Ann Arbor City Admin Finalists Announced

Public reception for candidates set for July 12

The city of Ann Arbor has announced the names of three finalists for its city administrator job: Harry Black, Ellie Oppenheim and Steve Powers. Of the three, only Powers has a current position in Michigan.

Next week on Tuesday, 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.

According to a press release from the city of Ann Arbor, Harry Black currently serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Global Commerce Solutions (GCS) Inc., a 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. He was vice president and program manager for McKissack & McKissack in Washington, D.C. from 2000 to 2005, and prior to that served in several roles with the District of Columbia government of Washington D.C. Black has served as an adjunct assistant professor at the Long Island University (Brooklyn campus) Graduate School of Business/Public Administration. Last year he was appointed to the Virginia State University Board of Visitors.

The press release also indicates that Ellie Oppenheim most recently held the position as president and chief executive officer of the RenoSparks Convention and Visitors Authority (2006 to 2011). In that capacity, she was responsible for leading the regional destination marketing organization promoting tourism and convention business for Reno, Sparks and Incline Village/North Lake Tahoe. Before that Oppenheim worked for the City of San Diego, California (2002 to 2006) in various roles to include the deputy city chief operating officer and deputy city manager, and as the director of the parks and recreation department. Oppenheim has also worked for Stanford University, Calif. and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Steve Powers brings experience as county administrator of Marquette County, Mich. – a position he’s held since 1996, according to the press release. His other management experience has also been at the county level, including various jobs in the governments of Martin County, Minn., Jackson County, Ore., and Johnson County, Kansas. His professional and community roles, Powers serves as a corporate member with the International City/County Management Association; Marquette County Ambassador; and as an executive board member for the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Powers has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in public administration and political science from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.

The three finalists were 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.

[.pdf of city of Ann Arbor press release]


  1. By Jane Smith
    July 9, 2011 at 11:32 am | permalink

    I am amazed that Ellen Oppenheim has been shortlisted for this important position. Regardless of what is said about her the community of Reno is ashamed that she was ever a part of government here. Her work at the RSCVA was incompetent at best but what she excelled at was promoting her own power. One of her last legacies was embellishing numbers for a choral festival that completely bombed leaving our hotels with thousands of unfilled rooms. She agreed with a contract that gave the choral festival organizers hundreds of thousands of dollars for several hundred sleeping rooms only. You are fools should you hire this woman. Run away from her. From Reno’s perspective at least we would be rid of her.

  2. By Mary Morgan
    July 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm | permalink

    Re. #1: Here’s a link to a Jan. 27, 2011 report by the NBC affiliate in Reno regarding the American International Choral Festival: “Possible RSCVA Miscalculation Could Cost Local Economy Millions” [link]

    Oppenheim resigned as CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) in February. According to a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal, she said she needed 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.

  3. By Chris Drake
    July 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | permalink

    As a resident of Reno, I warn you not to select Ellen Oppenheim.

  4. By Ala Goldsmith
    July 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    Amazing…like the new head of SPARK, we have to find out these these background facts from random folks posting in the comments section of news stories. Amazing. At least Ann Arbor Chronicle is posting a link to the an issue of interest dealing with one of the candidates while, once again, is asleep in the wheel. Too busy with their articles on one of the major issues of our times–private ownership of goldfish.

  5. By Dr Data
    July 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm | permalink

    Or the article about Jennifer Granholm tweeting about her Volt rather than the deaths in Grand Rapids. However, that article was a real success as it got lots of page views/comments, which is how articles are judged there.

  6. By Jack Eaton
    July 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm | permalink

    A City official is reporting that Mr. Black has withdrawn his name from consideration. If true, I wonder what impact that will have on the selection process.

    Perhaps the selection committee should go back to the list of 60 applicants and try to find three who are better suited to running our City.

  7. By Rick Cronn
    July 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm | permalink

    From my perspective professional employment consultants prefer and tend to promote the same bunch of corporate hacks parading as public servants.

    I wish council would exercise their due diligence by not accepting only what’s presented to them. Dig a little deeper, ask questions and listen to what the applicants home constituents are saying. We should seriously question the current paradigm of former employers saying nothing or only good things about former employees.

    We should be in no hurry to get past the previous nine years of corporate city hall rule and find someone who really has Ann Arbor’s interests at heart (and head) instead of advancing their own career thru crony politics.

  8. By Jimmy
    July 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | permalink

    Formerly being from Marquette and knowing Steve I can honestly say that he’s done a lot of good work up there and I wouldn’t ever associate his career with “crony politics.” He’s a solid candidate.