Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 20, 2013

Officials mull city manager candidates

TRAVERSE CITY — Candidates from far-flung places dominate the response to a posting for the soon-to-be-vacant city manager of Traverse City job.

No city employees applied for the job; just one of the 55 applicants is local, and not many are from Michigan, said George Korthauer, a consultant with the Michigan Municipal League who is running the search. City commissioners will decide which of the applicants to invite for an interview when they meet Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

“Some are really kind of off-the-wall without any identifiable qualifications, but there are some who are city managers in smaller towns,” said Commissioner Michael Gillman.

Commissioners initially received a brief, one paragraph synopsis of all 55 candidates, then decided they wanted to see all of the applications. They received all but 10 to review prior to the meeting.

“It’s kind of depressing,” Commissioner Jim Carruthers said of the applications he has read. “There are all of these people who don’t have any experience in city government, and no one is just jumping out.”

The commission still has 10 applications to review from candidates who requested anonymity, including the single local candidate. Commissioners will review those applications in closed session then return to open session to drain the pool to somewhere between six and a dozen applicants to invite for interviews.

“It could take a while, but if they stick to the qualifications they believed important, that will narrow it down somewhat,” Korthauer said. “I think there will be several in there that will meet the commission’s qualifications.”

The successful applicant will replace Ben Bifoss, who will retire June 28 after four and a half years on the job.

Bifoss originally volunteered to assist the commission in the search for his replacement, but since removed himself from the process after seeking the advice of the ethics adviser of the International City Managers Association.

The adviser noted Bifoss would know some of the applicants and said city commissioners need to make the decision on their own.

Mayor Michael Estes disagreed and wants Bifoss involved to the greatest extent possible.

“I wanted his influence, but he said when it comes to decision-making by commissioners, he needs to step aside,” Estes said.

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