Columbus has to deal with another department head departure—its fourth in nine months—with the resignation of the city’s water and light superintendent.
Eric Anthon, who led Columbus Water & Light for seven years, resigned recently and took another position. Anthon did not return a phone message requesting comment.
Mayor Mike Thom announced Anthon’s departure at the Feb. 5 City Council meeting at city hall. Anthon worked for the water and light utility for 10 years, three as an assistant superintendent before taking over the director position.
“I observed Eric successfully build and foster positive and productive partnerships with city administration and staff in both a management and fiscal manner while working on city infrastructure projects, whether it was the Highway 16/60 state reconstruction project, future state highway projects, or local city streets,” Thom said. “He contributed greatly in his involvement and understanding of local development projects as well as working when needed with the city’s department of public works and police and fire department in emergency management events.”
The department head resignations began last April with Police Chief Dan Meister leaving for a chief position in the Fox Valley. Lt. Dennis Weiner has served as acting chief as Columbus continues to find a replacement for Meister. In August, City Clerk Megan Meyer left for a position at the Wisconsin State Bar and, in October, Public Works Director Davis Clark was placed on paid administrative leave. The city did not specify why Clark was placed on leave, but said it was for an indefinite amount of time.
Now the city is left with another significant void to fill with Anthon’s departure. Moving forward, water and light employees Michelle Kaltenberg and Joe Hammer will serve as co-interim superintendents until the city hires a new director. The city’s Water and Light Commission accepted Anthon’s resignation Jan. 24 and appointed Kaltenberg and Hammer to the interim positions. A phone message to Commission Chair Rolf Lang seeking comment was not returned.
“He was open and inviting to schools to tour facilities and offer educational opportunities for students in our local schools,” Thom said of Anthon. “Eric was a productive manager of his staff, crew and employees. He was very proud of the level of service they provide utility customers and the community.”
In recent years, Anthon helped the city secure a $300,000 lead remediation grant to replace lead laterals at no cost to home owners. According to Thom, the entire funding will be used by the end of the year.
“He left the utility with a commission that supports future lead remediation efforts with new state laws that will allow local utilities address lead pipe remediation through local ordinance and future grant opportunities,” Thom said. “Eric leaves the utility in great shape and is due credit for his efforts.”
Thom said he understands there is concern in the community about the buildup of resignations and open positions.
“I know there are a lot of questions and some rumors going around,” he said.
In regards to the police chief opening, Thom said he has faith in Weiner’s leadership and will wait on a recommendation from the Police and Fire Commission on the city’s new top cop. The city hired a consulting firm to help with the police chief search last summer, but the position remains unfilled.
Clark, meanwhile, has moved on. He recently accepted a director of public works position with the village of Windsor. Clark did not respond to an email seeking comment.
“Davis voluntarily resigned from the city of Columbus, so our focus now is to find the best individual possible to lead the Public Works Department into the future,” said City Administrator Patrick Vander Sanden.
During the Feb. 5 Committee of the Whole meeting, the committee reviewed a job description for a new public works director.
Goebel named city clerk
The city has filled one of its department head vacancies.
At the Feb. 5 council meeting, Thom appointed Pat Goebel as city clerk. Goebel had been serving as interim clerk since October.
Goebel has several years’ experience in the clerk’s office and the city believes she will be an ideal fit.
“Pat has clearly expressed great satisfaction in assisting those seeking information and resources regardless of how or who may be requesting assistance at city hall,” Thom said. “Her extensive work experience as deputy clerk for the city has given her confidence when facing challenges. Myself, and many others have seen that confidence grow significantly in her role as acting clerk.”
Thom said Goebel has also expressed a desire to keep learning through training and certification processes.
“Those are all very important qualifications and I am confident in her ability to serve as the next Columbus city clerk,” Thom said.