Courier Staff Writer
A selection committee will begin poring over applications for the Ottumwa Transit director’s position tonight, and one city councilman has thrown his hat in the ring.
City Attorney Joni Keith said she has received around 30 applications and they’ve come from the west coast, east coast, Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas and more.
“Some have some transit background, some have very little, but they might have more management experience,” she said.
Tonight, the selection committee will choose those they want to move forward to the interview process.
Councilman Jeremy Weller — who is also the current jail administrator — said he needs a change of scenery.
“10-15 Transit and Ottumwa Transit ... [I want to] get the services they provide back up to the expectations of what citizens want and need,” he said. “I would enjoy that challenge of doing that and utilizing my management skills I’ve learned over the years.
“It was a decision I made, not only me, but my family, my wife. We talked about the opportunity and we both thought it would be better for me, a good fit.”
Weller said his seven years supervising the jail qualify him for the management position.
As a councilman, Weller has analyzed Transit’s budget as well as the far larger city budget.
“I think there’s a need for someone who has some budget experience and I certainly have a knowledge of their budget and have worked on budgets as a city councilman,” he said.
And as far as reporting to the state and federal governments, Weller said he’s had that experience already at the jail.
“Really, what I would have to do on the transit side of it is not that much different,” Weller said. “If I was selected, I’m not going into this blind.”
Ottumwa Transit has seen two interim directors, Mark Hagist and currently Dave Silverio, and one director, Diane Gawronski, since former director Pam Ward was fired nearly two years ago.
“I think the situation after Pam left ... maybe the stress and intense scrutiny the department was under wore its course on some people,” Weller said. “I think we’re in a better position, obviously, than we were just a year ago financially.”
As a councilman, Weller said he would have to step down if he were hired.
“That’s why this was a hard decision because I do enjoy being on the council,” he said. “My intention was never to leave early.”
If he were to get the position, Weller said he wouldn’t be surprised if some in the public say it was rigged since he is part of city government.
“But to minimize that, I’ve only had one discussion with [Keith] and that was when I turned in my resume, I asked a couple of questions about the position and the hiring process,” Weller said.
Keith said she wants the interviews to take place next week and the following week so they can have a decision by the first week of February. She hopes the chosen director would then start by mid-February or the beginning of March.
“I want someone who has management skills, who has budgetary skills and I would like to have someone that has some transit experience and background, but it’s not the only criteria,” she said. “I want someone who is able to be a liaison with the City Council and the public and who is able to work with the 10-15 board of directors and the [Ottumwa Transit Advisory board].”