It's mid-afternoon on Todd Feland's first official day as Grand Forks city administrator, and he's discovering he's got a lot to learn about City Hall.

"He doesn't even know where the coffee is," said Executive Assistant Diane Stanislowski with a laugh as she pointed him toward a coffee maker around the corner from her desk in the mayor's office.

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Feland, 42, who has served as the city's public works director for the past 13 years, just moved into his City Hall digs from his old office at the Public Works building on 47th Street.

His office walls are bare and his desk is devoid of any sort of clutter -- for now anyway.

"My desk at Public Works has piles of paper," Feland said. "I need to go over there and figure out what I need here. I'll be back and forth a lot."

His new office does come with a view of sorts. Looking out his window, Feland can take in a nearby Dumpster.

"You know, they say you should always take what you do seriously, but you shouldn't take yourself too seriously," he joked.

'Heart of the city'

Settling into a new office is just one change that comes with Feland's new title.

A packed email inbox and meeting schedule are the most noticeable aspects of the job this early in his tenure, but Feland said he welcomed it.

"This may sound weird, but I like work," he said. "I love what I do, and I've never dreaded coming to the office."

To Feland, his background in Public Works was great preparation for the administrator position, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the city and its 12 departments.

"Public Works is the best place to work if you want to be a city administrator," he said. "You get to work with the heart of the city."

Feland's forays into the world of water treatment, sewers and landfills began after graduating from UND where he received bachelor's degrees in political science and psychology and a master's degree in public administration.

In November 1997, Feland joined the city as part of its flood recovery effort, doing administrative work for the Public Works Department. Three years later, at the age of 29, he was hired as its director.

"There was the question of if I was too young for the job," Feland said. "I also wasn't an engineer."

Thirteen years later, a new landfill, an upgraded water delivery and treatment system and an automated water meter-reading system are just a few accomplishments he said he is proud the department can provide to city residents.

Making investments

Moving forward, Feland said he wants to see more investment in city employees and infrastructure.

That includes more training opportunities for employees and building stronger relationships between staff members in all departments.

"We can't get things done in an integrated and comprehensive way without everyone working together," Feland said.

Soon enough, a significant portion of city employees will be eligible for retirement, according to Feland, who wants to see the best candidates attracted to the positions and hired as replacements.

On the infrastructure side, he would like to see the city do more planning when it comes to maintaining existing infrastructure and determining what will be needed to accommodate future growth.

It's an effort started by his predecessor, Rick Duquette, and one Feland said should continue. Before serving as Grand Forks' city administrator for 12 years, Duquette was a police officer and mayoral assistant.

Moving forward

While he finds his bearings in City Hall, Feland will still be keeping an eye on the public works department until the city hires his replacement -- a search that may not start until early in 2014.

In the meantime, some interim shifts in staffing will be made in the department, Feland said.

Though he'll be busier managing two positions and eventually just the one, Feland said he always leaves work at the office when it comes to enjoying himself outside of his job.

When he's off the clock, Feland said his favorite activity is spending time with his wife, Gina, and daughters, Hannah, 19, and Molly, 13.

Feland said they're happy for him and his promotion -- a position in which he is humbled to serve the city and its residents, he added.

"I want to perform well for all of them," Feland said.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1108 or send email to bjewett@gfherald.com.