New city administrator steps into role
Justin Weiland brings 18 years of experience
New city administrator Justin Weiland brings 18 years of experience to the role in Tea.
Weiland, who started Sept. 18, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration from the University of South Dakota. Ever since graduating, he has worked as a city administrator - first in Waterville, Minn., then in Lennox for little over four years and most recently in Dell Rapids for the last 13 years.
Growing up in Madison, Weiland’s father was a funeral director. Even though that was a private business, Weiland said it’s really a public service and helped people in their times of need.
“I think that was my first strong basis for me wanting to do public service,” he said. “In college I gravitated that way and got my master’s in public administration and right away I knew then that I wanted to be involved in local government.”
When he was starting his master’s program, Brookings, Vermillion and Yankton were the only cities in the state with city administrators. Now there are about 25-30 city managers around the state.
“When I found out about city managers, I thought that was an interesting job to have as a career. It’s a public service, it’s not elected. It’s not political,” he said.
The purpose of the city administrator position is to serve in a CEO-type capacity for a city. The city council expect the city administrator to manage the staff and the projects and anything to do with operations.
As a natural progression for city administrators, they continue to move into the role in larger cities. While he was not looking for a new position, he connected with the mayor and council.
“It felt like a good fit and felt like an opportunity for me personally to gain experience,” he said.
Weiland likes that Tea is growing at a good rate and this position in Tea is exposing him to some things that he would not be able to be exposed to in Dell Rapids.
While Tea is growing, Weiland feels that it has that small town feel.
“I prefer a small community just from the standpoint for my family to live and grow. It’s having a small, safe community that’s not in a big urban area has always been important to me and my family,” he said.
Currently, Weiland is commuting from Dell Rapids while they look for a house in Tea. His wife, Jill, works remotely for the American Cancer Society. They have two daughters, Pearl and Ruby, who are in middle school and elementary.
“I do think that’s important when making decisions and guiding the council in their decision-making that’s always involving taxpayer dollars that I’m also a taxpayer myself,” he said.
With about a month and a half into the city administrator job in Tea, Weiland said everyone has been welcoming and willing to sit down and share information. During his first six months on the job, he will be working to engage the community and meet people, gain trust with the staff and council, navigate some projects and listen.
“Each community, they’re all municipal governments but they all approach things differently, the way the organization is set up differently. They communicate with the public differently. There’s so many nuances to sit back and gauge before I start recommending any changes,” he said.
While the mayor and city council are elected officials and serve as the city’s decision-makers, they also have full-time jobs. For the complexities of the day-to-day, they hire staff like a city administrator.
“They’re going to lean on me to have the expertise to make recommendations on how they should be making decisions, but they also hired this position to take care of those day-to-day communications and day-to-day decision-making,” Weiland said.
He thinks Tea has had really good leadership in this community for the last two decades. Tea has grown rapidly.
“I think the guidance and leadership of the elected folks and the city staff that’s here has helped set this community apart from maybe some of the other communities in our metro region,” he said. “I do think there’s been some good future forethought, there’s been really good planning.”
Weiland feels fortunate to walk into a community that has experienced city staff. Having experienced staff in place will allow him to engage in the community more and get input from community members.
He is also grateful to former city administrator Dan Zulkosky for getting the role established. Weiland’s goal is to springboard off the work that Zulkosky did and fine tune how the role works in the community.
“I’m just looking forward to collaborating with the city council to work toward their vision and goals, also just collaborating with the community to find out what their hopes and dreams are for the community and see if we can get those to come to realization over the course of time,” Weiland said.