Former HR Director for the City of Sioux Falls responds on FB to Mayor’s proposal for Cultural Officer

One of the chief concerns of the mayor is that several hundred employees will be retiring within the next 4-5 years. As Holsen points out below, I look at this as an amazing opportunity for the city to bring in fresh talent while saving taxpayers money. Maybe some of these people don’t need to be replaced at all? Holsen also points out that city jobs are coveted, something I have know for a long time;

I will have been retired from The City of Sioux Falls for 11 years. Prior to my retirement, I was the Director of Human Resources for 23 years, working for 5 different Mayors, under 3 different forms of government.

Mayors are elected officials who come to city government mainly naive in their understanding of governmental accounting, finance and governance issues. That does not diminish any managerial or leadership qualities, it just recognizes their lack of bureaucratic, leadership, management and cultural issues and personnel in city government itself.

Mayor TenHaken’s latest proposal to add a chief culture officer that would work out of his office to address employee turnover in city government by fostering better employee engagement and administering programs that cultivate the next generation of leaders at City Hall makes no sense.

The city has a Director of Human Resources and an extremely competent HR Department whose responsibility is to address and plan for those very issues.

The Mayor is responsible for the overall administration of government operations. That’s why he oversees his appointive officials who are directly responsible for managing their departments and functions.

Employee retention and recruitment is the direct responsibility of the Human Resources Department. Leadership development, culture development, people development and succession planning is the responsibility of the Director of Human Resources and department managers. That’s what they are paid to do.

How do I know that? Because I speak from experience. My department, under my leadership, monitored employee recruitment and retention. With forecasted retirement and turnover data, the directors were constantly informed of retention issues and were tasked, along with our direction and leadership, with putting together comprehensive training and leadership development action plans to deal with the so-called “silver tsunami” which, by the way, is not some new phenomenon just discovered by Mayor TenHaken. We identified it well over a decade ago.

Myself and other selected directors attended a national succession planning conference and came back to Sioux Falls ready to put plans in place to deal with this issue.

As directors, we worked together to identify people within our organization who had either been identified as having the potential and skills necessary to move into leadership and managerial positions, irrespective of their home department. We totally revamped the recruitment, testing and hiring practices for police and fire where the “silver Tsunami “ was a clear and present danger.

The city of Sioux Falls is a coveted employer by people looking for a job. It offers an excellent wage and benefit package including a pension system the private sector no longer offers its employees. The turnover rate has always been historically low, ranging anywhere from a low of 2% to a high of 5%. That is what, we in the field, call a healthy turnover rate. Why? Because change is good and with change comes new talent. The fact is, the city of Sioux Falls didn’t have a recruitment and retention problem that other employers were faced with back then and they don’t have one now. That did not mean we ignored the “silver tsunami” or that we ignored targeted areas where we knew we needed to identify specific recruitment actions for certain technical or highly skilled positions that were outside our normal recruitment area.

The point I’m trying to make here, its totally inappropriate and and actually rather arrogant of the Mayor to propose a Chief Cultural Officer in his office. If the position is actually needed in the organization, it belongs under the direct supervision and oversight of the Director of Human Resources. That department has all the tools and information to administer programs that cultivate the next generation of leaders at City Hall.

Mayor TenHaken needs to go back and read the City Charter so he has a better understanding of his role as Mayor. If this position is actually needed, based on the feedback and direction of the Director of Human Resources, then the City Council should fund it and put it where it belongs. It does not belong in the Mayor’s office.


#1 T.J. needs to resign! on 09.16.19 at 2:53 pm

I was just wondering: How do T.J.’s comments on FB about the storm recovery issues fit into the idea and hopes of a future “Chief of Culture?”

#2 Blasphemo on 09.16.19 at 3:09 pm

Thank you Ms. Holsen for your public service and sharing a voice of reason. Such a seasoned municipal executive-level professional did not successfully serve SF through 5 mayors and 3 government models without learning valuable lessons. . . and she did not successfully retire from that because she lacked intelligence and leadership qualities. A voice of experience like this needs to be heeded. Apparently, humility to accept there is much to be learned from those who came before you . . . . is a totally foreign concept to PTH and his administration.

#3 l3wis on 09.16.19 at 3:18 pm

I wonder if TJ has resigned? I haven’t heard from him all week.

