Jim Farrell: Concerns about Janesville City Manager Freitag's communication are overblown

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Jim Farrell
August 19, 2015

Recently, The Gazette published articles and editorials concerning the communication skills of City Manager Mark Freitag.

These articles and editorials leave the impression that Freitag has been criticized by most, if not all, council members for his communication skills. I want to dispute this impression and the message that this conveys to our citizens.

I first saw Freitag's resume when he applied for the city manager position, I questioned if his background was suitable for city manager. I realized quickly that a West Point graduate, a combat veteran of Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and his 25 years of leadership experience would easily transfer to the skills required to run a city that needs to grow and prosper. As garrison commander for Fort Hood, a Texas installation of 90,000 surrounded by 300,000 Army families, he learned about leading by consensus.

After meeting Freitag, I knew he would get things done, lead the city staff effectively and provide a new, fresh perspective for the city's serious job and economic issues.

He has not disappointed me. Freitag strove to find out everything he could about Janesville from the time he knew he was hired. He quickly took charge of city operations, got involved in the community, engaged hundreds of our citizens and led the development of a strategic plan that is bold and all-encompassing.

The recent editorials stated that there were some negative comments on Freitag's 2014 performance review. The review was overwhelmingly favorable. In addition to the two negative comments concerning communication, there were also praises for the incredible work done during his first year. I do not expect an honest evaluation not to have some critical comments.

Freitag's communications with me have been excellent. I meet with him twice a month and exchange phone calls and emails. He and his staff handle my requests for information quickly and professionally. He has never been evasive or left my questions unanswered. He also listens to my suggestions and concerns.

Freitag has provided me with more information on city reports and responded very promptly to requests for information requested by all council members.

Let's not focus on the misconception that the city manager, the city council and staff are operating in secrecy, don't listen to citizens and spend money recklessly. We cannot please everyone, but the steps taken the last two years will ensure that Janesville will continue to be an excellent place to live and work.

Mark Freitag's leadership and management are essential to this progress.

As a side note, the council, city manager and key members of the city staff will be present at a listening session at Franklin Middle School at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. This is a great opportunity for you to present comments and concerns. Please attend. We want your input.

Jim Farrell is a Janesville City Council member. Readers can contact him at 608-289-9407; email [email protected],wi.us.


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