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New Portage mayor adding human resources director position

Portage Mayor Austin Bonta speaks during the Jan. 2 city council meeting.
screenshot from City of Portage YouTube video
Portage Mayor Austin Bonta speaks during the Jan. 2 city council meeting.

Portage Mayor Austin Bonta presided over his first city council meeting Tuesday. "What I could say is that the first two days has been like drinking out of a fire hose, but I absolutely love it," Bonta said during his first mayor's report. "It has just been such a joy."

Bonta then swore in Park Board President Paul Ciesielski as interim park superintendent, along with newly-appointed director of community development Tom Cherry. Chris Crail gave his first report as Portage fire chief, replacing Randy Wilkening, who's approaching retirement. But a number of other department heads from the previous administration remain in place, including Police Chief Michael Candiano.

Bonta is also changing around some positions. He's adding a human resources director, saying it's necessary to effectively manage personnel and related issues. "Portage, as a city of our size, I truly believe we need a human resources director," Bonta added.

He said he worked with new Clerk-Treasurer Elizabeth Modesto to free up money for the new position by hiring in a new official at a lower salary than the person being replaced and by eliminating an unfilled park department position. Bonta also changed the job title of the mayor's executive administrative assistant to chief of staff, but with no change in pay or benefits. Lee Ann Van Curen is taking that job. The council updated this year's salary ordinance to reflect the changes.

Meanwhile, two new members are taking over the council's leadership. Victoria Gresham was elected president, while Melissa Weidenbach was named vice president. Council members also agreed to appoint Bonta's selection for city attorney, Edward Graham, as council attorney.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.