by CYNTHIA KMETT
When the former city manager Brian Kischnick was fired in mid- March of last year, Troy city council quickly called on assistant city manager Mark Miller to step up. When the council realized it wouldn’t be able to select a new manager in the timeframe set by the city’s charter, Miller was named acting city manager. This set the stage for the search for a new manager to begin.
Under the guidance of GovHR, the council would eventually get the names of many qualified candidates, and they selected six to interview for the job. Mark Miller was one of the six to be interviewed. But when council voted on the top three candidates to go to the final round of interviews for the job, Miller wasn’t among them. Miller’s votes came from councilmembers Edna Abrahim, Ellen Hodorek, and David Hamilton. To say Hamilton had been livid that Miller – with 18 years of service to the city – had not been chosen for the last round of interviews, while a former military man with no municipal experience had been selected, would be an understatement.
But on Thursday, November 15, it was finally time for the final round of interviews. The three candidates, Victor Cardenas, assistant city manager in the City of Novi; Chris Wilson, village manager of the Village of Beverly Hills; and Rex Saukkonen, a contractor for Decypher Corporation in Mildenhall, UK, each answered questions for an hour. Council seemed to agree they were all good.
They also acknowledged some concerns, especially on how long it would take them to get up to speed in a city as complex as Troy. How would they handle their first 100 days in the job they had been asked, and all their answers seemed to be “learning about Troy and getting to know the staff and the city.”
There was some concern about why Saukkonen, who had no experience with municipal government, would want to come here. Could Wilson make the jump from a village to a city with many more employees, residents, and businesses? Would Cardenas’s wife, who works for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, want to make such a move? Ah, the questions. So, after a brief discussion when several members said they wanted to think about this decision, the final selection was delayed to last Monday night’s council meeting.
Let the deliberations begin, maybe.
First, councilmember Abrahim indicated she wasn’t sure this is where they should go. Then, councilmember Hamilton moved to add Mark Miller to the debate, with Abrahim seconding. It passed.
Hamilton said there’s only one candidate that has lived in the city for 18 years, has the trust of our employees, has the trust of our business community, and that’s who he trusts. Miller does not live in Troy, but he’s worked here for 18 years.
Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek said Miller has built a team and, after this last year, we need the stability, wisdom, calmness, and institutional knowledge that Miller has brought to the position.
That’s still only three votes. But here comes the shocker. Ethan Baker noted the search process and doing their due diligence was the right thing to do. After the interviews of the three finalists, he said he was impressed with all three. But, “At the end of the day, I couldn’t find a reason to appoint one of those three over Mark Miller.”
He said we really do need some stability, and it would be a learning curve for all three of the other candidates. “I’m very sure he can take us to the next level.”
Baker had a talk with Miller about the change in his position and noted there would be things Miller might have to work on, too. But he was ready to step up and lead the city.
Soon, a motion to hire Miller was on the table and they’ll get a contract ready for him to sign. The vote was 8- 1, with Henderson voting no. Stay tuned, it won’t take long for the contract to be back on the table.
In other business, council adopted the design standards as proposed and worked on by the Troy planning commission for the past year. In addition, they changed the height allowed in general business zoning – think Rochester Road and Fourteen Mile – to just three stories or 40 feet. Sorry, 1- 800-Storage (at four stories), and Macy’s at Oakland Mall are grandfathered in.