Eau Claire’s first female city manager: Stephanie Hirsch
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - After a nearly two-year search, the City of Eau Claire officially has a new city manager.
Former city manager Dale Peters announced his retirement in May of 2020-- stepping down five months later.
After a long search, including a finalist turning down the role in 2021, Eau Claire native Stephanie Hirsch has started the role. She says she is humbled and excited for the opportunity.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this, really,” Hirsch said. “It was the kind of job that when I was 20 years old, I said ‘someday I want to be the chief, one of the chief executives in my hometown.’”
She’s the first female to take on the role since the position was created in 1948.
“It’s been really fun to have women in the generation of my parents age, so like in their seventies and eighties, stop me on the street and say, ’I’m rooting for you!’ Because maybe some of those women didn’t have that chance to to take on those leadership positions,” Hirsch mentioned. “I feel very much this weight of responsibility that I am the first and I need to do the very best I can for all of the people who might have wished to do this 100 years ago.”
Hirsch was born and raised in Eau Claire. The Harvard grad served in local government over 20 years in Boston before moving back to her hometown, working as the operations administrator for the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services since 2019.
“It’s the main place where you can really impact people’s lives,” she explained. “So many different services that people touch, see, feel, experience are delivered by local government.”
Hirsch says the role of a city manager is similar to that of a mayor. While a mayor is elected, a manager is appointed.
“[A] city manager works for the council. It also works to support all of the directors,” Hirsch added. “So I really see my role as helping those directors achieve their goals, helping them overcome any obstacles they have and it’s really working for every single resident of the city of Eau Claire.”
Regardless of people’s background, income or political beliefs, Hirsch believes the City of Eau Claire has one task.
“It’s our job to make sure that they are happy, that they’re healthy and that they’re able to contribute to their family and to the community.”
The new city manager knows what she wants to conquer first-- making Chippewa Valley life affordable.
“That includes housing related issues and also other aspects of a household’s budget like transportation. It even includes programs like recreation, which is a way to keep kids busy without costing a lot and that helps lower household stress and financial burden.”
As for why she wanted the job, Hirsch credits that to her love of Eau Claire.
“If you see me on the street, stop me. Say hello. Let me know what’s on your mind, what you’re worried about and I’ll do my best to help. It’s the honor of a lifetime,” Hirsch said.
There is no set term for city manager. Peters served in the role four years before his retirement.
Hirsch adds she is excited to start getting into a routine and carrying out the council’s vision.
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