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Waukesha City Administrator Slated for Illinois Job

Lori Curtis Luther to be new Peoria County administrator.

Waukesha City Administrator Lori Curtis Luther will be leaving her post in Wisconsin to become the Peoria County administrator in Illinois – a county that has nearly twice the budget as the city of Waukesha.

The Peoria County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve Luther's contract during a meeting Wednesday. Luther was selected as the top candidate by the board late last week.

Luther, 36, has been in Waukesha since 2008. Luther oversees the budget process each year and introduced a budget for 2011 with a flat tax rate. She also has lead negotiations to convince the public unions to take a wage freeze in 2010 with 1.5 percent wage increases in 2011 and 2012 while contributing more toward their health care costs.

"It is bittersweet for me to share this news," Luther said in an e-mail. "I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the positive relationship that I have shared with the council, staff, and the entire Waukesha community.

"My three young sons, husband, who is a beloved teacher and coach, and I care very much about this community and had intended to stay in Waukesha for the long term. However, this is an exceptional opportunity to advance my career and also get closer to my family. I am very proud of our accomplishments and will miss Waukesha."

Luther's start date has not yet been determined. Luther will be paid $145,000 annually when her contract is approved by the Peoria County board Wednesday night.

The City of Waukesha already has been undergoing the 2012 budget process internally and will have to go it without Luther. It is unknown if the council will have a different city administrator selected by the time the formal, open budget meetings begin in early fall.

Luther already enacted a hiring freeze for police and fire department employees after news about Gov. Scott Walker’s budget came out. The city is expected to cut $1.2 million from its budget. A civilian hiring freeze already was in place but firefighters and police officer positions still were filled until Walker's budget was released.

Luther previously worked in Reedsburg, WI, and Overland Park, KS, in city management-type positions.

PJStar.com is reporting that the Peoria County Board Chairman Tom O’Neill felt Luther “could get along with people extremely well,” which would help with county and city relationships.

Becoming the Peoria County administrator is a step up for Luther, who will be overseeing a budget of $110 million and 27 department heads. The county has a population of 186,494. Waukesha’s budget for 2011 was $57.94 million.

Peoria County is located about four hours southwest of Waukesha. The population has increased slowly in the last decade, growing 1.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the last census data. The median household income in Peoria County is $47,330.

In comparison, the city of Waukesha’s population is 67,814 people and has grown 4 percent between 2000 and 2010. The median household income is $50,084.

The move comes after anonymous critics of Luther rumored that she was interviewing for the position. While Luther previously said that information leaked by anonymous e-mailers to Patch about her interviewing for the job in Peoria County was incorrect – due to a miscommunication error only part of that information was incorrect.

Patch apologizes for any confusion that came with the miscommunication error about the rumors surrounding the city administrator’s new position.

Luther has been the frequent target of public attacks during Common Council meetings after the council amended her employment contract to reiterate that she was to follow the direction of the council. In that contract change, Luther’s evaluations were to include the entire Waukesha Common Council under the direction of the Common Council president. In that move, the council removed supervisory abilities from Mayor Jeff Scrima.

However, the mayor never had unilateral power over the city administrator’s position. That means any decision to hire or fire has to be confirmed by the council.

The exact nature of the closed session discussion has not been spoken about publicly – for the most part.

But some news reports have quoted city officials stating that Luther was being given conflicting directives about the policy established by the Common Council and by what mayor wished. Under state law, the council sets the policy for the city and is the deciding vote ­– pending mayoral veto.

And, a Milwaukee Magazine article quoted former-Alderwoman Peggy Bull stating that once the council learned about Scrima’s words and actions, they had no choice but to change the contract.

