TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Light & Power will open up its search for a new executive director but left the start of the search process undefined.
Two members of the utility’s board wanted to give the job to Tim Arends, the public utility’s controller and interim executive director while, a third favored extending the interim role for a year. But four voted to start its executive search “as soon as practical” following receipt of a consultant’s management audit. The audit is due by April 1.
When “soon as practical” starts depends on who you ask.
“You can probably get seven gently different answers on that question,” said board member John Taylor, who favored opening up the search. “The point is not to rush, but be ready to start when we are all in agreement.”
Taylor praised Arends and said he may be the best person for the job, but not everyone on the board agrees.
“It’s about building trust, ... and when we don’t agree, the process matters,” Taylor said.
Board member Mike Coco and Jim Carruthers, a city commissioner on the board, expressed similar positions. Both said they had received several contacts from people in the community who wanted the utility to do an open search. Both praised the job Arends has done over the last four months but said they want to explore the board’s options.
About a dozen people spoke at the Tuesday meeting, and all but one mentioned the importance of a new director with experience in renewable energy and conservation.
Representatives from both the Michigan Land Use Institute, headquartered in Traverse City, and the Lansing-based Michigan Environmental Council also attended. They urged the board to conduct an open search with a focus on candidates experienced in renewable energies such as wind and solar power.
“It’s about seeing that renewable energy is our future,” said Kate Madigan of the Michigan Environmental Council. “A new person can lead us in that direction.”
Doug Luciani, executive director of the Travese City Area Chamber of Commerce, said people are overrating the position of executive director. Luciani said the board runs the utility and sets its direction, not the executive director.
Board Chairman Pat McGuire said out of 160 comments gathered by the board when developing its profile for an executive director, just three involved renewable energy.
“We don’t need anyone with any bias,” said McGuire, who favored promoting Arends to the job permanently.
Bob Spence also favored promoting Arends.
“I’m personally totally satisfied with Tim Arends,” Spence said. “I think he’s our guy.”
City Commissioner Barbara Budros favored extending Arends as interim director for a year, while board member John Snodgrass said he wants someone with more technical experience to lead the utility.