One of the three finalist candidates for Ann Arbor’s city administrator job – Harry Black – has withdrawn his name from consideration, according to Lisa Wondrash, communications manager for the city.
Black currently serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Global Commerce Solutions (GCS) Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based government services firm that provides program and project management support services to the public sector. From 2005-2008 he worked as the deputy chief administrative officer/chief financial officer for the city of Richmond, Virginia.
Wondrash was not able to provide any details at this time about the reason for Black’s withdrawal.
Black’s withdrawal leaves two remaining finalists: Ellen Oppenheim and Steve Powers. Interviews for those candidates start on Tuesday, July 12, and are open to the public.
Oppenheim most recently served as president and chief executive officer of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) from 2006 to 2011. Oppenheim resigned from that job in February. According to a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal, she cited a need for more time to take care of her mother in Texas, who was ill. The Gazette-Journal reports that under terms of her contract, she remains on the RSCVA payroll until Aug. 10. Her salary in that position is $234,000.
Preceding her resignation, Oppenheim received criticism for her handling of an event involving the American International Choral Festival early this year: “Possible RSCVA Miscalculation Could Cost Local Economy Millions.” Members of the Ann Arbor city council search committee were reportedly not apprised of this negative publicity.
Vetting of Ann Arbor city administrator candidates – through Lexis/Nexis as well as through news media background searches on candidates – was to be performed by a consultant hired by the city, Affion Public, in concert with the city’s human resources department.
Affion Public itself endured some negative publicity earlier this year. According to local media reports in Savannah, Georgia, when Affion conducted background checks on candidates for the city manager job there, Savannah city council members were not apprised of some pertinent information about finalist candidates. [This op-ed piece published in the Savannah Morning News recounts a series of information gaps: "Affion's Whiffs." A subsequent news report, also published in the Savannah Morning News, discusses an additional issue about one of the Savannah city manager finalists that was not conveyed to the Savannah city council.]
The second remaining finalist for the Ann Arbor city administrator, Steve Powers, currently serves as county administrator of Marquette County, Mich. – a position he’s held since 1996. The Mining Journal, writing about Powers’ interest in the Ann Arbor position, reports that Ann Arbor is one of a few other positions he’s considering: “Eyeing a New Job.” In the Mining Journal article, Powers related the timing for his exploration of other opportunities to the fact that his children have now graduated from college and high school.
The city of Ann Arbor will move ahead with its schedule for candidate visits and interviews early this week. That currently includes round robin interviews with small groups of councilmembers starting at 7:30 a.m. at city hall on Tuesday, July 12. Also on July 12, a public reception for residents to meet the candidates will be hosted in the lobby of the new municipal center at 301 E. Huron from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The reception will feature five-minute presentations from each candidate, as well as time for informal conversations with candidates.
The following day, July 13, candidates will be interviewed in public view in city council chambers from 8 a.m. to noon. That meeting will be videotaped and broadcast live on Channel 16 to allow viewing of the interviews by councilmembers and the public who are not able to attend. Due to family plans, professional committments and health issues, it’s possible that as few as seven out of 11 councilmembers will be present.
Based on a resolution passed at the council’s July 5 meeting, which revised the search committee’s recommended timeline for making the city administrator hire, it’s expected that a resolution making the appointment could be on the council’s July 18 agenda.
The three finalists had been winnowed down from a pool of roughly 8-10 by the city council’s search committee, which met starting mid-afternoon on July 5 to do that work. Members of the search committee are: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje. The pool from which the search committee selected was identified by the city’s consultant, Affion Public, in concert with the city’s human resources department.
The city’s chief financial officer, Tom Crawford, was appointed interim city administrator at the city council’s April 19, 2011 meeting, effective April 28. Previous city administrator Roger Fraser announced his resignation at a Feb. 28 city council working session. Fraser took a job with the state of Michigan as a deputy treasurer.