clearthinker July 06, 2011 at 12:48 AM
Sarah, you are losing your BFF. Boo-hoo.
I, Claudius July 06, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Do you think it'll play in Peoria? Oy Vey.
alpine5654 July 06, 2011 at 02:47 AM
AMEN! 1 less problem to deal with. Lori, don't let the door hit you in the back side on the way out. Glad to see you are so committed to Waukesha...
Dean July 06, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Congratulations, Mayor, on driving all of the competent people away.
the 'sha guy July 06, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Dean, You stated "Congrats, mayor on driving all of the competent people away." Are you saying Ms. Luther is the only competent person in the city government? Or is there someone else he drove away? If there wasn't, I guess you are not speaking very highly of all the other city employees who are very competent in their city jobs.
tootsieraul July 06, 2011 at 03:51 AM
Sarah, As a professional reporter, how do you explain this? Re: Your June 21st comments section- "7:11pm on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Tootsieraul, I have been informed by the city administrator that your information is not accurate. Thanks, Sarah"
Sarah Millard (Editor) July 06, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Tootsieraul, as I clarified in the story, there was a miscommunication.
Danny July 06, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Now if we could get Paul YBarra to leave, Waukesha would be getting somewhere. Dont get me wrong, Lori leaving is a good start. Peoria is real lucky to have such an easy administrator to work with.
Dean July 06, 2011 at 11:56 AM
No, there are many competent people that work for the City. Who knows, Lori Luther could be the first of many. I would not want to work for the City right now. In any case, thanks for the grammar correction, my high school English teacher would be proud. To be accurate, I did use the word "Congratulations", and not "Congrats". Also, "alpine5654" said, "1 less problem to deal with", implying that there must be more "problems" to deal with. I wonder why you did not offer a correction for that statement?
J Carroll Petrie July 06, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Woot Woot !!! Guess she didn't like it here-oh well! Bye Lori!
the 'sha guy July 06, 2011 at 01:02 PM
I wasn't correcting grammar, just asking for clarification. Your statement was an absolute, in that all of the competent people have been driven away. I made the case that in fact they have not all been driven away and as far as I am aware, Ms. Luther is the only person who is leaving. Although Ms. Luther did a fine job while she was here, everyone is replaceable. The question is to what degree? They could find an individual who is better, or they could find someone worse and we will not know that for months. I trust that the Mayor and council will come together on this and do what is right for Waukesha. However, she is not the only competent person in the city as you inferred in your original statement and that was the point.
Dean July 06, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Why would you assume that, when the Mayor has shown very little willingness to work with the Council on anything? The more likely course is that the Mayor will find someone that he wants in the position, the Council will reject it, and we'll get a few of his supporters making calls to Sound Off and showing up at the City Council meeting.
Jeff July 06, 2011 at 01:47 PM
You people that are ragging on Luther are pathetic. Wake up and realize that we lost a great City administrator that seemed to get along with everyone except the mayor. We lost someone who provided citizens with no tax increase last year. We lost someone who was well respected among other local officials as well.
alpine5654 July 06, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Lori Luther ran this City by fear and intimidation. Just ask former Mayor Nelson how well they worked together. Luther would "blow up" at Mayor Nelson, and Nelson backed off and let Luther have her way. Why do you think Nelson was reduced to ribbon cutting ceremonies? She attempted the same intimidation tactic with Mayor Scrima as well, the only difference is Scrima did not back off like Nelson did. And look what happened... She changed her employment agreement... If you only knew what has gone down at City Hall... Do your own research... don't just go by what you read in the papers or online.
Gin Gin July 06, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Thank God she's leaving!! And we don't need to replace her - she duplicated the jobs of a lot of department heads. This is what we elect the mayor to do. Now we can take back some of the control lost to that pathetic City Council. Let's hope we decide to save the money from her salary and let our elected Mayor finally have some of his power back...
Dean July 06, 2011 at 07:43 PM
The Mayor never had his "power" in the first place.
Waukytalk July 06, 2011 at 09:40 PM
This hasn't been a "New Day for Waukesha" this has been a nightmare!!!! I guarantee there will be more Scriman!!!!
Jeff July 06, 2011 at 09:57 PM
In Wisconsin the corporate authority of a city is vested in the mayor and common council. State statutes lay out the roles and responsibilities of each. Like most Cities in Wisconsin Waukesha has a weak-mayor form of government. The main source of power is, and has always been, the Council. The mayor has a lot of roles and responsibilities laid out in the statutes but it doesn't give the person ultimate authority, something that the handful of angry residents just refuse to acknowledge.
Bucky July 10, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Bye B

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