Ness formally taps Winson to be top aide

After the TV lights were turned off and most of the reporters and city staff had left, Mark Winson got a quick reminder that he's still a city outsider.

Photo: Mark Winson
Mayor Don Ness (left) brought back Mark Winson (right), who was fired by then-mayor Herb Bergson in 2005. [Bob King /]

After the TV lights were turned off and most of the reporters and city staff had left, Mark Winson got a quick reminder that he's still a city outsider.

"I need to go fill the parking meter," he said.

In about a month Winson will again be parking his car in the City Hall garage when he will likely return to the position as the city's chief administrative officer, a role he held from 2000 to 2005 before former mayor Herb Bergson infamously fired him by taping a note on his door.

The News Tribune broke the story of Winson's return Tuesday night.

Saying he needs someone to better communicate with the public and the City Council, Mayor Don Ness held a press conference to formally announce his intentions to hire Winson.


"I'm probably just as surprised as most of you to be standing here today," Winson said. "I stood here nine years and a week ago to accept the same position."

Winson will replace Lisa Potswald, who will be demoted to director of public administration and have her pay cut to other department managers' levels, Ness said.

As he did in a News Tribune interview Tuesday, Ness praised Potswald's management skills and said the city will benefit from her ability to focus more on day-to-day operations. But he also said a change was needed in how the administration deals with the public.

"There's no question that over the past year that the administration hasn't done a good enough job communicating with the council, communicating with the public, communicating with our public employees' unions, and we want to improve upon that," he said.

Ness cited Winson's communication skills as one of the primary reasons for bringing him back to city hall.

"One of his strengths was his ability to communicate with the council and with the public on issues that have a great deal of complexity," Ness said.

With the city facing another multimillion-dollar budget deficit, Winson, said he's not sure yet how to best handle the fiscal challenges the city faces. He said he's been focused on his duties at Lake Superior College, where he has been the vice president of finance and administration for the past three years.

"I have purposefully not paid close attention to the city as I work at Lake Superior College," he said. "I lived through the Ventura cuts that were probably in some respects more devastating than these potential LGA cuts. It's a matter of looking at those resources you have available, looking at the core services that need to be dealt with, and putting the focus on core services. That will be one of the major challenges."


Winson's hiring and Potswald's new assignment are subject to approval by the City Council.

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