Nickolaus hired as state Econonmic Development general counsel

Just two weeks after being fired as Jefferson City’s administrator, Nathan Nickolaus began work Monday as general counsel for Missouri’s Economic Development department.

“I’m very excited to be working there,” Nickolaus said Monday evening. “I think it just reflects that the director of the department (Acting Director Mike Downing) and the governor have confidence in my abilities.”

After one day, he said, he doesn’t know yet what major issues he’ll face as the agency’s top lawyer.

“I’m very fortunate that the current general counsel is, actually, going to still be there for another 10 days, so he’s kind-of helping me through that process.”

Nickolaus is replacing Andrew Smolik, who’s leaving the state to go into private practice.

Nickolaus’ career has included private practice work.

“I think I like government practice a little better,” he said Monday. “My private practice was always, largely, centered around helping governments.

“I started with small towns, and then Jeff City, and now the state.”

Jefferson City’s Council fired Nickolaus Sept. 16, by an 8-2 vote during a closed session.

As he had said in May 2011, when the council fired then-Administrator Steve Rasmussen and elevated Nickolaus from city attorney to interim administrator, Mayor Eric Struemph said the city needed a change in leadership.

Struemph also said two weeks ago that Nickolaus had not met all the goals that had been set for him last February, after Struemph made a previous attempt to have the council fire Nickolaus.

But Nickolaus said two weeks ago he had been led to believe those goals had been met. He said he was given a list of 20 to 30 goals earlier this year, some with specific dates to be completed by, which he did.

The city administrator is nominated by the mayor and approved by the council, then serves at the council’s pleasure.

Nickolaus served as Jefferson City’s attorney since 2003, and was confirmed as the permanent city administrator in December 2011.

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