Bloomington City Manager Finalists Share Thoughts on Downtown, Economic Development and More

 Interim Bloomington City Manager Steve Rasmussen (right), Decatur City Manager Tim Gleason (center) , and Washington City Administrator Jim Culotta (left) are all in the running for the position, the City announced last week. (Photo: Breanna Grow/AdaptBN)

Interim Bloomington City Manager Steve Rasmussen (right), Decatur City Manager Tim Gleason (center) , and Washington City Administrator Jim Culotta (left) are all in the running for the position, the City announced last week. (Photo: Breanna Grow/AdaptBN)

Bloomington’s three city manager finalists met with the press and members of the public at City Hall Tuesday evening to share why they believe they’re the best man for the job.

Interim Bloomington City Manager Steve Rasmussen, Washington City Administrator Jim Culotta, and Decatur City Manager Tim Gleason are all in the running for the position, the City announced last week.

At ages 45 and 53 respectively, both Culotta and Gleason said they’d gladly serve out the rest of their careers in Bloomington.

“When we talk about city manager opportunities in the state of Illinois, Bloomington is at the top of the list,” said Gleason.

Gleason served as Washington city administrator, Culotta’s current position, for two-and-a-half years before becoming Decatur’s city manager. Culotta joined the City of Washington in 2015.

Both refuted the notion that Bloomington may be a stepping stone to a job in another community. “I’m not sure that there’s anywhere else you’re going to find a greater opportunity,” said Gleason.  

Now in his fourth year in Decatur, Gleason said while the cities are comparable in many ways, “the health and vibrancy of [Bloomington] is greater than that of Decatur.”

The two said the choice to pursue the job in Bloomington is just as much personal as it is professional.

“I have a young family that I want to grow up in this community,” Culotta said. Gleason also hopes to move his family to Bloomington, with a daughter who’d start at Bloomington High School this fall.

Meanwhile, the 69-year-old Rasmussen said he’s rooted in Bloomington and wants to keep it that way. “I love the City and I’d be delighted to stay here for as long as the council would like me to stay here,” he said.

Rasmussen moved to Bloomington in 2014 to become assistant city manager, taking on the duties of interim city manager last November.

With the City in the midst of a number of long-term projects like infrastructure improvements and budget negotiations, Rasmussen said his continued service as top administrator would help keep the ball rolling.

If chosen as city manager, both Culotta and Gleason said they’d welcome Rasmussen remaining with the City as assistant city manager.

Read more comments from the candidates:

Moving Downtown Forward

“I think it’s important that the City do everything it can to invest in its people, and part of that is developing a strong entrepreneurial culture.” -- Culotta

“It’s a culture within the organization that grows outward into the community, and that’s creating a can-do attitude looking at unique ways to be successful. When you’ve got somebody even considering developing in your community, it’s critical to find a way to make it happen.” -- Gleason

“The first thing we do is continue working with our Downtown stakeholders...it’s listening to everybody and seeing what the people who actually are Downtown would like to work with.” -- Rasmussen

Building Trust in the Community

“When you’re talking about the needs of the community, you have to always have your ears open. You have to always give everyone an opportunity to be heard.” -- Culotta

“You treat your employees like you would like to be treated yourself...another thing you do is make yourself available.” -- Gleason

“One of the things I do is get out and visit with people at their workplace. I got one of the greatest compliments of my professional career a couple of weeks ago. I went out and visited the fire station on East Empire...I was walking out and the captain said, ‘You know, this is the first time in the 12 years that I’ve been here that anyone from City Hall has ever come and visited us.’” -- Rasmussen

Creating Efficiencies in Government

“Every community in which I’ve worked I’ve either led or initiated a performance measurement system...I’ve seen firsthand how actually measuring your efforts can improve city services, save taxpayer dollars and help elected officials make tough decisions. What you want is data-driven decision making.” -- Culotta

“We have to constantly be looking internally at ways to do things better so that the burden isn’t always on the backs of the taxpayers in trying to provide the municipal services that we’re tasked to give.” -- Gleason

“There are things that have just got to be not done. You’ve got to take that off the plate. Oftentimes we’re not told by the public and elected officials what things have to come off the plate. That’s one of the reasons why we have good, experienced department heads. They have to know those things that are no longer important to do so you can concentrate your efforts on what’s important.” -- Rasmussen

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Other Economic Development Incentives

“When you’re talking about development, each property offers its own unique set of circumstances. I think it’s important to have a very large toolbox of incentives and other means to address the gaps that may be there that are preventing a business from making an investment.” -- Culotta

“The elected officials in the community need to have assurance that we’re not jumping as City staff directly to giving away tax dollars. That’s part of the negotiation when you’re talking about new development.” -- Gleason

“TIF is a very powerful tool in our economic development toolbox, but it is not the one that would always be used and not necessarily the first one that we would use...When we bring forward a project what we want to do is communicate with all of the other taxing bodies and make sure that everybody is on board with the incentives we would want to use, so it gets the development we want at the minimum impact to everyone else.” -- Rasmussen

What’s Next: City Communications Director Nora Dukowitz said the candidates each had their final interview with the City Council Tuesday afternoon. Council members will discuss the impending decision at an executive session Monday night but no vote is expected at that time, Dukowitz said.