West St. Paul city hall

New & Old Faces: Staff Changes at West St. Paul’s City Hall

Thanks to Jameson’s Irish Bar for their support.

A series of staff changes are coming to West St. Paul’s city hall, including a new city clerk, a familiar face returning at the community development director, and a potential promotion. These changes come as new City Manager Nate Burkett settles into his role.

City Clerk: Nicole Tillander

The first new face is Nicole Tillander who recently took on the role of city clerk. She’s been on hand at recent City Council meetings, fully taking the reins for the first time at the August 9 meeting.

Tillander previously worked for Dakota County and the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

“I like working in government and wanted the smaller feel of municipal government—and as a bonus, it’s much closer to home,” said Tillander. “I am really enjoying getting to know my co-workers and love how invested and engaged West St. Paul residents are in their community.”

Tillander replaces former City Clerk Shirley Buecksler who left in early May to take a city clerk position in Mantorville and be closer to family.

One of the city clerk’s important roles is overseeing elections in West St. Paul, a position that’s been in the spotlight in the past year.

“I think election integrity at all levels is of the utmost importance to our democracy and political process,” Tillander said. “The previous clerk took elections very seriously, as do I, and she is still a resource for me. I plan to learn all I can about elections and take advantage of my friends and resources back at the county level as well.”

Community Development Director: Ben Boike

Next up is a familiar face with Ben Boike who returns to West St. Paul to take on the role of community development director, a role vacated by Jim Hartshorn who ‘parted ways’ with the city in May. Boike previously reported to Hartshorn as the city planner and assistant community development director when he worked for West St. Paul from 2007 to 2020. Boike has served as community development director in Cottage Grove since leaving West St. Paul.

“The opportunity to return to West St. Paul was something that I could not pass up,” Boike said. “Although I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and time here in Cottage Grove, I have found that my passion still lies with commercial redevelopment. In addition, I miss the team in West St. Paul, specifically the smaller staff and camaraderie of working with a smaller staff.”

The role of community development director gets a lot of attention (and sometimes ire), depending on the popularity of the projects that come in—which the city often doesn’t control. Boike seems ready to balance those challenges, noting that market demands are a prominent factor but that the market will correct itself.

“One of my areas of focus will be to creatively market potential developments to businesses that will move West St. Paul in the best direction for the community,” Boike said. “The increase in residential density on Robert Street and elsewhere in the community will only strengthen the market for those uses that residents would like to see, like restaurants, retail, and entertainment. I think it’s fairly evident with all the construction happening that investors like what they see, which will only continue to strengthen the community moving forward.”

Assistant City Manager: Dan Nowicki

Burkett is likely tapping Marketing and Communications Manager Dan Nowicki for a promotion to assistant city manager, a new position presented to the City Council at Monday’s meeting as part of the 2022 budget. Nowicki sees good things in West St. Paul’s future.

“Looking forward, West St. Paul will continue to attract major business developments,” Nowicki said. “While Robert Street has historically been our main retail/dining thoroughfare, we’ll see some exciting changes and developments in other areas of the city in the coming years as well. In addition to development, the city is taking steps to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into all aspects of city business. It excites me to see the city taking steps to ensure all of our community members are set up with the tools they need to succeed.”

Nowicki has led West St. Paul’s social media presence (remember chicken on the water tower?) since 2014.

“Without a doubt, social media is the most important communication tool we have. It’s also the number one source of misinformation,” Nowicki said. “Sometimes it may seem like we’re wasting time by posting a joke or story, but it’s all part of a strategy to keep our interactions and views high so when we do have an important message, it reaches the maximum possible audience in the shortest possible time.”

The community involvement is Nowicki’s favorite part of West St. Paul.

“The mere fact that you’re asking me questions right now shows that our community cares enough to voluntarily fund a new local news source when papers and other local journalism are folding elsewhere,” Nowicki said. “I talk to my counterparts in other communities and realize just how lucky we are in West St. Paul to have the involvement we do from our residents and businesses.”

While Nowicki’s promotion isn’t official yet, it is on the horizon.

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