Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

December 30, 2013

Newsmakers: New city leaders quell critics

EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.

TRAVERSE CITY — City officials turned to younger, newer, and less experienced voices to fill their top two administrative positions in city government.

Jered Ottenwess took over for Ben Bifoss as city manager in July and Tim Arends replaced Ed Rice in May as Traverse City Light & Power's executive director.

In both cases, the predecessors had decades of experience in their fields. The knock against both Ottenwess and Arends was their lack of experience, respectively, in leading a city the size of Traverse City or an electric utility. But to date, those who hired them are pleased with the results.

"I think Jered's doing a fine job," said Mayor Michael Estes. "This city had a lot of things put on hold ... and there was so much on his plate when he entered this position it will likely take six more months before he is truly functioning at full capacity."

Ottenwess inherited several problems upon his arrival, including construction failures at new-look Clinch Park and problems with an agreement to convert the Con Foster museum into a movie house for the Traverse City Film Festival.

"Anytime you take over a city manager position there always issues like that, projects not finished or issues unresolved," Ottenwess said. "I guess that's part of the nature of the job."

The Clinch Park water feature may be the most difficult to resolve. The new splash pad sprayed sewage contaminated water on unsuspecting children when a sewer line backed up just days after it opened. City staff resolved that problem but discovered drainage issues have made the feature a high-maintenance addition to the park.

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