Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 20, 2013

Departing city manager talks about himself, reluctantly

TRAVERSE CITY — Ben Bifoss said he came to Traverse City as a city manager without an agenda. He leaves pleased he didn’t garner a reputation for initiating changes, just managing them.

City commissioners praised Bifoss, 59, for his professionalism, low-key approach, and an ability to present issues fairly and completely without personal bias. He sat down with the Record-Eagle on Tuesday, his last day in office prior to starting his retirement. His comments have been edited for space.

Record Eagle: What would your rather do, have a tooth pulled or be interviewed about yourself?

Bifoss: Have a tooth pulled, and I’ve had them without anesthesia and it is a very uncomfortable experience.

R-E: What do you consider your signature accomplishment or accomplishments?

Bifoss: I don’t keep lists. I think helping to lead this organization, it’s a high-quality organization. I’m not personally responsible for any of it; we are all team members. One of my jobs is to help coordinate the team.

R-E: From the outside looking in, it appears you rarely initiate any major change. Is that accurate?

Bifoss: I’m glad it looks that way. The way the commission-manager form of government works is that the commission sets the policy and the priority and the manager implements it. I did not come in with an agenda of things to fix.

R-E: The proposed consolidation of the city’s fire department with the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department has been one of the most controversial items during your tenure. Did you initiate it?

Bifoss: I don’t think that matters.

R-E: Any prediction on how consolidation is going to end?

Bifoss: I do not.

R-E: Do you think consolidation can work?

Bifoss: I think it could work, yes.

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