By BRIAN McGILLIVARY
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The board for Traverse City Light & Power shut down its faltering search for a new executive director and threw the switch on Tim Arends.
Arends, the controller for the city-owned utility, has acted as interim executive director since October 2012. He asked the board on Tuesday to reverse its Feb. 26 decision to conduct an open search for a new director and instead remove the interim tag from his title.
"I've been doing both jobs for six months ... and in my opinion it's basically become an on-the-job interview for the last five," Arends said.
The utility board voted 4-to-2 in favor of Arends' request, but even those who voted no said he's doing a great job and they support him.
Board member John Taylor said TCL&P needs to complete the search process even though he was 99 percent sure Arends would come out on top.
Board member and city Commissioner Jim Carruthers said he supports Arends but the utility must keep its promise to the public.
"We made assurances to the community that we would be opening this up ... and we should honor what we told the public," Carruthers said.
The Michigan Land Use Institute, a local nonprofit agency that advocates for renewable energy, rallied public support for an open search and helped push the TCL&P vote on Feb. 26. But the agency backed off its lobbying efforts and just one person spoke Tuesday. Utility board Chairman Pat McGuire said he received a single email.
"Hopefully the public has seen that Tim is doing a great job and that the board is functioning better," McGuire said. "By promoting Tim, we will be able to keep the momentum that we've established."
Arends has worked for the city since 1990, first as deputy treasurer and then as controller at TCL&P beginning in 2008. He submitted letters of support for his hiring from City Manager Ben Bifoss, and executives with the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, Cherryland Electric Cooperative and Michigan public power associations.
Arends makes $106,000 a year as interim executive director. His predecessor, Ed Rice, made $116,000 before the board fired him in October. The board directed attorney Pete Doren to negotiate a contract with Arends and bring it back for their approval.