South St. Paul council appoints new member


William Flatley

'Straight shooter' William Flatley looks to 2015

William Flatley is set to be South St. Paul's newest council member.

"I want to make a difference for, not only our citizens, but for our businesses," the lifelong South St. Paul resident said. 

The South St. Paul City Council appointed Flatley Monday to replace Chris Lehmann, who resigned in October after about 11 years on the council in order to serve as a judge.

Flatley will be sworn in during the first meeting of the new year Jan. 5. He will serve the remainder of Lehmann's term, which extends through the end of 2016.

Flatley's similarities to his predecessor helped him rise to the top of Mayor Beth Baumann's list, she said. 

He has experience working with contracts, drawing on a skill of Lehmann's the council used to rely on, Baumann said. 

"Chris was always our contracts guy," she said. "Everybody kind of has a specialty."

Plus, Flatley made an impression during interviews with the eight finalists. He said something to the effect of, "'I don't even know why I'm on this list, but thanks,'" Baumann said. 

"He's very self-effacing, which is really kind of nice," she said.

From 20 applicants to one

Twenty people initially handed in applications for Lehmann's chair. 

In a special meeting, the council cut down the applicants to eight finalists. The council interviewed them on Dec. 10.

At the council meeting Dec. 15, council members each voted for their top choices in multiple rounds to narrow down the list to one. 

In the final round, Flatley garnered three of six votes from council members. Two votes went to Steve Doody, and John Ross captured one. 

The council then voted unanimously to appoint Flatley. 

Flatley said he was surprised at the final decision, exhibiting the humility that helped prompt Baumann to vote for him.

"I was mostly going to the meeting last night to congratulate whomever the winner was," Flatley said Tuesday. "I didn't really expect it to be me. 

"I'm very grateful to the council."

Council member Todd Podgorski encouraged those who were not appointed to run for council in future elections. The terms of three council members and the mayor will be up in the 2016 election.

Most of the council members said each of the eight finalists were strong candidates, making it difficult to appoint just one. 

"It was a tough, tough choice for us to even narrow it down," Baumann said at the meeting. 

Flatley's wide-ranging experience in technology and community groups impressed Baumann, she said Wednesday. 

Baumann added she appreciated Flatley's forthright approach during his interview. He said he would be fully committed to the council, but also that he wouldn't allow the position to interfere with teaching religious confirmation classes, something he's been doing for 20 years. 

"He's a straight shooter," Baumann said. "He's well-rounded in his background and experience, and he'll be a really good addition to the team."

Flatley already serves community

Flatley, 42, was born at Divine Redeemer Hospital in South St. Paul, which has since been torn down. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science at the University of St. Thomas. 

He's served on the Central Square Community Center Board and the South St. Paul Public Schools technology steering committee.

Flatley is an information technology manager at Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. 

He and his wife, South St. Paul School Board member Lauri Flatley, have four children, ages 8-14.

As a single man fresh out of college, Flatley searched throughout the Twin Cities for a home to buy. He said he decided on a house in South St. Paul, blocks from his parents and brother. He and his family still live there. 

"We're in a great location," he said. "(South St. Paul) is mellow; it's quiet, and we're close to a lot of things."

Though he didn't make a career out of his political education, Flatley said he continues to have a passion for it. 

He read about the opening on the council in the South-West Review. He said he discussed it with his wife, and decided it was the right time to go further in politics.

Fiscally conservative, business-friendly

While Flatley said he doesn't have a to-do list of projects and initiatives, he does plan to look at each issue with focuses on boosting the city's tax base, bolstering businesses and "taking as much tax burden off of our citizen's as possible."

He has experience working with a limited budget in his job at Children's, he said, and he considers himself "very fiscally conservative" with his own budget, he said. 

"I will be the same with the taxpayers' budget as well," he said. 

With a goal of promoting transparency and constituent participation, Flatley said he encourages residents to be heard at meetings, or by contacting members of the council.

Flatley still has much to learn about his new role, but he said he intends to be a "very quick study." His initial crash course will include ethics training, meetings with all of the department heads and the council's annual planning session to set priorities for the year. 

He hopes his willingness to listen and learn will help ease the transition, and notes he's not a single-issue candidate.

"I approach this very humbly," he said. "I'm not going to walk in and say I know everything."

During his interview Dec. 10, Flatley said he was open to guidance from the city council.

"I would almost be like a utility fielder on a baseball team," he said. "I didn't approach this with any item that I'm super concerned about and wanted to address right away."

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.

 
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