Interview with the New Guy
chatting with Eau Claire’s next city manager, Russ Van Gompel
What excites you about Eau Claire?
I see it as a regional hub of the business community in West Central Wisconsin, and a college town… those were my driving interests in the city.
How do you plan to attract higher paying jobs?
Communities need to be looking at redevelopment and new opportunities. They need to be working with existing businesses – helping them stay – as well as attracting new businesses. Redevelopment is key. If communities are not partnering and making it business friendly, they’re not going to stick around. I want to have an open door policy and work with potential businesses.
How important is civic engagement and public discussion to government action?
Very important, especially in light of today’s society. Governments are the custodians or trustees of people’s resources. We collect resources and provide services. Discussion is very important. Any time we make a decision that affects citizen’s lives, it’s good for local government to figure out what residents want. Different communities want different services from their governments.
What are you excited to partake in as a citizen of Eau Claire, in your free time?
The scenery, the recreation trails, the downtown area, Phoenix Park, the river frontage. I’m interested to hear some of the music scene, though I’m more into classic rock ‘n roll and country… not some of the newer formats of hip hop or rap. I’m also a big fan of football, and I follow basketball and softball.
Redevelopment is key. If communities are not partnering and making it business friendly, they’re not going to stick around. – Russ Van Gompel on attracting business to Eau Claire
How are Brown Deer and Eau Claire different (besides obvious factors of population/location?)
Eau Claire is a regional center and a university community, and Brown Deer has a suburban feel to it. It doesn’t have a downtown area. It has an area that was settled early on that has delis and shops and things, but not an area that we call downtown. Those are some of the unique differences. I look forward to that. Redevelopment can provide a gathering place and a sense of community. It’s hard to do redevelopment in a downtown area… in terms of economics, it’s a large investment in a small area so that presents a unique challenge. But I’m excited about progress that has already been made, like Phoenix Park, and moving forward with projects like the Confluence Project.
State three adjectives to describe yourself. Does EC fit your personality?
I’m down to earth, approachable, and I try to fit in with the common day-to-day person. Though I hold myself to higher ethical standards… I have my mother and father to thank for that… I’m still a fun-loving person.
Are you a Packer fan?
Yes! I’m excited to start my fantasy football league. When I was living in Minnesota, I took a lot of razzing for being a Packer fan… in the 70s and 80s when they weren’t doing so well…
How much time have you spent here so far, and what do you think your favorite area will be?
I can’t answer that right now. The whole river frontage, the historic roots of the river in Eau Claire, the concerts at Phoenix Park, it’ll be neat spending some time down there. I still have to figure out where I’m going to live; which area of town. I’m very excited to continue to develop Eau Claire, bring some fresh and innovative ideas. My brother in law went to the University and my niece is going here. I lived in Minneapolis for eight years, so I’m familiar with this area. My family is excited about the move.