Nine full-time employees have left since 2019

By Chad Koenen


In a span of approximately three years, nine full-time employees in the Henning Utility Department, Henning City Office and Henning Police Department have voluntarily left their positions. Six of those employees, including police officer Dave Wilson, clerk/treasurer Kim Schroeder and the entire public works department in Travis Arndt, Jake Williams, James Nelson and Brenden Markuson have left their positions since the beginning of the year since 2019.

In an effort to gain insight as to why so many of the City of Henning employees have left their position in the past three years, the Citizen’s Advocate sent the following email to all nine of the full-time employees who have resigned their position. 

In an effort to gain an insight as to why City of Henning employees have left their position over the past few years, we are reaching out to you to see if you would be interested in answering the questions below. The information you provide will be included in a question and answer format in an upcoming issue of the Citizen’s Advocate. 

We would just need your response by Friday, April 22 by 9 a.m.

Please note personal attacks will not be included as part of your response. You can send your responses to Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions and that you have received this message. Chad Koenen

1. What position did you hold in the City of Henning?

2. What position did you accept when you left the City of Henning (if applicable)?

3. Why did you leave the City of Henning (please limit response to 250 words)?

The nine employees include: former deputy clerk Jessica Strege, former police officer Tyler Schwartz, former utility supervisor Scott Grabe, Arndt, Williams, Nelson, Markuson, Schroeder and Wilson.

The goal of the three question survey was to provide the former city employees an opportunity to describe why they left the City of Henning in their own words. 

The Citizen’s Advocate received a response from Grabe, as well as a joint response from Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson. Schwartz declined to participate in the survey. Not one of the responses received by the Citizen’s Advocate followed the question and answer format, nor the length of the response requested. 

The following article contains information provided to the Citizen’s Advocate by Grabe, as well as a joint response by Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson. 

“I appreciate you reaching out and sending the questionnaire, but basing a report only off of a three question survey puts the former employees in an unfair position. From my perspective, I worked for the city for 19.5 years. I left for a better career opportunity in 2019. At that time, it was clear to me that it was time to move on, and I have been very happy with that decision.”

Scott Grabe, former utility supervisor for the City of Henning

Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson also said they could not complete the questionnaire provided by the Citizen’s Advocate in the requested format. 

“This question is impossible to answer without calling anyone out for their behavior. It is impossible to note every single situation that happened that resulted in us leaving. We all have examples of situations in which we could explain why we eventually left, but most likely they wouldn’t be published under the ‘no personal attacks’ guidelines of the survey,” they wrote. “We all feel that you were at the meetings and heard the constant attacks on employees, their work ethic and continued questioning of their capabilities. You listened as they were blamed for rate increases that never came to fruition and jumping the gun without all the facts and data became the norm. We know you witnessed the inability to hold work sessions or productive meetings to actually find ways to effectively cut costs in Henning. So it is hard for us to understand why you needed to reach out in this manner, when it could’ve been reported all along.”

Though he left as the supervisor of the Henning Public Utilities in 2019, Grabe said he tries to keep up to date on the events happening within the City of Henning. Over the past few years, Grabe said the city council recently changed the personnel committee and city staff are no longer represented on the committee. He said employees have also had allegations brought against Markuson and Schroeder regarding the purchase of a utility truck. 

“We (Citizen’s Advocate and myself) are both aware of two department heads (Brenden Markuson and Kim Schroeder) having allegations brought against them, and in both instances the allegations were found unsubstantiated. These employees were not given any information regarding the allegations prior to the meeting, and were required to defend themselves, without any representation, against ridiculous charges.”

Scott Grabe

In their joint response, Strege and Markuson said they left their positions in the City of Henning without having new employment lined up. Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson said both Markuson and Nelson took pay cuts to work for the City of Henning, but did so for the opportunity to work in the small community and not on the road as a lineman. Nelson, Arndt and Markuson were all on the fire department, and Strege said she was involved in various groups in the community. 

However, Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson said routinely hearing that cuts to employees would be necessary, weighed on the staff members. The joint response stated no study was completed to determine how many employees were needed to safely and efficiently conduct the duties of staff members, as well as how much money it would cost to contract out the work being completed by staff members. 

In 2022, the city council approved cutting the employee offered HSA program, as well as eliminated a part-time office staff position as part of budget cuts. Once some of the employees left their position, Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson said it adversely affected the remaining employees with the City of Henning. 

“The employees considered themselves a team.  As each member began leaving, the effect it had on those remaining, made each person re-evaluate if the stress and toxicity of the work environment was worth it. Obviously considering there are no employees left with the exception of the billing clerk of six months, and the utility superintendent of three weeks, the answer was no.  Employees did not leave to spite anyone or the community,” wrote Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson. “The lack of communication, the undermining of 40 plus years of combined experience, the repeated questioning of work ethic and commitment to this town is why employees left.”

Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson said not all members of the Henning City Council were part of what they termed a “toxic culture.”

“We would also like to note that Tammy Fosse and Jim Haberer were not part of the toxic culture as they have been portrayed to be.  They both regularly came into the office to ask questions, educate themselves on our services and to stay updated on what employees were working on. The same cannot be said for the rest of the council. We will note Scott Hart never made disparaging remarks to the employees, but did vote consistently with what the mayor recommended, regardless of the time or lack of research put into the recommendations. Why would anyone stay where they’re not valued and respected?”

Strege, William, Nelson, and Markuson

Grabe said no former employee was perfect, but the employees who have recently left their positions were dedicated, productive, successful and loved their jobs at one point. He also reiterated the importance of having an outlet that is not directly involved in the issues at hand, like the Citizen’s Advocate, to report on the events happening in the community. 

He said the importance on reporting has become even more important with the recent change in the public forum at city council meetings. A recent change to the format means the public can address the city council about topics on the agenda, but the city council cannot respond to the resident addressing the city council or staff. 

“I understand the difficulty in reporting in such a small town as Henning, especially on a topic as sensitive as this. When the entire utility and administrative staff (six employees) quits in a span of little more than six months, there is a problem. We know that no former employee is perfect, but those that recently resigned were dedicated, productive, successful and at one point they loved their jobs.  Clearly, the issue is more than just moving on for a better job,” wrote Grabe. “Unless things are reported by someone who is not directly involved, such as yourself, main street gossip and social media become the only route for disseminating the information. Your reporting becomes even more important after the rules were recently changed to limit the conversation during council meetings, especially during the public forum portion.”

Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson said Henning has a long road ahead of it and the city needs to look at both the long term and short term costs. 

“Henning has a difficult road ahead of them. We ask that people get both sides of the story. Ask for accurate, non-manipulated statistical data to support opinions. Most importantly, it is imperative that thorough decision making is done. All angles must be looked at. All costs must carefully be weighed not just for the short term, but also the long term,” wrote Strege, Williams, Nelson and Markuson. “Do we really think the ones that got us in this mess are capable of getting us out of it, or is it time to listen to those that understood what the outcome would be if the decisions that were made, were made?”