Lou Leone begins July 15
By Scott Bellile
The city of New London selected its next city administrator.
The New London City Council on Tuesday, May 28 voted 9-0 to hire Lou Leone. Third District Alderwoman Lori Dean was absent from the meeting.
Two weeks earlier, May 14, the city council had voted 9-1 to extend an employment offer to Leone. Fourth District Alderman Mike Pinch voted no.
Leone, who is currently the city administrator for Kiowa, Kansas, will begin his position in New London July 15 at a starting salary of $90,000.
He will work for a one-year probationary period, after which city officials can decide if they want to keep him employed.
The city council will give him a performance evaluation every three months, which Mayor Gary Henke said is standard practice for the city administrator.
Leone’s peers consulted during the hiring process recommended him for the job, Henke told the Press Star.
“I think he’s enthusiastic,” Henke said. “I think he’s a good worker. Personality-wise, I think he’s going to fit in with the community very well.”
Leone has been the city administrator of Kiowa, a community of just over 1,000 people, since late 2015.
Prior to that, Leone was a patent litigation paralegal as well as a legal assistant for the Office of the Attorney General, both in Denver, Colorado.
A Chicago area native, Leone holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado Denver, a certificate in paralegal studies from Loyola University Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.
Leone will succeed Kent Hager, who is retiring from New London City Hall after nearly 20 years.
Hager was set to work his last day June 14, but he said due to health problems, he moved his retirement up two weeks to Friday, May 31.
Hager was not involved in the city administrator search, so he declined to comment on the outcome other than saying during a New London Economic Development meeting on Wednesday that it is “time for new blood” in the city administrator position.
Leone’s job application highlights several of his professional accomplishments.
Those include managing Kiowa’s expenditures with a net savings of $1.2 million over three years, establishing the city’s first electric department in 25 years and improving the reliability of the power grid, and testifying before a Kansas Senate committee on how proposed municipal internet regulations would impact a Kiowa broadband project.
He also indicated he was proud to have taught civics lessons to elementary school students while on the job.
In 2016, Leone was awarded the Early Career Excellence Award by the Kansas Association of City/County Management. The award recognizes exceptional local government officials in Kansas during the first five years of their careers.
Leone said at a candidate meet and greet event in New London on May 2 that he became interested in public service after sitting on the board for a homeowners association in Illinois.
“It was one of those situations where I was complaining about what the board of directors were doing, and my wife said instead of complaining about it, go and do something about it,” Leone said. “So I ran and got on the board, and the first thing I did is I ripped up the budget and started over. And in three years we went from 30,000 in reserve to 160,000 in reserves, and I didn’t raise any dues. I just made the budget look like it was supposed to.”
Leone went on to say his attention to Kiowa’s budget helped turn the city around from a community eight years from bankruptcy to one that is “solid financially” and building up its reserve accounts.
He also said at the meet and greet that communicating with the public is important to him, whether by hosting town hall forums or by doing media interviews.
“I am a big believer of an open-door policy,” Leone said. “I spend seven of my 15 hours a day sitting there just talking to people. (I am a) big believer in getting the information out there.”
The two other finalists in the New London city administrator search were Kami Lynch, Appleton city clerk, and Jeff Mikorski, city administrator for Verona.