Is Mayor TenHaken setting a precedent by appointing a city director without a college degree (or any degree)?

I have often told people, in Sioux Falls the best way to climb the corporate ladder is to kiss a lot of ass and meet a lot of people. It is WHO you know, not WHAT you know.

Just look at the appointment of Darrin Smith in the previous administration. He was appointed to run the parking department than community development without any planning experience, and now he runs an arts center. At least he had a college degree.

Notice that after Mayor TenHaken terminated the Central Services Director he said he was changing the name and purpose of the position. Could he also be changing the job description and requirements? Most city (if not all) directors and management have to have a college degree or a degree in their chosen profession. In fact, the HR director has said in public meetings that is how pay scales are determined. Many government jobs work this way. Agree or disagree, it is just the way it has been done.

So how is it that a ‘NEW’ position is being created, at the top of the pay scale ($147K Salary) for a person without a degree?

How do you think the other city directors feel about this?

While I don’t have a problem with people succeeding in the private sector without a college degree, in the public sector, a director should at least have a degree. Public Works director, Mark Cotter has an engineering degree, for example. The person running Falls Community Health has a medical degree. The recently appointed city attorney has a law degree and is a judge advocate for our armed services.

You get the picture.

Wouldn’t you want the person running our IT services for the city to have a computer science degree (even an associates)? Or something similar.

Maybe Jason has a degree, but all I have seen so far is that he attended Augie for 3 years and studied mathematics.

When it comes to the person that is securing the data for the city, the school of hard knocks just doesn’t cut it.

Mayor TenHaken tried to downplay Jason’s IT experience in a KELO interview;

“It’s less important to me that someone knows the difference between Server A and Server B but understands their impact.”

If you are managing a department, shouldn’t you have some knowledge what your underlings are doing? That’s a scary thought in itself.

I also take issue with the title. It sounds like something a corporation or marketing agency would create to generate more profit. When are we going to realize the city is not in the business of profits and losses. It is in the business of fiscal restraint and a high level of customer service to the tax payers.

We have had enough ‘salespeople’ in city hall. I want to be ‘served’ not ‘sold’ something.



27 comments ↓

#1 anonymous on 09.13.18 at 8:36 pm

Looks like a pure case of cronyism* on TenHaken’s part.

*partiality to cronies especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications

His missteps are starting to snowball.

Honeymoon’s over, Mayor.

#2 l3wis on 09.13.18 at 8:50 pm

I’m afraid you are right. I have tried to give Paul a ‘grace period’ but I think it is over. I just can’t tolerate the old boys network. I’m sorry, but if he would have appointed a city attorney with a HS diploma, most people would be saying WTF? Why is it any different with someone in charge of the city’s IT department? You want a professional, not a marketing guru.

#3 l3wis on 09.13.18 at 8:52 pm

And BTW, unlike FB, I moderate all my comments. If you want to give me positives about Jason, wonderful. But you have to post your real name. If you truly support this person, you will have the courage to do so. Otherwise, you go in the trash bucket.

#4 Matthew Paulson on 09.13.18 at 10:08 pm

L3wis – So anonymous comments that you agree with okay, but people have to use their real names if they don’t agree with you?

#5 l3wis on 09.13.18 at 10:14 pm

MP, fair question. If I know who they are, then they are not anon.

#6 Rich on 09.13.18 at 10:24 pm

“It’s less important to me that someone knows the difference between Server A and Server B but understands their impact.”

Mr. TenHaken, it’s very important to know the difference between “Server A and Server B”. Oh boy.

#7 scott on 09.14.18 at 6:36 am

zero computer experience, so yeah, a great choice to lead the IT department.

#8 The Guy from Guernsey on 09.14.18 at 8:41 am

“It’s less important to me that someone knows the difference between Server A and Server B but understands their impact.”

Yikes ! With these words, PTH confirms the suspicions of many – this guy is devoid of the IT bona fides which would be the bare minimum to even pass the initial cut through a stack of resumes for an IT leadership position anywhere else.
Hey Mayor, this isn’t a college faculty position in the philosophy department to specialize in pontificating about the impact of the internet on the public and the government serving them.

#9 The Guy from Guernsey on 09.14.18 at 8:45 am

Degree, or none – let’s face it. This Reisdorfer guy can probably doxx as well as the top of the class from DSU.

#10 Matthew Paulson on 09.14.18 at 11:47 am

I do think it’s important that people understand that Weisser Distributing is a $50 million per year e-commerce company. This fact can be verified easily by looking at their INC 5000 listing. Reisdorfer is a top executive for that company and he played a big part in their growth. I wouldn’t underestimate his technology background. I run a $5m/year e-commerce company (granted in a different niche) and I can’t imagine the technology, scale and systems Weisser must have to have achieved that level of scale and revenue.

#11 JKC on 09.14.18 at 12:17 pm

If he gets over his head he can always email the “DWU Team,” can’t he?

#12 l3wis on 09.14.18 at 1:54 pm

MP – You make one of my points for me. The city is NOT an E-Commerce business or Wholesaler. The last mayor was good at convincing people the city should run like a business. If you ran your personal business the way Former Mayor Coors Light & Olives ran the city you would have been bankrupt 7 years ago. City’s are not businesses and should not be ran that way. Jason should stay in the private sector, it is obvious he is good at what he does, he should continue down that path. We don’t need anymore salesman in city hall.

