WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Final Day for Burlington City Manager

Oct 2, 2020

After eight years in southeast Iowa, Burlington City Manager Jim Ferneau is leaving to pursue a business opportunity in Council Bluffs.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here. This has been a great community for all of us as a family,” he said.

Ferneau said he spent around 20 years working in city administration. He was city administrator in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa before he came to Burlington and prior to that he worked in Fairbury, Nebraska.  He said he worked in the private sector before getting involved in local government.

Ferneau said helping people to work together was the most rewarding aspect of the city manager job – and it could also be the most challenging.

“People come from different perspectives -- different viewpoints -- and are trying to achieve different ends. So it’s difficult finding a balance where you get people feeling that they’ve been heard.” Ferneau said.

He feels Burlington has moved forward during his time in the community, citing among other things:

  • Development in the downtown area
  • Progress on the federally-mandated sewer separation project
  • Completion of one phase of the flood wall and the start of the next phase
  • Completion of the new police headquarters. “We’ve seen the police department move into a new facility that should be able to meet their needs much better than what the previous one did.”
  • The Manor project. “(It) has been something that was a controversial project and the way it ended up there were a lot of negative feelings as a part of it just because it didn’t successfully complete. But now we’ve been able to see that get developed over the last few years.
  • The indoor rec facility, which he said was underway before he arrived in Burlington. “Being able to see one component of that get completed about a year-and-a-half ago and we’re in line to see some additional components of that occur over the next year or two.  Those are neat things to be a part of.”

Ferneau said Burlington is a good retail hub and is in better fiscal condition today than when he arrived. But he cautioned the community will always face financial challenges.

“Our infrastructure is old. And we’re not a growing community. We’ve gradually shrunk in population since about 1970,” he said.

“We face a gradually smaller group of people to cover an existing level of service and deteriorating infrastructure.”

Today (Friday, October 2) is Fereneau’s final official day as city manager. However, he will continue to perform some of the duties as an independent contractor while the city council conducts the search for his successor.

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