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10 Questions for Brownsburg Town Council President, Sean Benham: On the recent removal of Kleinhenz, plans for the future

10 Questions for Brownsburg Town Council President, Sean Benham: On the recent removal of Kleinhenz, plans for the future

Sean Benham

In late August, the Brownsburg Town Council removed Grant Kleinhenz as the town manager. In his seven-year tenure, Kleinhenz oversaw many changes including the new downtown construction, gaining control of State Road 267 or Green Street from the state, and wastewater plant updates. Town Council President Sean Benham spoke with the ICON about the new direction the council is taking.

Brownsburg recently had a change in leadership at the town manager level. Why the change?

I am happy to be able to provide some discussion on this issue. I know this change came as a shock to many and it may have seemed to come completely out of the blue. The decision to make the change was not an easy one or one that came on a whim. It was a tough decision that this Council thought through, but felt was necessary to provide new leadership and direction as the town changes and grows. Just to end any speculation that may be out there, this decision was not made due to any issues of personal or professional misconduct on the part of Grant Kleinhenz. I want to lay any discussion about that to rest right now. This decision came down to the desire of this council to take the leadership and position of the town manager in a different direction.

Why wasn’t there more of an explanation, surrounding the change, given to the public?

It simply comes down to the fact that personnel and human resource matters are considered private matters between the employer and employee. The Town Manager position is the one employee that is hired by and responsible directly to the Town Council. Out of respect for that privacy, specific details that led up to the decision will remain private.

Was the vote to remove Grant Kleinhenz as town manager unanimous?

The vote to make the transition in the Town Manager position was taken during the Aug. 23 Town Council meeting. It came after my recommendation and motion, as president, to make the transition and then was voted upon. The vote was unanimous.

What qualifications is the council looking for in a new town manager?

This is one of the items that we are working to finalize in the next couple of weeks. I can say that it would be my recommendation that we seek someone with a degree in public administration, finance, planning or similar field and that has some minimum level of experience in public sector management. We are hoping to finalize these specifications and make the call for applications within the next two to three weeks.

What would you and the council want from a town manager, aside from the qualifications you mentioned?

I can say that a good candidate will be one that will be able to quickly grasp the growing and changing nature of the Brownsburg Community. There are many rapidly changing features of Brownsburg that make this a challenging but very rewarding time to be the next town manager. From the wide-open Ronald Reagan corridor that is ready for development to the possible community center, there are many moving parts to our town. The candidate will need to be someone that can communicate easily with the town staff, elected officials, and the residents on a variety of topics.

Also, the new candidate will have big shoes to fill when it comes to future planning. This was a strength of Grant Kleinhenz. Being able to plan for future projects and seek out sources of funding for these is a critical must in these days of property tax caps.

Do you anticipate an increase or decrease in the current salary?

At the Oct. 11 Town Council meeting the 2019 salary ordinance will have the first reading. The salary ranges for all positions, including the Town Manager position, will be reviewed and set for 2019. That being said, what salary that is offered to a new candidate for the Town Manager will have to come from considering several factors including experience of the candidate, what the candidate is asking for, and many others. This again is an area that is being finalized and a salary range will likely be published as part of the call for applications. I cannot speak entirely on my own as to what I would anticipate as this is an issue that would be finalized by consensus of the entire Town Council.

What is the timeline for hiring a new town manager?

I am working currently to finalize a timeframe for this. I know that I am saying that a lot, but we are truly right in the middle of determining the answers to all of these questions ourselves. I, personally, would like to see this completed by the end of the year but this may be an aggressive schedule.

What are the top priorities for the council in 2018-19?

I have alluded to a couple of these already. Seeing the opening of the new downtown developments will be huge for Brownsburg. These developments will change the landscape of our town forever and likely spur more development in the area. Our Redevelopment Commission is also working on projects for improving our Main Street corridor and bringing in new potential business as well. Completing the last leg of Northfield Boulevard will help move our transportation plan along as well.

How much longer is Green Street going to be closed?

North Green Street from Lucas Dive. to 56th Street is on schedule to be reopened in November. There will still be construction through 2019, including the portion involving the rail crossing and then south to Main St. Everyone should be happy with the improvements made, including the center turning lane and sidewalks along both sides of the street. The Council is also working to implement an ordinance to limit through truck traffic on this section of road due to this area having residences closer to the road.

What do you wish Brownsburg residents understood about town government and its purpose?

One of my predecessors on the Council stated very clearly that town government really has three purposes: paving, public safety, and parks. This put what much of what I have focused on over my term into perspective. We have to make sure that our roads are taken care of, our people are safe, and that they have a place for recreation. Anything else beyond that should be a secondary priority. I would say that we have put a lot of emphasis on all three of these areas in the last four years.

One of the biggest “culture-shock” moments for me when I started working with town government was when I realized how slow government works. There is a defined process for everything. This really makes getting anything accomplished a time-consuming process. However, I asked myself if I really wanted our government to move any faster?  This may seem counterintuitive, but not really. To make or change an ordinance, the Town requires three separate readings and votes on the ordinance. This gives residents up to six weeks to weigh in on ordinance changes.

Compiled by Gus Pearcy

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