Herman looks back on 14 years as city administrator

In October, City Administrator Doug Herman praised MercyCare for choosing to rebuild their clinic in Monticello.

Herman, far right, was part of the planning to build a Kirkwood regional center in Monticello. This is one of many projects Herman is proud to have been a part of. (Express file photos)

In August 2016, the community held a ribbon cutting to commemorate the downtown pocket park, a joint city/chamber project. The park was created following the downtown fire in November 2012.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Downtown pocket park. Numerous street repair projects. The completion of the Renaissance Center. Renovations to City Hall. Baty Disc Golf Course. Willow Shelter/Park/Trail. New MercyCare clinic. Jones County Youth Development Center. Yogi’s Inc. New Kirkwood regional center. New hotel. Improvements to city parks. Improvements to Fountain Park. Improvements to Berndes Center. Expansion of industries (Polo Custom Products and Orbis). New terminal building and hangars at the airport. Flood buy-outs and business relocations (Julin Printing and Monticello Machine Shop).

     All of these projects and more were completed during the 14 years City Administrator Doug Herman served the City of Monticello.

     “These are quality of life projects,” said Herman. “A lot has been done to make the community more attractive for people to want to live here.”

     In October, Herman announced his resignation, effective Dec. 4. The city council has already begun the process of hiring a new city administrator.

     “It’s easier to do the job in you’re active in the community and people know you,” Herman said in terms of advice for the incoming administrator. “When I started, it was easier to get things done because people knew me, because I had already lived here for 12 years. I proved I wanted to be part of the community.”

     Herman started working as city administrator in 2006. Prior to that he worked for the Strittmatter law firm (Locher, Locher, & Strittmatter) in Monticello for 10 years, before opening his own law office in 2004.

     “That’s why I moved to town, to become a partner,” Herman said of working with Nick Strittmatter.

     While working with Strittmatter, Herman became the city’s attorney.

     When the city began the hiring process for a new city administrator, then-Mayor, Jerry Wilbricht, approached Herman regarding the city’s interest in hiring him for the job.

     “He knew me and knew I was involved in the community,” Herman said. He served on the Parks and Rec Board in the early 2000s when planning for the new Aquatic Center. Herman also coached his kids in youth sports.

     “Jerry didn’t want a revolving door of city administrators coming in and out,” continued Herman.

     Admittedly, Herman only planned to do the job for three to four years, wanting to utilize his law degree. Fourteen years later, he is pursuing a job with a private law firm in Cedar Rapids.

     “I had been involved with the city enough to know that things weren’t addressed with the former administrators,” Herman said of projects that were still on the books.

     Working as a lawyer, Herman said you tend to deal with conflict a lot. At the time the job came about with the city, he was looking to become an active participant and to help make things happen for Monticello.

     “It doesn’t always have to be conflict,” he said.

     Case in point, Herman said following the downtown fire in November 2012, he worked with donors and the chamber to turn a bad situation into a positive: the creation of the pocket park.

     In the 14 years since he’s been on the job, some changes have obviously taken shape. Most notable, Herman said, the community’s willingness to publicly and vocally support city projects.

     “That has diminished,” he said. You hear the negative too often before any positive. “Support has gone downhill.”

     Herman noted that lack of public support is not unique to Monticello, but all over the country.

     “There is just less respect for others’ opinions,” he added.

     While so many projects were completed and started under Herman’s tenure here, those that stick out for him in terms of his involvement include the new Kirkwood center (built in 2008, opened in 2009), the relocation of Yogi’s Inc. south of town (opened in 2010), and Cobblestone Inn & Suites (formerly Boulders Inn & Suites, which opened in 2016).

     “I felt good about these projects,” Herman said.

     Herman credits Dave Tabor as assisting behind the scene with Yogi’s, and Tom Yeoman with the hotel project.

     The Herman family (Doug, Leann, Sydney, Sawyer, and Caleb) moved to Monticello in 1994.

     “I had two job offers at the time with law firms in Cedar Rapids and Monticello,” recalled Herman.

     Having chose Monticello because the family wanted to reside in a small town, the family quickly invested in the community in more ways than one. Leann owned and operated Java Jones from 2004-17. They also invested in commercial and residential properties throughout the years, including the Schoon building where Java Jones and Oasis Salon are housed today, and the building containing The Jitney, both with upper story housing.

     “The Schoon building was in significant disrepair,” Herman recalled.

     He said the downtown of any community, in his view, if the heart of the community, and Herman made it his mission to fix up a couple of buildings and turn them into usable properties.

     “I felt good about preserving those buildings,” he said.

     In terms of renovating the building on E. First Street, Herman added, “I didn’t want just anything to go in there.” He said Erin Cox and Katie Farrowe had an exciting idea when they wanted to open The Jitney in downtown Monticello.

     Herman also served on the Monticello Rotary Club since 1996.

     “It was important for me to be involved in the community,” he said of Rotary and coaching youth sports. “I like sports, and there are a lot of lessons in playing sports.”

     When the Herman family moved to Monticello, their first impression was of the downtown, and Herman would like to see the city bring life back into the district to attract business owners and people to the community.

     “It used to be active with a lot of shops,” he recalled. “We need to bring that vitality back.”

     Looking back on his time in Monticello, Herman is not only proud of the projects he had a hand in, but his ability to work with others to make things happen. He said with the city’s current tax base, population, growth, and economic development, he feels it’s a good time to step down, leaving Monticello going in the right direction.

     “A lot of positive things have taken shape in the last 14 years,” he said.

     While Herman will miss the interaction, he won’t necessarily miss the inefficiencies associated with working in government.

     “It can be frustrating,” he admitted.

     He explained that the process any government entity has to go through slows things down and ends up costing more money in the long run.

     “There are a lot of hoops to jump through. I won’t miss the process.”

     While change is hard for some, Herman encourages the council and city department heads and employees to accept whomever is hired as the new administrator.

     “Have an open mind. Each person has his/her different strengths and weaknesses. Be open to trying new things.

     “All-in-all, we have very good department heads here,” praised Herman. “It’s time for someone new to come in be successful here.”


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