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F-M diversion starting new search for top post after failing to reach deal with finalist

Jay Neider1 / 2
Michael Redlinger2 / 2

FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority is expected to begin a fresh search for the top post of executive director early next year after failing to reach a deal with the finalist of an earlier search, according to a Fargo official.

Michael Redlinger, the city's assistant city administrator and the pointman in the search, said last week that the authority's board ceased negotiations with Jay Neider in early October after they couldn't agree on how much to pay him.

It didn't help that, in early September, a federal judge put the $2.2 billion flood-control project on pause for the duration of a lawsuit involving the authority, opponents in two upstream counties and Minnesota environmental regulators.

At its meeting a week ago, the board decided to restart the search with CPS HR Consulting, which conducted the previous search, because there wouldn't be any additional fees.

But board members expressed interest in loosening requirements to get a larger pool of candidates. For example, they didn't want to restrict candidates only to engineers with 15 years of experience as before. Now they'd also consider those with 15 years of experience in administration or other relevant fields. They also wanted to do a better job seeking qualified local candidates.

The Diversion Authority, which now has two part-time co-executive directors, Redlinger being one, wants to hire a full-timer with enough experience managing construction projects to oversee a project the size of the diversion. "The salary for this position is competitive and negotiable dependent on the qualifications of the chosen candidate," said the job posting on CPS' website. "Salary will be complemented by an attractive benefits package."

The search first began in February and resulted in 17 applicants submitting resumes. Neider, who runs a commuter rail expansion project in the Washington, D.C., area, emerged as the favorite at the end of August because of his communication skills.

Redlinger did not reveal how much the board offered Neider in closed-door negotiations. But the authority board had planned to offer more than the $177,000 a year that Neider makes at his current job.

The judge's injunction came in the middle of all this, but Redlinger said the main reason negotiations broke down was disagreement over Neider's salary and, to a lesser extent, benefits.

The injunction did, however, lead North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to form a task force bringing diversion supporters and opponents together. Once authority board members were finished with Neider, they decided to put their search on hold until the task force completed its work in mid-December. Now that that's happened, the board is re-starting its search.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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