Familiar face, new role

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The new year will start off with a new city administrator in Marion.

Doug Kjellin, the city?s economic development director, was appointed to that position after David Mayfield announced plans to retire Dec. 31.

?I am very motivated,? Kjellin said about the city administrator?s job, ?and I am ready to serve the people of Marion.?

Challenges

?We don?t want to contemplate a continuing shrinking economy,? Kjellin said, ?but we better plan for the worst and hope for the best.?

With the 2012 budget workshops beginning in the spring, Kjellin, who was born and raised in Marion County, said it would help to have a crystal ball and see where the city will be.

Some questions he considers for the 2012 year include how best to allocate the city?s resources; what a comfortable debt structure might be; what would be the dollar amount to put away for a rainy day and addressing matters in a proactive manner to get the best value for expenditures.

Accomplishments

Three months after accepting the position of economic development director in 2008, Kjellin said Golden Living Center closed.

Having had experience as a real estate associate, he said the city was able to ?flip the property,? and avoiding another empty building.

In addition to the Marion County Special Education Cooperative moving in, the city was able to gain a generator making it 100 percent self-generating in the event of disaster or the need for emergency preparedness.

The city can be a command center in almost any catastrophic event.

?I feel good about that,? he said.

Other accomplishments included Spur Ridge Vet Clinic, which was a $500,000 investment in the city?s industrial park, south of U.S. Highway 56, he said. During his tenure, Kjellin was also instrumental in getting Auto House from Galva to Marion and Mark Evans with AirStream.

The industrial park also has an incentive grading system, he said.

The system?s purpose looking at the total investment to the city, based on employees, taxable sales, local banking relationship and more.

?It is a guide,? he said, ?and if a company comes in, like a cell tower, they probably aren?t going to get a free land deal.

?If it?s manufacturing a retail product and we can sell electricity, income for payroll and good investment,? he said, ?then it?s a good chance we will give them the land.?

In recent weeks, Duckwall?s announced it would be closing its doors, and Kjellin said an individual has made contact with a wholesaling company that provides similar products, who is seriously contemplating that building.

?The store would stay local, unlike a franchise,? he said.

E-community funds

Some entrepreneurs could also take advantage of E-community funds for new or expansion purposes.

?E-community raised $120,000,? he said, ?and it?s still available.?

Kjellin said there is certain selection criteria and some small businesses could consider other avenues.

For example, a business costing between $20,000 to $30,000 for the total package could qualify for an E-community loan.

Another way E-community dollars might help someone get started is if a local bank is interested, but only willing to put up $15,000 of the total $30,000.

?The bank could loan that amount with first position on mortage and E-community could come in with the other $15,000,? he said.

Youth center

Kjellin said he is unable to continue in his role as president of Marion Youth Advancement Campaign because of time issues related to his new job.

?We need a group of leaders concerned about kids and this community, and the future of this community, to step up and help,? he said.

The building at 1220 E. Main St. was an auto repair shop until 2008 and prior to that a filling station.

Marion Advancement Campaign, or MAC, is the owner and title-holder of the property. Marion Youth Advancement Committee, or mYac, will function under MAC?s non-profit 501(c)3 status and will be responsible for all daily operations and costs of the center, he said.

?Very few marginal items need to be done,? Kjellin said to get the building open.

Kjellin envisions grandparents, retired teachers or parents spending one night a month at the center.

?The center has lost its momentum,? he said, ?and it needs leadership to help get it going again.

Economic development

After Kjellin vacates the economic development position, he thinks there will be reshuffling.

?I think we will need to lean heavily on MEDI (Marion Economic Development Inc.),? he said.

He plans to help direct the efforts of economic development, but said a liaison would still be needed.

?It may be a part-time job,? he said, ?as a general administrative and economic development assistant.?

While Kjellin said he believes he can still direct and respond to potential opportunities for expansion or new people coming into the community, he will be limited on time to research, write letters and other areas, which is where a part-time person can help.

Personal facts

Kjellin and wife,Amy have three sons: Erik, 18; Andrew, 16, and Adam, 12.

He graduated from Marion High School in 1983 and WSU in 1996 with a degree in business administration and minor in economics.

Following graduation, he lived in McPherson until 2008. He started his own business, Integrity Refuelers, but after Sept. 11, the FFA shut down all aviation activities.

In 2005, he worked for Tractor Supply Co. as a developer of new sites. His job was looking for locations for the company to build.

?I negotiated land contracts, got approval from the real estate department to proceed, worked with the in-house general contractor to build $3.5 to $4.8 million buildings.?

Kjellin was involved in seven of those projects before the real estate bust.

Loss of family members

About that time, Kjellin said, both of his parents had died and the family farm near Marion was sitting vacant.

As the executor of the will and trustee of the trust, Kjellin said he was trying to decide what to do with the house.

?I couldn?t imagine anyone else living there,? he said.

Consequently, he started looking for work in Marion so his family could move back to his childhood home.

During his job search, he spoke with Jami Williams, former economic development director. In mid-year 2008, he accepted that job.

?We have quaint, rural Kansas town charm here,? and Kjellin. He said there is no reason why it couldn?t be more of a tourism area.

Among the city?s other assets, Kjellin pointed to the Elgin Hotel and its 60-plus seating capacity and other opportunities.

The renovated city auditorium can seat 250 for meals, receptions, training and seminars.

Adding to the mix is the Cultural Arts Center for concerts and regional performances.

A new way to view the city

Kjellin made an analogy between the city?s administration to that of private sector business. He said the city resembles a group of shareholders and the city is a company.

?Everybody within the city limits of Marion is a shareholder in the company,? he said. ?The board of directors (or city council) has to be responsive and be the ears for administration as to what the shareholders want.

?What kind of return (are the shareholders looking for)? How do they want their business to benefit them?? he asked.

From those questions, the board of directors advises the administration and sets policy on how the business needs to be run.

As chief executive officer, Kjellin said, it is his job to implement policy and make sure those policies are completed.

?I have always been in the private sector,? he said. ?An asset/liability kind of guy.?

Kjellin said he believes a lot of the city?s problem is ?income statement people,? who might see an extra $50 and wonder where they can spend it.

Instead, he said the city needs to look at its worth, assets and decide which assets to cling to and what kind of money to spend improving those assets in an efficient manner.

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