Patch caught up with the new city administrator of Mendota Heights, Justin Miller, on his first day at the office Dec. 28 to learn more about the new face at . Miller hadn't unpacked his office yet, but he took a few minutes to answer some questions about his dinner table and what it is that a city administrator does.
Mendota Heights Patch: Where are you coming from?
Miller: I’ve just recently completed five-and-a-half years as the city administrator of Falcon Heights; before that I was the assistant city administrator of Chanhassen for four years. Previous to that I worked for two years in the city manager’s office at the city of Des Moines, IA.
Patch: Why did you come to Minnesota?
Miller: My wife—at the time, girlfriend—was working up here.
(Miller’s wife is now the assistant city administrator in Eagan.)
Patch: What is a city administrator?
Miller: The city administrator is basically the chief administrative officer of the city and tries to implement the goals and direction that the city council establishes, oversees the staff, manages all the day-to-day operations of the city and tries to implement the strategic plan or the strategic goals of the city council.
Patch: What would you consider your strengths as a city administrator?
Miller: I feel I have a good financial background. I like looking at finance and budgeting.
I feel like I can really help synthesize topics or ideas into a handful of important bullet points, and I think that’s beneficial to elected officials as well as the public. ...
I also love city government. And I love working for the public. Especially at the city level, being able to see tangible results a lot quicker than you might at other levels of government. Fixing a pothole or an issue at a park. Studies have consistently shown that people trust their local government more than other levels of government, and I appreciate that, but they also expect a responsiveness because of that, and I like bringing that to the residents.
Patch: You actually had to address the position your spouse holds in Eagan in your interviews as a potential conflict of interest. Can you address that here?
Miller: It was brought up, but my response was we’re both members of the International City Managers Association: We have a very clear code of ethics that we abide to. In the end, we represent the will or the directive of our local officials. We’re just implementers. While we might have some issues that overlap or interconnect, in the end we’re going to do what’s best for our employers and the cities that we work for, and we’re both professionals in that way. And while we might have dinner table discussions on items, especially if it’s confidential in nature, we’re both professionals and know that we can’t do that.
Patch: When you’re at the dinner table, what’s your favorite meal?
Miller: I like Mexican food. I’m originally from Texas. I have kept that up as I move north.
Patch: What are you liking about Mendota Heights so far?
Miller: Ever since I was offered the position, I’ve been meeting with the city council members, meeting with staff, trying to get a little better idea of the community. I like that there’s just a real positive energy amongst the city. It seems like everybody I talk to loves the fact that they live in Mendota Heights, or loves that they work in Mendota Heights. And I think that’s very impressive.