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Gleason After 1st Year: Council More Focused, Prepared

Gleason chats with a woman
Jeff Smudde
Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said city staff has accomplished one of his primary goals in first year on the job, getting the city council focused and prepared before they cast votes.

Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said he's proud of the work he and the city council has accomplished in his first year on the job.

Gleason said council meetings have become more focused, in part because staff has helped the council do its homework before casting votes.

“I’m convinced they were not being prepped adequately and some things played out on the council floor that otherwise could have been prevented, which is not suggesting unanimous votes,” he said.

“I think what you found in the past was a lot of uncertainty. You can read a memo, you can read a council packet, but sometimes you need to make sure that there’s 1, 2, 3, 4 different points that really stand out that council needs to be aware of.”

Gleason replaced David Hales as city manager.Steve Rasmussen had served as interim city manager for 10 months and was a finalist for the city manager’s position. He resigned in October.

Among the measures Gleason implemented since becoming city manager on July 23, 2018, was prompting the city council to move its meeting times to 6 p.m. while largely eliminating special meetings.

He also realigned city staff be replacing the assistant city manager positionwith a deputy city manager that has more oversight over all departments and created an economic development department.

One of Gleason's most pressing tasks in year two will be naming a new police chief. He anda committee he appointedhave interviewed eight candidates from among more than 60 applicants. There's no timeline for when he plans to fill the post.

Gleason, a former police officer in Pekin, said the city has an excellent police department but said he's not ruling out hiring an external candidate.

“There is so much going on with policing that an outside candidate could emerge as the candidate for those reasons,” Gleason said. “It’s a different look.”

Gleason named two assistant chiefs to serve in the interim chief role in succeeding months. Gleason noted both Greg Scott and Dan Donath applied for the chief's job.

“I felt it was the fairest approach,” Gleason said.

Gleason added he believes the department's policy for handling Immigration and Customs Enforcement thatformer chief Clay Wheeler implemented last yearwas satisfactory in protecting undocumented immigrants, and he doesn't consider that to be an issue as the city hires a new chief.

“When I think of priorities for this incoming police chief that’s not one of them,” Gleason said. “That’s one where I am satisfied that the police department currently operates in a way that they should.”

Gleason added State Farm's recent announcement that it's planning to demolish its former headquarters downtownhas sparked interest that he hopes will lead to another solution.

“There does seem to be renewed interest” he said. “Maybe people that were standing on the sidelines and were assuming something was going to happen, maybe they get more involved in the conversation and we’ll see where we land on this.”

Gleason said the best option would be for a private company take over the building, but he said nothing is off the table.

He said his main goal in year two is to do a better job telling the city's story to ensure public trust. He said that's why he started presenting monthly budget updates during city council meetings.

Full Gleason Q&A

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.