Stories indexed with the term ‘leadership change’

AAATA Preps to Shift Gears

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Aug. 21, 2014): The meeting began with CEO Michael Ford’s formal announcement of news that board members and the public had already heard – that he was leaving the AAATA in mid-October to take the job as CEO of the southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority. Ford had formally tendered his resignation that day. The four-county area of the RTA includes the counties of Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland as well as the city of Detroit.

CEO Michael Ford listens to public commentary at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Board. (Photos by the writer.)

CEO Michael Ford listens to public commentary at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board. (Photos by the writer.)

Two items on the board’s voting agenda related at least indirectly to the leadership transition that the AAATA will be making. First, the board approved a resolution authorizing board chair Charles Griffith to appoint an ad hoc subcommittee to conduct a search for Ford’s replacement. The resolution approved by the board at its Aug. 21 meeting also authorized $50,000 for consulting services to help with the search.

Griffith said he has asked board members Anya Dale, Gillian Ream Gainsley and Eric Mahler to serve with him on the search committee, citing a desire to have a mix of board experience and geographic diversity represented on that group.

Second, the board approved the AAATA’s FY 2015 work plan, which will provide the basis for the FY 2015 budget. The budget will appear on the board’s Sept. 25 agenda for approval. The AAATA’s fiscal year runs from October through September. At the Aug. 21 meeting, Sue Gott credited Ford with developing the work plan, saying it would be valuable as a blueprint for the transition in leadership.

A major decision on the choice of bus technology might be made after Ford departs the AAATA in mid-October. Although the board approved a 5-year bus procurement contract with Gillig, and authorized an order for the first 27 of up to 60 buses called for in the 5-year contract, the board left the choice of drive-train technology open – between hybrid electric technology and clean diesel. The upfront capital cost difference is $200,000 per bus more for the hybrid technology. That final choice of technology will need to be made by the November board meeting.

Also at its Aug. 21 meeting, the board amended its pension plan to recognize same-sex marriages, which stemmed from a Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and the IRS ruling that resulted from that decision.

The board chose to delay approval of new service standards, which are a required element of AAATA’s Title VI compliance. The board can meet the Federal Transit Administration deadlines for submission of its Title VI materials if it approves the new service standards at its September board meeting.

Board members also received an update on the progress being made in a Michigan Dept. of Transportation environmental assessment of a project that could implement active traffic management (ATM) of the US-23 corridor. The project includes the idea of allowing vehicles to use the median shoulder during peak demand periods. The MDOT presentation included a visit from former AAATA board member Paul Ajegba, who is region engineer for MDOT’s University Region – a 10-county area that includes Livingston and Washtenaw counties. If The Chronicle publishes coverage of that presentation, it will be in a separate report.

The Aug. 21 meeting was held in the boardroom at the AAATA headquarters on South Industrial, instead of the usual location, which is the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The downtown library on South Fifth Avenue was closed in connection with the repair of its public elevator. [Full Story]

A2: Community Foundation

The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation has announced that its CEO and president, Cheryl Elliott, will be retiring at the end of 2014. She has served in that position since 2001, and has worked for AAACF since 1992. According to a press release, the AAACF’s chair and vice chair – Bhushan Kulkarni and Michelle Crumm – will oversee the search for a new CEO, working with a search committee and search firm. The goal is to hire a replacement by this fall. [Source]

UM: Presidential Search

The Detroit Free Press interviews former University of Michigan president James Duderstadt and former interim president Joseph White about the qualifications and skills needed to lead the university, as regents search for the next president to replace Mary Sue Coleman. The article quotes Duderstadt: “I’ll be very surprised if the person selected isn’t well-known to people in higher education. It’s like selecting a pope. We’re just waiting for the white smoke.” [Source]

Leadership Changes Set at Trial Court

David S. Swartz has been named chief judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court, effective Jan. 1, 2014. The appointment was made by the Michigan Supreme Court and announced in a press release issued on Oct. 24 by court administrator Dan Dwyer.

Swartz will replace current chief judge Donald Shelton, who has served in that position for four years. Because of his age, Shelton will be ineligible for re-election when his term ends next year. The state constitution requires that judicial candidates at the time of election must be younger than 70 years old. According to the press release, as of Jan. 1 Shelton will be presiding judge of of the trial court’s civil/criminal division through the end of 2014, … [Full Story]

Washtenaw United Way Leader to Retire

Sandra Rupp, who has served as president and CEO of the United Way of Washtenaw County since late 2004, is retiring at the end of the summer. The news was announced Wednesday, May 16 by board chair Kristen Holt. According to a press release issued by the nonprofit, a search committee has been formed to select the next president, and Rupp will work with the board during this transition.

Rupp has led the organization during a period of economic challenges, including the departure of major employers in the county like Pfizer and the closing of local auto manufacturing plants. The nonprofit’s highest fundraising campaign (in 2000) raised $8.8 million. The 2011 campaign brought in $5.57 million.

One of the most significant changes during … [Full Story]

Finalists Selected for Housing Director

At a special meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, board members of the Ann Arbor housing commission deliberated on four finalists for the job of executive director. The position would oversee the city’s public housing and Section 8 programs, at a time of uncertain federal funding and increasing need. Board president Marta Manildi described it as perhaps the most important decision the board will make.

