Staples, Minn.,
16:20 PM

Mentorship Saves the City of Randall in Succession Planning

Wendell Schultz, Randall public works employee of 31 years, mentored Patrick Kalis for five months as the city prepared for Schultz's retirement in May 2017

STAPLES, Minn. (8 June 2017) -- Albeit charming and historical, a big town, the city of Randall is not.

And in a small city, everyone is expected to wear a variety of proverbial hats. That’s certainly no different for the city of Randall’s four full-time employees.

So one can likely understand the sense of panic when 31- year employee Wendell Schultz announced his retirement, effective May 2017. Among a variety of other responsibilities, Schultz oversees water and sewer, gas and electric systems, as well as routine maintenance.

Not only did the city know it had big shoes to fill, it also realized Schultz’s replacement would need to complete 42 operator qualification tests just to operate the natural gas system.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge to not only find someone to replace him, but to also find ample time to teach someone how to operate these systems,” said Matt Pantzke, Randall city manager.

Randall administrators found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Knowing they had only a limited time with Schultz on board, city leaders knew they also needed to hire someone fulltime to learn the ropes from Schultz.

Randall is a Sourcewell full-voting member and Pantke says he learned about the mentorship program with wage assistance through the Staples-based organization.

According to Anna Gruber, manager of City & County Solutions at Sourcewell, regional mentorships such as this encourage succession planning and recruitment. With retirement on the horizon for many in the current workforce, local government entities find themselves searching for specialized staff, as well as innovative recruitment strategies.

“Our mentorship program was created out of the success of our regional internship program,” Gruber said. “We had continuous requests for nonstudent placements and saw a need for mentorship-based relationships instead of academic-based relationships. The mentorship program gives organizations an opportunity to effectively plan for succession. It is Sourcewell's way of investing in the workforce success of our region.”

The Sourcewell mentorship program also provides organizations, such as the city of Randall, an opportunity to transfer knowledge and create a smooth transition.

Randall is the first Sourcewell member organization to take advantage of the mentorship program. In January 2017, Patrick Kalis (left) joined the city of Randall, working side by side with Wendell Schultz (right) to absorb as much knowledge as possible before Schultz’s fast-approaching retirement.

In all mentorship instances, Sourcewell provides every mentee $12 an hour up to 40 hours a week. However, some entities choose to pay more than $12/hour, as is the case with the city of Randall. Nonetheless, the subsidy makes the process and position affordable for already tight budgets.

“It would’ve been hard for the city to budget that much money on its own to pay two employees,” Pantzke said.

Having been offered the full-time position to replace Schultz, Kalis stayed on after his mentorship period was up. It was a smooth transition for employee and employer.

“Patrick has been doing a fantastic job,” Pantzke said. “The biggest benefit of this overlap is providing the time for this person to properly train to do these tasks. They have an opportunity of being taken under the wing of our current employee and utilizing his team. And it gives us time to transfer all of the knowledge of the city from one person to another.”

For more information regarding the Sourcewell mentorship program, contact Anna Gruber at 218-895-4135, or email

About Sourcewell

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota’s nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 300 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.