Mendota Heights picks new top staffer

Mark McNeill

After interviewing two finalists Jan. 29 to find its next city administrator, the Mendota Heights City Council offered the position to Mark McNeill, of Prior Lake, who most recently served in the same role in Shakopee. 

"The city administrator works for the mayor and council, who ultimately work for the residents and stakeholders of the community," McNeill said in a phone interview Jan. 30. "[Mendota Heights] is a great place to be, and I want to make certain that that continues." 

The council offered $120,000 for his starting salary, according to Tamara Schutta, interim city administrator. The advertised salary range for the position was $115,000-$125,000.

The city still needs to complete a background check and finalize the contract, as well as bring the contract to the council for approval, possibly on Feb. 17, according to Schutta. McNeill's tentative start date is Feb. 23.

Field of 27 for position

With only three years serving Mendota Heights, Justin Miller resigned in late 2014 to work as the Lakeville city administrator. 

Twenty-seven candidates applied for the position. Council members Liz Petschel and Steve Norton sifted through applications to reduce the stack to seven, and then department heads interviewed the semifinalists to get the top two

The full council interviewed McNeill and Thief River Falls city administrator Larry Kruse on Jan. 29, and offered the job to McNeill.

Norton said he favored McNeill's personality, though both finalists could have done the job. 

"Both of them were really qualified candidates," Norton said Jan. 30. "In the end, it really was just a matter of personality. For me, I sort of lean towards Mark's personality a little more."

McNeill exhibited dedication to the interview process, Norton said, and "a passion for being a part of Mendota Heights."

"We were looking for someone that would help us keep Mendota Heights as the fantastic city that it is, and help us grow into the future," Norton said. "We're confident we picked the right person who will help us in the foreseeable future." 

Ensure 'good value for money'

As the chief administrative officer of the 11,000-person Twin Cities suburb that overlooks the Mississippi River Valley, McNeill will be responsible for day-to-day operations.

He'll help set the city's goals, and the council's agendas, overseeing a staff of 50 regular employees, 36 volunteer firefighters and several contracted and seasonal employees. He'll also help manage the general fund, which was $6.6 million in 2014. 

"It's my job to make sure the taxpayers get a good value for their money," McNeill said. "I want to make certain that we anticipate issues that are out there, and [then] we can be proactive when they come."

McNeill earned a master's degree in public affairs at the University of Iowa, and a bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

He served as the Shakopee city administrator for more than 18 years, and in the same role for two years in Mason City, Iowa, and more than 10 years in Savage, starting in 1983.

A majority of the Shakopee City Council asked McNeill to resign in December, primarily because the council wanted to go in a different direction — a decision McNeill said he respected.

"I really enjoyed my time there; I'm very proud of what we accomplished there," McNeill said. "The fortunate thing is that Mendota Heights happened to be available at the time."

The Mendota Heights council hoped to hire someone willing to commit five or more years to the city, after having two city administrators leave for larger organizations in just five years. Along with significant experience in city management, McNeill said he can offer the longevity they're looking for.

"I also offer stability," McNeill said. "I want to be able to put in time with Mendota Heights, so that I can contribute."

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and Follow her at


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