The Fridley City Council voted unanimously to select Walter (Wally) Wysopal as the next city manager.
“I’m very exited and happy with our choice, and looking forward to Mr. Wysopal’s start here as city manager,” Fridley Mayor Scott Lund said. “He seemed to excel or stand out in our interviewing process. Wally’s personality and style seem to be conducive to what the City Council was looking for in a city manager.”
The position opened after former city manager Bill Burns retired Dec. 31. Pending agreement on contract terms, Wysopal is expected to begin around mid-June. A special meeting of the City Council will be held April 30 to finalize and approve the contract.
“It’s kind of been a calling for me,” Wysopal said of being a city manager. “I’ve done work in local government since I was 15.”
Wysopal has been the city manager for North St. Paul since 1998. Before that, he was assistant city manager of St. Louis Park from 1993 to 1998, assistant to city manager/personnel officer from 1988 to 1993 and public works administrative assistant from 1986 to 1988. He also worked for Northfield, Ill., as the assistant to village manager from 1983 to 1986.
When Wysopal was 15, he ran the softball league for the village of North Riverside, Ill., where he grew up. He and his brothers wanted to play softball, and the village didn’t offer a recreational softball program, so they started one.
“I enjoyed working with people and making a difference, so I’ve been working in local government for 29 years,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for improvement and to help make things better. Working in local government, because it’s so close to the people, you have instantaneous feedback. You know if what you’re doing is having a positive or negative effect, and I like that.”
Wysopal has a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University and a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University.
He and his family have lived in Fridley for six years. They lived in St. Anthony for 18 years, he said, and as their family got bigger with five children, their house became too small.
When they looked for a house, they found one they liked in Fridley. For high school, his kids attend Totino-Grace, where his wife graduated.
“When we moved to Fridley, I never had any sights set on being manager here,” he said.
Wysopal has been working in North St. Paul and enjoying his job. But when Bill Burns announced his retirement, he said he thought about it and decided to apply.
“It’s got the characteristics of a dynamic place that attracts me,” he said. “I think there’s so many great opportunities going on right now with redevelopment that the existing staff has been working on successfully.”
After living in Fridley for six years, he said he’s learned to love the community.
“I love the fact that we have a lot of philanthropic work going on,” he said, noting Fridley Women of Today, Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, the Fridley Historical Society and Springbrook Nature Center. “All those things just show a real great sense of ownership to the community, that kind of social network. People belong and they know they’re residents here. That’s great. I wouldn’t want to work for a community that was anything less than that.”
Wysopal said he was interested in the position in Fridley because opportunities for city managers don’t come up often.
“I really like the history of Fridley in terms of their city managers have all done a good job and had success,” he said. “The council is very focused on the community.”
The city manager operates the day-to-day business of the city, with several department heads reporting to the city manager. He said Fridley is facing issues he’s familiar with, such as Local Government Aid, housing and redevelopment.
Wysopal will also serve as a partner with the City Council, and one of his first goals is to help the council clearly identify their objectives so he can work toward them.
“I’m really pleased to be here. The mayor and council have a sterling reputation,” he said. “There’s a lot going on here, and I look forward to being part of that.”