Tina Volek arrived in Billings as assistant city administrator in February 2004. She will retire this week as Billings’ longest serving city administrator, although she plans to stay in the Magic City.
Throughout her 13 ½ years in our City Hall, Volek had been a steady leader who kept the city budget balanced and led prudent planning efforts to improve Billings. During her tenure, Billings voters agreed to replace the dilapidated Cobb Field baseball stadium and the inadequate former warehouse that had served as the public library. Volek saw success in passing a public safety levy and she saw a more recent levy request fail.
As Volek retires, she leaves a city government that has extended services to a growing population and an expanding area. The city started addressing homelessness through a mayor’s committee on which Volek served. The Billings Police Department partnered with business, health care and faith leaders to start outreach to individuals who were habitually intoxicated in public.
The Billings Tourism Business Improvement District was formed to boost visitation and conventions. Montana and Minnesota avenues were revitalized with assistance from the downtown Tax Increment Financing District. New TIFDs were formed to jump start development east of downtown and in the southwest corridor around Cabela’s.
Arterial street fees and a citywide park maintenance district were created to assure ongoing funds for those basic city service.
On Monday night, at Volek’s last council meeting as city administrator, she was honored with gifts and praise.
“Of all the executives I have worked with, you are at the top in terms of being effective and getting the job done,” said Councilman Al Swanson.
“I appreciate your sensibility, the way you have handled yourself and the way you can control your emotions when council people get out of line,” Councilman Larry Brewster said.
Volek served through the terms of three mayors: Chuck Tooley, Ron Tussing and Tom Hanel. She was named interim city administrator upon the resignation of her former boss, Kristoff Bauer, and hired as city administrator about a year later in August 2005. That was a tumultuous time in City Hall. As police chief, Tussing clashed with Bauer, who eventually fired Tussing after directing Volek to conduct an investigation. Then Tussing was elected mayor. Council meetings were tense back then with some members opposing Tussing. However, both he and Volek developed a generally positive working relationship over his four-year term.
We haven’t agreed with Volek on every issue over the years — some public information requests and lawsuits come to mind — but we give her credit for solid, sensible leadership of a fiscally conservative community.
Not many city administrators in the United States have to make decisions about preventing sandstone boulders from falling or living up to the Not In Our Town legacy. Volek has. Billings is a safer, more vibrant city because of her tireless efforts.
The search for Volek’s successor has begun. She leaves her office with a city government that is well managed and in much better shape than when she arrived more than 13 years ago.