#13 Matthew Paulson on 09.14.18 at 1:59 pm

@l3wis – Anyone the city hires for an IT director position will almost certainly have a private industry background. There just aren’t that many IT leadership positions in city/state governments to draw on. In college I was an intern for the state judicial system and at the time, I think we had 7-10 employees for the entire state doing IT work. BIT is certainly an order of magnitude bigger, but those positions are spread throughout the state and it’s just not a big pool of people.

#14 Rachel on 09.14.18 at 2:41 pm

Wait..rewind, Jason doesn’t have any sort of business management or tech degree or any degree for that matter? Yikes! Also, business in the private sector differs to a degree when compared to the public sector as we are footing the bill. I’m not cool with paying this dude that much.

#15 l3wis on 09.14.18 at 2:47 pm

This is what happens when you have an elected mayor making political appointments/favors instead of a city administrator with consent of the council. High salaries and no cred.

#16 Peter "Mega" Pischke on 09.14.18 at 3:02 pm

Can someone please just get a resume from this guy and confirm it already.

Its impossible to make an argument on the Resume if none is hardly provided.

This goes for Tenhaken and Stehly both.

#17 l3wis on 09.14.18 at 3:26 pm

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jason-reisdorfer-b350b488

#18 constituent on 09.14.18 at 3:41 pm

TenHaken and his 2 COSs were foolish enough to recommend Reisdorfer who has only a high school diploma and also has a history on social media of showing poor judgment.

Tuesday, each of the 8 city councilors will demonstrate with their vote whether or not they think those that elected them think this is a good idea to hire a guy with a high school diploma and then pay him almost $200,000 a year in salary and benefits!!

#19 matt johnson on 09.14.18 at 4:07 pm

maybe the reason we have so many highly educated people with several initials behind their names is because they cannot get along in the real world- so they run the colleges. Lawyers, doctors, etc need degrees to get licenses. However many of the smartest tech people do not have a college education.

#20 l3wis on 09.14.18 at 4:14 pm

If the private sector wants to hire this technical wizard w/o a degree, don’t care. But as a taxpayer, I want the public’s secure data handled by a professional.

#21 matt johnson on 09.14.18 at 5:14 pm

like those government workers who were securing Hillary’s emails? not

#22 scott on 09.14.18 at 9:07 pm

based on pth’s criteria of understanding impact, it sounds like good ol’ j.r. is qualified to be the head of any city department.

#23 IT Guy on 09.15.18 at 6:54 am

As the holder of a degree in computer science, I would agree that hiring someone with a computer science degree as the Director of IT would be a wise investment.

Employers such as Google, Apple, IBM, Amazon, AT&T, Citibank and other technology employers pay a significant premium to hire someone who has a computer science degree to make executive level decisions. Those executive level decisions include things like strategic priorities, staffing needs and which people have technical expertise that should be trusted.

Technology companies pay that premium because their goal is to operate the most reliable system possible, at the least possible expense, while adding features that stay ahead of their competitors.

There is nothing a technology vendor likes better than to have a customer whose IT department is led by someone with an unrelated degree or no degree since it is likely that customer will come to the negotiating table with a bad case of the Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

The vendors who themselves use computer science professionals internally like to promote the notion that you don’t really need computer science expertise. The vendors love to see employers who rely on the one-week-wonder certifications like those offered by the vendors (CCIEor CISSP) or project management specialists (ITIL).

I am not saying that business people have no role in IT or that everyone needs to have a degree in computer science. I am not saying that a vendor class on how to setup their equipment is of no value. I am saying that having strategic and executive technical decisions made by people whose qualifications consist of attending a one week class with a pass rate of 90%, and who don’t have the background to contradict vendors, results in spending too much money, having too big a staff and tolerating poor service.

When I listen to discussions regarding the size of local IT staffs, and the reliability record of their systems, I frequently wonder whether the IT department is a jobs program for people with political connections or a department charged with performing a service at the highest reliability and lowest cost.

The US government hires computer science degree holders into some jobs at a hefty pay grade premium. As a taxpayer I would think it is time to hire someone who has the qualifications the salary is paying for.

I wonder if the ex-executives of Equifax would hire a music major to run the Information Security department if they could do it over? Look it up and see what danger you were put in.

https://www.google.com/search?q=equifax+cso+music+major

#24 Warren Phear on 09.15.18 at 5:59 pm

IT Guy…good read.

#25 LJL on 09.16.18 at 12:18 pm

Far as I can tell Weisers IT department consists of Click Rain as their media experts and Amazon as their digital fulfillment experts.

This departments will be much like the cities lawyers. Overspending on outside vendors.

#26 Rufusx on 09.17.18 at 2:58 pm

On the other hand – my advanced degrees are all 9in fields not directly related to IT. But, even goiung way back in the way back machine – to the days of Apple II and programs run from 5 1/4″ floppies – I have always been “the computer guy” wherever I worked. It eventually led to my being the Chief Technology Officer of an LA-based international marketing consultancy – where our clients consisted of some fortune 500 companies who we (and that means I) introduced to and trained in the what was then some “new” thing called “The Internet”, which their “expert” IT staffs had sort of vaguely heard about – and had some idea about what it was, but had ZERO experience working it and certainly no ability to sell anything to executive leadership of the larger organization.

So, from my experience – it is EXPERIENCE in the specific area of concern along with an abilkity to relate to those OUTSIDE the field more to degrees or even “traditional” experience in the field that determines one’s fitness for any leadership position in IT where change needs to be affected.

But what do I know?

#27 l3wis on 09.17.18 at 3:12 pm

I have a friend with a Journalism degree that now works as a trouble shooter for an Apple Software company. I asked him, “Where did you learn Apple Scripting?” He said to me, “I read a book.”

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