Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 5, 2013

New Traverse City manager may make more

City advertising higher salary for Bifoss' replacement

TRAVERSE CITY — Ben Bifoss' replacement as city manager will likely make a higher starting salary than what Bifoss earned after four years on the job.

The city commission started low, but eventually agreed to advertise a salary range of $100,000 to $120,000 for their next top administrator. Bifoss, who will retire June 28, earns about $102,000 annually.

City Commissioner Mike Gillman said he'd "hate to pay someone new" more than what they pay Bifoss, considering his experience and strong performance as city manager.

But Bifoss told commissioners not to worry if they need to pay more.

"That would not be demeaning to the incumbent," Bifoss said. "The average pay, for comparable communities, ... is $116,000."

Commissioners considered a salary range of $95,000 to $115,000, but again Bifoss encouraged commissioners to go higher when they sought his advice Monday.

"It's really not my place to say, but I will," he said. "If you want to pay average, you should expect average."

The commission voted to begin its search process immediately and follow a procedure similar to 2008 when it hired Bifoss.

The city will contract with the Michigan Municipal League to help develop a recruitment brochure and advertise in regional and national trade journals. The process elicited about 60 applications in 2008, but Gillman said there was quite a gap in qualifications between the top six candidates and the rest of the applicants.

Bifoss said if the initial applicant pool isn't sufficient the city could then seek the help of an executive search firm.

The Michigan Municipal League will also help facilitate the candidate interview process with the city commission and provide other services as needed. Total cost was about $5,300 in 2008.

Use of the Michigan Municipal League will also allow the city to protect the confidentiality of applicants when requested but still allow the entire city commission to review all applications.

The commission will pick up to eight people for public interviews and invite up to four finalists back for a second visit.

The finalists would attend a community open house; meet with business groups and other city boards and committees, and undergo one-on-one interviews with city commissioners.

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