WINNEBAGO - Chris Ziegler has strong ties to Winnebago, and now he is running the town as its city administrator.
Ziegler began his new position last week. The job isn't just a change in his work life; it means changes in his personal life too.
Ziegler grew up in Easton and graduated from Blue Earth Area High School before leaving to attend Mankato State University, where he earned a degree in finance, with a minor in business administration.
But his heart stayed in Faribault County.
"I never really left," he said.
He came back to Winnebago and sold insurance, but "didn't do so well," he admitted.
He worked as the administrative assistant for the city for two years, then heard that Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties needed a fiscal supervisor. He got the job in April 2007.
The next year, he became a member of the Winnebago City Council.
"I wanted to continue to be involved with the city," he said. "I had some strong opinions about the way the city was going about things, and I wanted to be a voice for the community, and a lot of people encouraged me to run at that time."
Ziegler was thriving at Human Services. About a year ago, he received a promotion, this time to director of business management.
The additional duties proved to be a tipping point. He and wife, Barb, had started a family and demands on his time were strong. With his council seat coming up for re-election at the end of 2012, he felt he needed to make a change.
"At that time, with the promotion with Human Services and my involvement with the fire department, and wanting to get more involved with church and the kids' activities, that's why I decided to not run again for council," Ziegler said.
He announced his decision at a summer meeting.
Then, in October, everything changed: Austin Bleess resigned after two years as city administrator to take a job in Maine.
"Over the next few weeks, I got encouragement from people around town and the community to apply; [they said,] 'Be a good opportunity for you,'" he said. "I thought maybe it's an opportunity I should take advantage of and throw my hat in the ring."
With his education and supervisory experience at Human Services, Ziegler felt he was qualified.
Along with his application, Ziegler submitted his resignation to the council and left his seat a few weeks early. After a couple of interviews, the council chose him to be the city administrator.
"I definitely have roots in Winnebago," he said. "My wife was born and raised in Winnebago. We're very passionate about Winnebago, the school here and the community as a whole."