Dickinson City administrator Joe Gaa announced on Monday that he will be leaving the city after accepting a position as the Aberdeen city manager in South Dakota. Gaa's departure in mid-June will come after one year and six months in the position.
“It's been a real growing opportunity for me,” Gaa said. "This was a great jump for me and also a challenge, and I feel like I've learned a lot and grown a lot from being able to work with a larger and very qualified staff has been fortunate for me."
Gaa added, "To the employees, commission and community I have to say thank you. It's been such a welcoming community and staff and has been truly a great experience."
While Gaa said that he loved living in Dickinson, he will now replace current Aberdeen city manager Lynn Lander who has held the position for seven years and will be retiring this summer.
“Going to a similar sized community should be evident of how much I enjoyed and was comfortable here in Dickinson,” Gaa said. "Aberdeen is a bit more of a regional hub and I believe it will be a good move for me, though bittersweet."
Gaa notified the Mayor on Monday morning and forwarded a resignation letter to city commissioners mid-morning where he proposed a final work date of June 12. The matter was addressed at the commission meeting on Tuesday, where Mayor Scott Decker and commissioners officially recognized the announcement of Gaa's departure and will now face the challenge of finding a qualified replacement for the soon to be vacant seat.
The City Commission first established the position of City Administrator in 1996, and the position has been held by two individuals prior to Gaa.
“Joe worked very hard to fit in the community and worked extremely hard with all individuals in city government to move forward with the commission's policy making and vision for the future,” Decker said. "The biggest thing, I think for Joe, was that his heart is and always will be further south. I don't begrudge anyone, especially after what we all experienced with COVID-19, for wanting to be closer to home."
Decker said that his recommendation to the commission would be the same as what occurred when former city administrator Shawn Kessel departed, which is to have Linda Carlson, deputy city administrator, fill the role as interim-city administrator until the forthcoming city commission elections are completed and the new city commission can pursue filling the role full-time.
"We know that we are going to have at least one new member of the commission," Decker said. "Once the commission is seated we'll start discussions on finding a new city administrator."
The City Administrator is the leading authority providing municipal services through the coordination and direction of all finance and personnel activities and is a critical position within the city's structure.
In his tenure, Gaa oversaw the day-to-day functions of the city and coordinated the various departments including police, fire, engineering, finance, assessing, public works, library and museum in their functions.
Gaa spoke on some of his accomplishments that he is most proud of, saying that while he didn't get the ball over the goal line he is pleased with the progress that were made in key areas under his tenure.
"Being able to make the city wages market comparable is something that I've worked on, and while we aren't there yet I feel like we will get there eventually," he said. "The other project I'm proud of is Dickinson Hills, which was somewhat dead in the water and we were able to get it back to life a little bit. Two things that haven't come to fruition yet are things that I'm proud of having helped move closer to a reality."
As the administrator, Gaa was instrumental in overseeing and maintaining a sound fiscal position for the City through the preparation of the annual budget, responding promptly to all inquiries and requests of citizens, and disseminating information regarding City activities in accordance with state law and City Code.
Gaa coordinated many of the large scale projects impacting Dickinson, including coordinating the recent mobile COVID-19 testing held at the West River Community Center in Dickinson, overseeing multiple meetings with local businesses to address economic concerns amid the pandemic, coordinating and planning for the forthcoming move of City Hall to the ABC Insurance building in 2021, and carrying out various decisions of the city council and mayor.
“I know that whoever takes my place will come into a wonderful community like I did,” Gaa said.