#4 D@ily Spin on 09.16.19 at 5:05 pm

Comments on Facebook are inappropriate. There’s a Human Resources Department where employee matters are addressed. The public (Facebook) has no intuition or involvement in these matters. A Cultural Officer sounds like a way to put a buddy on the payroll. The council should vote on this and vote No. Huether appointed a Parking Director to get around Public Works for buying unnecessary parking meters. There’s a point at which everybody works at the city with a golden retirement. Put the retirees out to pasture then see if they were needed or contract what little they were responsible for.

#5 D@ily Spin on 09.16.19 at 5:15 pm

Cultural Officer is discrimination. It’s a way to call employees dumb cluck farm boys or ignorant minorities. Cultural Officer not needed for Parks Department. It’s 70 employees with no minorities.

#6 Tanked2more on 09.16.19 at 6:29 pm

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Calm down Ms. Holsen. For what it’s worth PTH is pretty damn popular among city employees. Of course the previous douche bag that occupied that office gave the new mayor nowhere to go but up.

#7 Erica on 09.16.19 at 8:34 pm

This is absurd. Another 125k job for a city employee.
Saw that someone commented on the FB page that this was a good idea because the city is one of the largest employers here. Doesn’t anyone else besides me see a problem with this, that the CITY is one of the largest employers here in the city?! And that they want to continue to add in more (unnecessary) high wage roles at the expense of the taxpayer?

Don’t they have out-processing in place for employees leaving? Why aren’t they asking then why they are leaving? Why is the city always focused on getting NEW talent from OUTSIDE the city or state even to come in for jobs instead of hiring locally? Why isn’t the city asking the CITIZENS who live here why they are leaving for elsewhere (employment isnt as easy to find here as people think, especially if you are mid-career professional).

#8 D@ily Spin on 09.16.19 at 11:14 pm

There’s opportunity in this town. I’d never work for the city. It’s hard to justify the nothing means nothing in your job description. One cannot find enough places to hide from 9 to 4. Even with a long lunch and half a dozen breaks. It takes 4 weeks vacation and some serious medication to not go insane waiting for a lucrative retirement. You have to pay someone 6 figures and recruit nationwide for the right braindead idiot. I’d rather pick cotton all day than steal a tax dollar salary from citizens.

#9 The Guy From Guernsey on 09.17.19 at 7:26 am

Absent a termination or resignation, I am left with the reality that TJ embodies the culture of the PTH administration.
Hey Paul, you want to lead culture in the organization? Sweep your own doorstep first. Because if you don’t, it signals strong that TJ’s unprofessional and puerile conduct IS “your culture”.

#10 CommonSenseSD on 09.17.19 at 12:05 pm

(employment isnt as easy to find here as people think, especially if you are mid-career professional)

THIS is real issue that no one is talking about – I’d be happy finding a new job with HALF the salary as the “Culture Chief” but those jobs just aren’t out there in the open Sioux Falls marketplace. I have 15yrs of successful experience in my field but if I want to change jobs, I’m going to have to take a substantial pay cut to do it. But I’m too anchored with a house & kids in school to move somewhere that pays a bit better or offers any chance for advancement (Omaha, Twin Cities, etc).

#11 Erica on 09.17.19 at 2:17 pm

CommonSenseSD, “I’d be happy finding a new job with HALF the salary as the “Culture Chief” but those jobs just aren’t out there in the open Sioux Falls marketplace”

Half?! How about even a 3rd? Husband with 20yrs in service and a Masters degree struggling to find employment here. Why are PROFESSIONALS who are experienced, dedicated, loyal, adaptable, quick to learn, show up to work on time, can pass a bg check & drug testing so overlooked in this city?

Why is there a focus on companies and the city to hire outside talent rather than REACH OUT to those ALREADY here?! And stop ignoring those who dont fit the “Young Professional” requirements. Veterans want to be here, they came back home to be a part of their community. Stop igoring them, Sioux Falls!

I am praying for ALL here in the city that are trying to become employed members of the community.

/rant Sorry about that.


But seriously, why is the CITY GOVT one of the largest employers in this city?!

#12 l3wis on 09.17.19 at 2:35 pm

Actually they rank 10th and the School District ranks 4th.

Funny how government is in the top 11 rankings. And we wonder why our taxes are high.

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