BOWLING GREEN—It’s been just about one year since Linda Luebrecht left her position as publisher of The Bowling Green Times and became the city administrator for the city of Bowling Green.
Luebrecht is certainly not the first publisher to switch from covering local government to helping run it, nor will she be the last. It’s not so much that she switched sides, so to speak, it’s more like taking a different avenue to making the community she lives in a better place for everyone.
Luebrecht had been publisher for 33 years. When her husband, Paul, who had been in the dairy farm business with his family for years, decided to sell the cows and try something different, she thought she could do the same thing.
“It was time for a change,” she said. “They sold the last cows in June of 2018. He took a job at LaCrosse Lumber. I decided that if he could be that happy then I could make a change and be happy, too.”
After working all those years without anyone to answer to, it was a big change for Paul. She and Paul have been married for 36 years. Even though the Times is owned by Lakeway Publishers, Luebrecht said the owners were not micromanagers.
Luckily, the City of Bowling Green decided to advertise the city administrator position in the Times. When she saw it, Luebrecht decided it was time to make her move.
Even though she lived here and knew almost everyone working for the city, making the change was still a bit scary.
“When you’ve done something for 33 years,” she said, “that’s what you know. And then to come in here to do something you’ve never done before, it’s a challenge and it is scary.”
Luebrecht counted herself lucky to have the former city administrator, Barb Allison, still on the job for three months to help with the transition.
“I can still call her if I need to,” Luebrecht added.
In addition to the learning curve of taking over a new position, it was familiarizing herself with all the city’s ordinances that proved the most challenging. There are times when a specific issue would come up that had not been addressed in a few years, and it would take some thought to know that there was an ordinance to cover such an issue.
All the city’s ordinances are available online. They are there for everyone to see, Luebrecht said.
When she started, Luebrecht said she was not worried about working with the people the paper had covered in the past. As publisher she was not the one directly responsible for covering city hall. That job fell to the editor. Although she had the final say of any story going in the paper, she did not deal directly with the subjects of the articles.
“I knew them,” she said. “But I wasn’t worried about working with them.”
What’s the most challenging is trying to maintain a balanced budget, she said. That takes a lot of skill to negotiate the ins and outs of government regulations to deal with contracts and bids for city jobs.
Elections will be held next April. The mayor, city collector and Wards 1, 2, and 3 are all up for re-election. Those terms are for two years.
Now Luebrecht is working toward the future in this new position.
Some of the coming projects she is working on with the city and her staff are to improve the city’s infrastructure. First there’s the new roundabout, which will be built at the intersection of Business 61 and Rt. 161.
“We still don’t have a time frame for that yet,” she said. “They may be able to get started in the fall of 2020.”
The other big project is expanding the airport’s runway.
“We’ll be advertising that one in January, and hoping to award a contract in March. And then notice to proceed with construction in either April or May,” she explained.
The city would also like to see other infrastructure work in sewer and water at Locust Street and N. Main Cross.
They are also looking to improve the sidewalk on the west side of S. Court Street from Adams Street almost to the driveway at the Kelly Grote CPA building.
Before she started, Luebrecht said the city was working on a project that would tell them where their sewer and water problems were. The water project is done and the sewer project is just finishing up. The water project was done by Fourpoints Land Survey and Engineering. The sewer project is being done by McClure Engineering.
“Once those two are complete, what we have is a mapping that tells us where our major situations are,” she said. “Once we get the water and sewer problems taken care of, we can go in and fix the streets.”
Luebrecht also noted that the city’s park board put in money to create a pocket park adjacent to the community center that’s housed in the Bowling Green Library.
The park is funded by a sales tax in Bowling Green, she said. “So they want to put something different out there,” she said, to help with the activities being done by the library, such as story time. So the park won’t have just slides and swings, she added. But the specifics have not been decided on.
In addition to Kim Moore, the city treasurer, Luebrecht said she wanted to thank Brandy Nelson in billing and collections for her knowledge about how the city runs, as well as the ordinances and the permits needed.