EDINA MAGAZINE: First of all, what does a city manager do, exactly?
SCOTT NEAL: I serve at the pleasure of the city council. I listen, I figure out what their priorities are and then I try to find a way to make those things happen. They are the people who were elected. No one elected me … the last time anyone voted for me for anything was in 1982 when I was elected president of my high school graduating class at Jefferson High School.
EDM: That’s pretty good, though. Where was that?
SN: Independence, Iowa.
EDM: That’s a very all-American place to be from!
SN: Yes, it is … “America’s Fame is in Our Name.”
EDM: How’d you end up managing Edina?
SN: My career path started in Norris, Tennessee and took me back to Iowa and then to Northfield and then to Eden Prairie before Edina in 2010. I think the last two stops—Eden Prairie and Northfield—really prepared me for this job, because Edina is a little bit like both places. It’s a small town like Northfield, but also a suburb, like Eden Prairie. And I think that’s what we love about Edina … it has that small town feel but it also has all the benefits of a big city.
EDM: Best of both worlds. Speaking of best … what are you best at? What natural talent makes you good at your job?
SN: Being able to get people to work together behind a common sense of mission and purpose. Getting people to understand why someone else’s goals should be their goals.
EDM: When you aren’t making Edina tick, what do you do?
SN: My family is very important to me. I have three sons. One of them lives in Shanghai, one lives in Vienna and one lives in southeast Minneapolis. We’ve always been a family that travels a lot, that’s how I ended up with kids living all over the globe, I guess they got that from me. We also love soccer and we’ve had season tickets to Minnesota United FC for the past six years. One of the places we traveled to a lot, over the years, was Blaine [to see them play]. We’re excited about the new stadium in Saint Paul.
EDM: Recognizing that Iowans aren't comfortable bragging about themselves, can we ask you to tell us what you are most proud of accomplishing in the past year?
SN: Working with the city council and the Edina Housing Foundation that will result in more affordable housing in Edina. It’s something that [the] council has been looking into for a while now and this year we were able to create a framework to get started on that path. I’m proud that I was able to take the council’s direction and get us started with that important project.
EDM: Because one of the best ways to get to know someone is talk to the people who work with them, we asked director of engineering for Edina Chad Millner what he thought we should tell you about Neal.
CHAD MILLNER: Scott creates a fun and engaging work environment that is open to new or different ideas to meet priorities set by the city council. He is very good at providing clarifying direction to staff … and at translating the council’s wishes into action. This can be difficult at times, but he’s very good at understanding their intent.
EDM: City manager Neal was recently appointed president of the Minnesota City/County Management Association, "the professional and educational organization for appointed management serving cities, counties and other local governments in Minnesota," according to a press release.
“I am honored to serve the MCMA in this capacity. We have a great group serving on the executive board and I’m excited to spend more time trying to connect the needs and resources of the city managers in the metro area and the needs and resources of the city managers in the rural parts of our state,” Neal says in the release. “Sometimes, we don’t work together as well as we could, and I hope to bridge that gap. By mutual learning, we have the ability to improve city government management in both settings.”
Neal is also active on Twitter. Follow him (@edinacityman) and get to know your city manager!