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Crandell wearing many hats these days

Veteran community development director steps into city administrator role

July 19, 2011

It would probably be an understatement to say Steve Crandell simply knows a few things about the City of Waukesha and how it operates. In fact, one could almost say with certainty that he might know all the ins and outs of the city.

That's what happens when you've been associated with one place for so long and when you've held as many positions within one operation as Crandell has over the years.

"I've had a lot of different roles," Crandell said.

He sure has.

Crandell, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in urban studies from UW-Eau Claire, began his career with the city in 1976 in the Planning Department in land use before moving to the Engineering Department as a technician. After a stint in that role, his positions have included being the city planner, the assistant director of planning and his current position as the community development director - a position he has held since 1998.

He also filled in as the interim city administrator in 2007 for eight months until Lori Luther was hired in 2008 after Jim Payne stepped down.

Now, with Waukesha's city administrator position vacant again, Crandell is once again called upon to do double duty. Crandell will officially become the interim city administrator on Aug. 5 when Luther steps down from her position and moves to Illinois, where the 36-year-old will be named the Peoria County administrator. He'll then split time between his community development office and the city administrator office, which are right down the hall from each other at City Hall.

However, he's doing more than just double duty. That's because Crandell is already a member of the city's water negotiating team and is Waukesha's official spokesperson for the negotiations - all while still having his full-time community development director responsibilities.

It's safe to say his days are anything but dull.

"I've got a very full plate," Crandell said. "My days are long and busy."

Still, Alderwoman Joan Francoeur, who has known Crandell since 2004 when she was named to the Plan Commission, said he is the perfect fit for these roles.

"He's fulfilled these roles before, and we're very lucky to have him," Francoeur said. "He understands the scope of the position, and as a city, we have a deep bench that can pick up different tasks."

Getting reacquainted

The city administrator position, which works under the supervision of the Common Council, is responsible for the coordination and direction of the daily operations of city government, prepares the annual budget and provides the council policy information.

While he works with some of the same people as he did as the community development director, it's definitely a different role. As the director, he oversees permits and licenses that go through the city at Plan and Landmark Commission meetings, works on any redevelopment projects within the city and provides services in order to maintain and foster sustainable neighborhoods, industrial and business development.

As a result of the differing roles, Crandell has been working with Luther to get reacquainted with the position in preparation for her departure.

"We've been meeting on a regular basis and have had had several meetings," Crandell said.

While Crandell said he is happy to step into the position, he said he was taken off guard when Luther announced her resignation a couple weeks ago.

"I was surprised, but I want to wish her the best," Crandell said. "She was a tremendous city administrator."

Francoeur noted that since Crandell has been involved in many city projects and has worked with many different businesses over the years, the city will not suffer with an interim administrator. Even if the search is lengthy - which it is expected to be - Mayor Jeff Scrima agreed with Francoeur's assessment.

"We are fortunate to have some very good department directors and a community director," Scrima said. "We have people in place to be able to keep the city operations running smoothly."

Keep the water flowing

Crandell is also trying to make sure the water negotiations run smoothly which could begin by the end of the summer. He said he was asked by Luther to participate in the discussions.

The negotiation team has been a hot topic of late as the mayor has wanted more members in order to be equal with Milwaukee's seven-person team. But the City of Waukesha will go into the negotiations with Crandell and Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak as its members.

"I will do whatever I can to assist," Crandell said.

But won't handling three different jobs, which each have many obligations, be stressful?

If this is the case, Francoeur wants Crandell to know that he isn't alone.

"Whatever he needs we're here to support him," Francoeur said. "As Steve takes on more roles, we're all standing behind him."

Crandell appreciates the support from everyone within the city.

"I want to continue to have the relationship I have had with the Common Council as I have had as the community director," Crandell said. "I have had the support of directors as well as the mayor and we'll get through this transition once again."

A transition Francoeur said that shouldn't be too difficult to navigate through because of Crandell's personality and the fact that he is well-respected by many.

"Steve has a nice sense of humor and knows how to lighten the mood," Francoeur said. "He has an excellent repertoire with his peers, is professionally-mannered and is a person who is task-oriented.

"He has represented the city for a long time and he represents it with integrity. People trust him."

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