Waukesha City Administrator Ed Henschel calling it a career

Published on: 7/8/2014

When Ed Henschel steps down from his post as city administrator in six months, he wants his replacement to be fully in place.

He doesn't want to put the city in the same predicament it was in three years ago.

That's when the city was searching for a new city administrator after Lori Luther resigned during the summer of 2011 to take a job as the administrator of Peoria County, Illinois.

The city named Community Development Director Steve Crandell the interim city administrator almost immediately. He held that title for more than a year while the city went through a long process in trying to find Luther's replacement. The city needed two search firms and had its top candidate for the position back out after being offered the job.

After hiring a second search firm and finding a new field of candidates, the city ultimately found Henschel in September 2012.

"Despite the yeoman's efforts that Mr. Crandell put in serving as interim administrator while serving as community development director," Henschel said, "it did result in me having to take on just a host of issues (when I was hired) that I just assume my successor didn't have to deal with."

Henschel, who came to Waukesha after a lengthy career in municipal government, last week announced his upcoming retirement. His last day in office is Jan. 4, 2015.

"I'm telling you this now because to do a national search we're looking at five months, and it still seems like a long time away, (but) it's actually a pretty tight timeline," Henschel said. "We really have no time to waste. What I really want to avoid is a vacancy in the office of the city administrator."

Henschel said the city has already sent out request for proposals to search firms. The firm the council selects will help the city to narrow down a list of potential candidates.

Henschel said at the July 1 common council meeting that the proposals were due shortly and will hopefully be presented to the council at its next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, July 15, at city hall, 201 Delafield St.

Henschel said he made the decision to retire "quite some time ago," but added it was emotional when he recently typed up his resignation letter.

"I think that speaks to the fact that my heart is still in the city of Waukesha," Henschel said. "It's been a wonderful place for me to essentially end my 40-year municipal career. It's been an exciting career. The city of Waukesha has been exciting over the last few years."

But Henschel said there is still much to accomplish before calling it a career.

"My work here is not done," Henschel said. "I have a great deal that I want to get accomplished before the end of the year. I want to make sure the 2015 budget is completed and adopted. I want to see that the classification and compensation study that we're about to start is completed before the end of the year, and I want to make sure the management vacancies are filled."

With Crandell recently retiring, the community development director's position is open. Also, Cemetery Manager Dave Brenner is retiring Friday, July 11, and Battalion Chief Joe Vitale is retiring after 30 years with the Waukesha Fire Department.

Before coming to Waukesha, Henschel had a long career in the area as well as out of state serving municipalities. He served as the city administrator of Clio, Michigan, in the 1970s, was the village manager of Elm Grove for 16 years and village manager of Whitefish Bay for seven years, until 2000.

At last week's council meeting, Mayor Shawn Reilly also touted Henschel's experience in negotiating a settlement in the 1980s "sewer wars" between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and nine outlying suburbs. Reilly also said Henschel was "an integral part" in the startup of the North Shore Fire Department consolidation.

Henschel has also been involved in the city of Waukesha's negotiations for Great Lakes water. Henschel's career also includes serving as the manager of Virchow Krause & Company, a state and local government consulting firm, for nine years and general manager of RW Management Group Inc., where he conducted consulting projects throughout the Midwest.

For his work over the years, Henschel was recently given the Meritorious Service Award by the Wisconsin City/County Management Association.

"It's a great award, and when I saw it I was saying, 'look how lucky we are,'" Reilly said. "And now we'll look back on it and say 'look how lucky we were.'"