The pages of the calendar appear to have moved slowly in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
May 26, 2020 seems to have been so long ago. That was the day Jeff O'Neill, City Administrator of Monticello announced that he would be retiring on March 1, 2021.
When longtime city worker Rachel Leonard emerged as the top candidate to fill O'Neill's position, a successful succession plan ended O'Neill's career as city administrator earlier than planned.
Now that Leonard is at the forefront of city personnel management, O'Neill only has one turn of the calendar before he can see his last day of work on the wall – and a scientific-sounding title of city manager emeritus.
Over the next seven weeks, O'Neill will serve as a sounding board for Leonard and enable the transition from himself to the new city administrator. It was a new position 34 years in the making.
Jeff O'Neill began his government career in 1980 when he began working as an administrative assistant for a police chief and city administrator in Coon Rapids.
"That gave me experience in a larger, growing community where I had good mentors," said O & # 39; Neill.
Two years later, O'Neill completed his master's degree in urban and regional sciences and was ready for a new professional challenge. He ended up in the small town of Watertown in Carver County, where he accepted the position of city administrator.
"I learned all about local government in a small town in Watertown," said O & # 39; Neill.
Two years later, in 1988, O'Neill was intrigued by a position that opened about 60 km from Watertown in Monticello.
“It was on the autobahn. It was lively. It grew. It looked like an exciting place, "said O & # 39; Neill.
"I really wanted to be a part of it," he said.
He was hired as Deputy City Administrator and Community Development Director for Monticello in March 1988. He worked closely with city administrator Rick Wolfsteller.
"Rick and I worked on so many projects together until he retired in 2005," said O'Neill. In 2005, O’Neill was promoted to City Administrator of Monticello.
When O'Neill got to Monticello, there was little development on the south side of Interstate 94.
"The only building south of I-94 was Monticello Middle School," O’neill said of the building that is now the Eastview Education Center.
There was no Oakwood Industrial Park, no Cardinal Hills development, no Carlisle Village development. There were very few businesses south of the interstate and there were no homes at all, except for the neo-Meadow Oaks development, O'Neill recalled.
O'Neill recalled that all of today's housing developments and most of the shops south of I-94 were located on farmland.
The same goes for the east side of Monticello, where there was no River Hills parish or Sunset Pond development.
"To be honest, the city was about a third of what it is today," said O & # 39; Neill.
The population of Monticello in 1988 when O'Neill first arrived was approximately 3,400, he said. Today the population is approaching 14,000.
The Monticello City Council long ago had the vision of building Monticello as a regional center, said O'Neill.
He says it was a great experience working with progressive community leaders who shared a vision for the future – what Monticello could be.
O’Neill and his team at City Hall worked hand in hand with the city council to create what O’Neill calls a well-connected community.
The city positioned itself to be ready and well positioned as new residents migrated from the twin cities to the northwest.
"Our overall plan reflects what the people in the community wanted," he said.
The city guides prepared a long time ago for the big shops that Monticello is now at home.
It wasn't done today, O'Neill said of building the infrastructure for Monticello's great manufacturing and retail base.
It is something that was planned 20 years ago to prepare Monticello for "today".
"Advanced planning has served the city well," said O & # 39; Neill.
This includes the construction of a network of paths and a parking system.
According to O'Neill, the high point of his career was planning, building and opening the Monticello Community Center – a center that is the city's crown jewel and the envy of many communities.
"The new location and facility for the fire station have also turned out great," he said.
While there have been many memorable achievements in the city of Monticello, it is some of the more subtle projects that O'Neill are most proud of.
One of them is the creation of Otter Creek Park.
"It turned out to be a nice little park that really took advantage of the surroundings there," said O & # 39; Neill.
O'Neill is also proud of the network of trails that has been set up throughout the city.
He applauds the current and past councilors for making a commitment to keep the walkway systems going while the subdivisions continue to be built.
Another milestone for the city that O'Neill is proud of is the purchase of the former YMCA land and the creation of the Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park.
"People call it a one-off project," said O'Neill.
"I say it's a one-on-five life project," he said.
O'Neill mentions the Fallon Avenue roundabouts, the Fallon Avenue flyover, and the rebuilding of Chelsea Avenue as projects of good ethics in planning.
As O & # 39; Neill transitions from the public employment sector to the private sector of retirement living, he can proudly see the work of the Central Mississippi Regional Planning Partnership (formerly Highway 25 Coalition) as a group shaping the future of the area, communities as well as productivity both the city's automotive division and the city's liquor store and the work Fibernet has done to fight for city dwellers' rights – both technology and pricing – on behalf of competitive internet services.
The city's development of an arts program is also something that Monticello has successfully accomplished and that has opened the eyes of many other communities.
As March 1st approaches with just one more turn of the calendar, before O'Neill's last day is pictured ahead of us, it reflects the end of a great run as Monticello city administrator.
"There are many rewards in the position, but after 34 years of responsibility, long hours, and nightly meetings keeping up is not as easy as it used to be," said O & # 39; Neill.
It is also more difficult to sustain the single-minded effort that it takes to get the job done right, he said.
"I look forward to improving the balance between family, friends and new and interesting activities," said O & # 39; Neill.
But at the end of the day, the world that Jeff O'Neill's life has been for the past 34 years is sure to be missed.
"I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many to help bring Monticello forward," said O & # 39; Neill.