Charles City administrator awarded manager of the year by state group
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles City’s City Administrator Steve Diers was honored by his peers at a state convention last week when he was named the Manager of the Year.
The award was announced at the Iowa League of Cities annual conference held in Waterloo, and was given by the Iowa City/County Manager Association, and Diers said it was a total surprise.
“It wasn’t even on my radar,” Diers told the Press.
He said he was listening to the award announcement and the speaker started describing the winner.
“I’m like, oh, well, that kind of sounds familiar. And then it got real detailed and I’m like, that sounds very familiar. This can’t be. Sure enough. The guy announcing it says Steve Diers from Charles City,” Diers said.
He said the announcer mentioned that Diers had three great kids and an awesome wife, and he thought, “I’ll have to make sure and tell Beth,” because Beth, his wife, had not accompanied him to the conference.
“I turn around and there she is standing in the audience, along with three or four department heads. It was awesome. It was really cool,” Diers said.
Beth Diers said she never knew she could keep a secret so well, because she had known since the middle of September, and other than a couple of co-conspirators had not told anyone.
“It was a real wonderful text and phone call to get from the League of Cities committees crew that he would receive that honor. There’s just a lot of pride,” Beth said. “I told my mother-in-law I feel like I’m getting ready for my wedding day” on Thursday as she prepared to go down and surprise Steve.
City Council members DeLaine Freeseman and Phillip Knighten, Mayor Dean Andrews and City Clerk/Finance Officer Trudy O’Donnell were attending the conference and were already at the awards banquet. Other city department heads, when they heard about the award, decided to drive down Thursday for the announcement, and Beth Diers caught a ride with them for the surprise.
They were Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Hugh Anderson, Water and Street Superintendent Cory Spieker, Housing Director Katie Nolte and Foster Grandparents Director Jennifer Lantz.
“Usually when somebody gets this award their spouse is along,” Diers said, and because Beth hadn’t asked to go to the conference he didn’t think there was a chance he would win his year.
“Between her and my colleagues and department heads, staff and elected officials – everybody knew about it except me, which I guess is the way it’s supposed to work,” he said.
Another surprise was the attendance by his mentor, Loyce Dumke, the former city administrator/clerk for Monona, who Diers worked for in his first role in city government.
“She and the (Monona) council ultimately hired me back in 2003, to be the deputy city clerk, with the idea that at some point I’d become the city administrator, because she was trying to retire,” he said. “It worked out really well. I came on and we worked together and I went in as the city administrator and she stepped down to deputy clerk and over the next couple of years kind of phased out and retired and it was just a great situation. I got to learn from her on a daily basis. … She was a class act and was able to help get me off on a good foot.”
Diers was in Monona until 2010, when he became city manager in Independence. He started as city administrator in Charles City in 2014, taking over from the retiring Tom Brownlow, who coincidentally, was also named Manager of the Year by the state group exactly 10 years earlier when he was still Charles City administrator.
Diers said the award means a lot to him.
“This was given out by the Iowa City/County Managers Association, our state organization. It’s my peers recognizing me in the efforts and the things I’ve done and am doing, and it means a lot when you get recognized by your peers like that,” he said.
Diers had been president of that organization from 2018 to 2019, at a time when the association was taking on a larger role helping train managers because the University of Iowa Institute of Public Affairs has closed.
He said Charles City is a great community to work in.
“I’ve got great elected officials and great department heads and it makes it easy for me to get some great things done,” he said. “It’s a great team atmosphere and we’re working for the betterment of the city. It’s nice to know we’re getting some things done.”
“I’m still trying to accept the whole idea,” Diers said. “It doesn’t just seem quite real. It’s a very nice acknowledgement and I’m very appreciative.”
“Iowa City/County Manager Association annual Manager of the Year Award honors chief administrators whose accomplishments and superior work performance represent the best possible application of management principles and whose creative contributions to professional local government management increases public awareness of the value of professional management to the quality of life in our communities,” according to the award announcement.
“Steve is an International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Credentialed Manager, past president of IaCMA, and continues to serve as a regional coordinator for the state association,” the association said.
He was nominated for the award by fellow city managers and by Charles City City Clerk O’Donnell.
Steve and Beth have three children, Jacob, 16; Bennett, 11; and Katie, 7.