s also confident Rymer will make the new conditions work for the city.

“He’s been very responsive, so there are no concerns from my perspective,” Staver said.

At the same time, he acknowledged some residents have cited concerns about Rymer’s longevity, especially in the wake of Stevan Kvenvold’s 38-year career in the position.

While a repeat of that longevity might be desired, Staver and others on the council said it’s likely not realistic for today’s workforce.

“I think there’s a good reality that any staff we hire will move on at some point,” the council president said.

Rymer said he’s not anticipating such a move in the near future.

“I have not pursued any other opportunities,” he said, adding that he’s promised to inform the council if that changes.

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