Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

May 19, 2013

New TC manager earned his gray along the way

TRAVERSE CITY — Jered Ottenwess described himself during his interview for Traverse City manager as soft-spoken, lacking years of experience and perhaps not the most charismatic person.

His humble, self-depreciating style worked, because Traverse City commissioners are expected to officially name Ottenwess their next city manager when they meet Monday at 7 p.m.

Ottenwess, 34, will go from managing 32 employees and a $3.2 million general fund budget for the Upper Peninsula city of Ishpeming to 150 employees and a $15 million budget in Traverse City. He’ll be paid $100,000 annually to start and can earn up to $110,000 after two years.

He won’t begin the Traverse City job until at least late July.

His former employers have no doubt he’s up to the task.

“He can do so much for you,” said Elaine Racine, Ishpeming’s mayor pro tem, who described Ottenwess as intelligent, hard-working, honest and humble.

“When he travels, he pays for his own meals because he tells me he has to pay for them at home, anyway,” Racine said. “I’m very happy for Jered, and very, very sad for our city.”

Michigan native Ottenwess has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan and worked for a private planning firm when a friend suggested he apply for the city manager’s job in the small town of Trenton, Fla., near Gainesville.

“I found my calling,” Ottenwess said. “I find it really fulfilling, both personally and professionally, to work in the public’s interest.”

He helped that city transition from a state-declared emergency financial condition to a plus-fund balance in three years. But when asked about his top accomplishments, he noted a grant that allowed the city to install playground equipment in city parks.

“To see the kids really enjoying the playground equipment, it was really rewarding,” he said.

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