Moose Lake taps county economic development director for top postPat Oman said his eight-year run as Carlton County economic development director has been fulfilling, but added that being selected as the new city administrator for the city of Moose Lake is “a good career path for me.”
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Pat Oman said his eight-year run as Carlton County economic development director has been fulfilling, but added that being selected as the new city administrator for the city of Moose Lake is “a good career path for me.”
Oman was selected for the post on a unanimous vote by Moose Lake City Council members last month from a field of 57 applicants. He is slated to report for his first day of work on May 20. And though he said many of the things he’s been doing as economic development director will lap over into his work with the city, he said he is looking forward to having more influence on the direction the city is headed in the future.
“With Carlton County, I have a staff of two,” said Oman, “but with the city of Moose Lake, I will supervise 10 departments and 50 employees. It’s a change in the core area that I’ll be serving, but a lot of what I’ve been doing will be much the same with the city. That’s exciting to me, and it opens up a lot of potential.”
Oman is no stranger to the Moose Lake area. He was born and raised just five miles away in Barnum, where he currently serves on the city council. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology and history at the University of Minnesota Duluth and went on to secure master’s degrees in business administration and manufacturing engineering at the Twin Cities campuses of St. Thomas. He has also begun taking doctoral courses in public administration.
Oman became Carlton County’s first economic development director in 2005, building up the department over the eight years he’s been there.
“You don’t walk out of college with a degree [in how to become an economic development director],” he said. “There’s a lot of it you have to put together as you go.”
Today he is proud to say he helped parlay the amount of economic development money managed by the county from approximately half a million dollars to some $5 million to $6 million. During that same time period, he said, he worked with the county’s many townships and cities in helping develop tax increment finance (TIF) districts, in some cases acting as “the city administrator by default” in that role. He was also instrumental in forming a county-wide Economic Development Authority.
As city administrator for Moose Lake, Oman will replace the recently departed Mark Vahlsing, who left after two years for a similar post in Kenyan, Minn. Prior to that, Dave Talbot held the position as Moose Lake city administrator for 18 years. In the interim following Vahlsing’s departure, Oman said he helped manage some of the city’s departmental obligations for them, particularly in the area of land development.
Oman’s departure will leave the county without an economic development director, but Oman said the county will be in good hands until a replacement is found.
“We have two very capable people in the department who have been cross-trained and can handle pretty much anything I did,” said Oman.
Carlton County Coordinator Dennis Genereau met Tuesday with two of the county commissioners to put together a strategy for filling Oman’s soon-to-be-vacated position with the county and come up with suggestions for a search committee. Once assembled, he said, the committee will hold an initial meeting to develop a set of guidelines for a prospective hire in the position and put together a job profile, determine where the job announcement will be published and outline the questions to be asked of the candidates. Genereau said a second meeting will be held following the deadline for applications to review and grade the submissions. He said he plans to recommend that the entire county board participate in the subsequent interview phase. He said he anticipates the entire process will take approximately two months.
Oman said he feels “very protective” of the county economic development department that he helped shape, and he hopes the county will take the time necessary and make it an “open and thoughtful process” to find the right person for the job. In the meantime, he said, he is looking forward to his new post with enthusiasm.
“Moose Lake is a small city that has a lot of the things that big cities have,” he said. “There are a lot of needs and risks — but there is a lot of potential as well.”