Courier file photo

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa’s city administrator’s office should be filled by a permanent hire before the month is out.

Philip Rath is the council’s selection for the spot. The selection became official Tuesday night, about a week-and-a-half after he interviewed for the position. His contract is similar to prior city administrator contracts, with a base pay of $125,000.

“The city council and Mr. Rath will complete a set of five goals for him to complete,” said City Attorney Joni Keith. Completion would bring in a $6,000 raise and a second set of five targets that have the potential for an additional $6,000 raise.

The contract covers the first two years of Rath’s employment in Ottumwa. Future contracts will be negotiated.

The position has been vacant since August of last year, following the resignation of Andy Morris. Mayor Tom Lazio has filled the spot on an interim basis.

Both Rath and Joseph Gaa were finalists for the position. They met with the council, a panel of members from the public, and city staff on Jan. 25. The council’s interviews with the candidates was held in open session and streamed live on the city’s YouTube channel, providing access to the public.

Rath told the council he supports a process he called “priority based budgeting,” which focuses on allocating money to the city’s top priorities before making other financial decisions.

Rath could begin work as soon as Feb. 17. City officials had initially thought a start date in late February or early March was more likely.

“That’s a little bit sooner than we had expected. That’s a plus for the city,” Keith said.

Council members also approved an application to place the former Agassiz Elementary School on the National Register of Historic Places. The school is currently vacant, but plans call for its redevelopment this year as new apartments.

Officials had said the school’s historic facades, which include relief carvings at multiple entrances, were a major draw for the redevelopment.

New contracts with the city’s firefighters and employees at the city’s public works, parks, airport and cemetery departments received the council’s approval as well. City Attorney Joni Keith said the city managed to negotiate a contract with firefighters very nearly at the deadline.

“We were able to come to a resolution to this a few days before mediation was scheduled,” she said.

The firefighters’ contract also eases the residency requirement, extending the radius to 30 miles from the central fire station. Keith said the detail was requested by the firefighters and was part of the negotiations.

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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