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Council Hires New Finance Director – Again

First candidate withdrew two weeks after he was hired, citing catty comments from aldermen.

For the second time in fewer than 45 days, the Common Council hired a new finance director.

This second time, in a special session Tuesday, the vote was unanimous to appoint John Ruggini. Ruggini was appointed after the first hire, Craig Kammholz, unexpectedly pulled out two weeks after he was hired.

Ruggini, currently assistant fiscal and budget administrator with Milwaukee County, will join the city as finance director April 12. At the county, Ruggini assists with oversight of a $1.5 billion annual budget. At the city, Ruggini will oversee an annual budget that, in 2011, is $50.3 million.

Ruggini's starting salary is $97,840, or $8,060 less than the $105,900 salary approved for Kammholz. Ruggini also will receive four weeks of vacation.

City Administrator James Archambo said he is "exceptionally comfortable" bringing Ruggini on board, and that Ruggini will take managing city finances to a higher level through performance-based budgeting. That budgeting process, Archambo said, includes internal measurement of the city's financial performance, historically and to date, as well as external measurement against other municipalities. 

Performance-based budgeting includes citizen input, with the goal of being "more efficient and resourceful with taxpayer dollars," Archambo said.

The finance director job opened up for Ruggini after Kammholz told the city March 2 that he was withdrawing from the job, said Beth Aldana, city human resources director and assistant city attorney. Kammholz had been appointed to the job Feb. 15.

When Kammholz informed the city he would not be taking the job after all, via e-mail and telephone, he noted that "he was disconcerted by some of the comments at the council meeting" Feb. 15, when the council approved his appointment, according to Archambo.

At that February meeting, Kammholz's appointment was approved after aldermen debated and eventually agreed 12-4 to waive a residency requirement for the finance director position so that the city could hire Kammholz, who lives in Milwaukee and works in Milwaukee city’s comptroller’s office.

The resolution also stipulated that Kammholz move to Wauwatosa to keep his job should he move from his current Milwaukee home.

Although a majority agreed to waive the residency requirement for Kammholz, citing a difficult housing market for sellers, the debate included comments by one alderman who, according to a report in WauwatosaNOW, said the city would be remiss in waiving its residency requirements so that Kammholz could recoup the costs of a newly renovated kitchen and its new stainless steel appliances.

Another alderman said she found it "appalling" that in the current job market the city could not find a candidate willing to meet the city's residency rules.

In the wake of those remarks, Kammholz withdrew. As of this posting, Kammholz could not be reached for comment.

"Unfortunate as it is, (Kammholz) had to make choice that was right for him and his family," Archambo said.

Archambo said Ruggini was among the final four candidates culled from more than 30 applicants.

"The pool was solid. Everyone is of such a high caliber," Archambo said.

In addition to his job qualifications, Ruggini offers another perk – he already lives in Wauwatosa, a mere five blocks from his new job at City Hall.

Ruggini said he and his wife opted to buy a house in Wauwatosa after renting in the Washington Heights area when the couple first moved to Wisconsin from Chicago three years ago. When they decided to buy a house, Ruggini said, they looked for an area "that was walkable, with strong neighborhoods and good schools, and Wauwatosa fit the bill."

The couple have three children, all girls – ages 3, 2 and six months.

Ruggini is excited about serving as finance director of his new hometown.

"It is a very well managed organization, strong financially, and the mayor and the city administrator have talked about exciting opportunities," Ruggini said.  

A 1999 graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Ruggini has worked in the public sector since his graduation, including two years as a Peace Corps volunteer with a local government in northeastern Bulgaria.

Prior to his job with Milwaukee County, Ruggini worked in the consulting and research division of the Chicago-based Government Finance Officers Association.

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