Andy LaBarre, Ronald Woods

From left: Ann Arbor housing commissioners Andy LaBarre and Ronald Woods at the Oct. 12 special meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners praised all four candidates, but Jennifer L. Hall emerged as the leading choice. Four of the five housing commissioners selected her as their first choice in a straw poll at the beginning of the meeting. Hall currently serves as housing manager for the Washtenaw County/city of Ann Arbor office of community development. In advocating for Hall, board member Leigh Greden – a former city councilmember – noted that her knowledge of the local community is a strong asset.

But after about 90 minutes of discussion, commissioners decided to move ahead with three of the four finalists: Hall, Damon Duncan and Bill Ward. Both Duncan and Ward have more extensive public housing experience than Hall, primarily with the Detroit housing commission. The other finalist, Nick Coquillard, has served as deputy director of the Ann Arbor housing commission and is now interim director.

During the meeting, much of the discussion focused on the vision, leadership and management styles of the candidates, and how those styles would fit the existing staff focus on teamwork and customer service. As a backdrop to the discussion, the housing commission has seen some dramatic leadership changes over the past two years – including dissolution of the previous board in 2010, and a previous change in executive directors.

At the beginning of the meeting, Ronald Woods, the only commissioner who did not indicate a preference for Hall, asked whether it would be possible to conduct some of their discussion in closed session. He felt it would allow for a more candid exchange of opinions. But Kevin McDonald of the city attorney’s office informed the board that this was a public hiring process, and needed to be held in public view.

The executive director of the housing commission is one of only four positions in city government that is required to have a public hiring process, McDonald told the board. The other positions are city administrator, city attorney, and executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

The board will take up the hiring decision again at their regular meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6 p.m. at Baker Commons, 106 Packard (the corner of Packard and Main) – a housing commission property. It’s possible that commissioners will make a final decision then, or continue the discussion at a later date. [Full Story]

Search Concluding for Ann Arbor City Admin

The two Ann Arbor city administrator finalists – Ellie Oppenheim and Steve Powers – wrapped up their two days of interviews in Ann Arbor with a Wednesday morning session that included presentations by both candidates and questions from city councilmembers.

Sabra Briere, Stephen Rapundalo, Marcia Higgins

From left: Ann Arbor city councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) at the July 13 interviews with two finalists for the city administrator job. Higgins is chair of the council search committee.

For their 10-minute presentations, Oppenheim and Powers had been asked to talk about what they’d try to accomplish in their first 90 days on the job. They covered much of the same ground that they’d discussed during Tuesday’s round-robin interviews with councilmembers and senior staff, talking about how they’d familiarize themselves with the organization and the community of Ann Arbor. [See detailed Chronicle coverage of those Tuesday sessions for Powers and Oppenheim.]

When asked during the Q&A to describe the most challenging part of their presentation, both joked that it was handling PowerPoint – Oppenheim had difficulty advancing the slides and eventually enlisted the aid of a city staffer, and Powers’ presentation included a blank slide, because he couldn’t figure out how to insert the image he wanted to use. Powers also noted that it was difficult to know how much of his sense of humor to show in this context – his wife, for example, had advised him to delete some slides that he’d included.

Seven of the 11 councilmembers were on hand for the presentations and follow-up questions: Mayor John Hieftje, Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Steve Kunselman (Ward 3), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1). The other four councilmembers are expected to watch a video of the session prior to Monday’s council meeting. There will be a resolution on the July 18 agenda to nominate a candidate, but no name will be added to the resolution until the evening of the meeting.

Higgins, who’s chair of the search committee, told her council colleagues that on Monday a candidate will be nominated, a discussion of that nomination will take place, and hopefully the council will arrive at a consensus, she said. Or it’s possible that councilmembers will decide they don’t yet have an acceptable candidate, she added, and the process will continue.

However, based on a nearly hour-long discussion on Wednesday among councilmembers, it seems that a consensus is coalescing in favor of Powers – though both finalists were praised. Powers’ management style and familiarity with Michigan’s economy and governance structure were among the reasons cited by those councilmembers who are leaning toward hiring him.

This report briefly summarizes the presentations of Powers and Oppenheim, as well as the questions they were asked on Wednesday morning. The discussion among councilmembers at the end of the session is reported in detail. [Full Story]

City Admin Finalist: Steve Powers

On Tuesday morning, Ann Arbor chief of police Barnett Jones received an update suggesting that his patrol officers are enforcing the law uniformly across all vehicles. A taxicab carrying the two finalists for the Ann Arbor city administrator’s position – Ellie Oppenheim and Steve Powers – had executed a rolling stop, and was pulled over. Powers reported that the officer was professional and matter-of-fact.

The cab was driving the two finalists to city hall, where they were interviewed by city councilmembers and senior staff – including Jones – in a round-robin format, cycling through three small groups to answer questions about their experience, abilities and approach to the job. A third finalist, Harry Black, had withdrawn his name from consideration last weekend.

Steve Powers Ann Arbor city administrator finalist

Steve Powers, one of two finalists for the Ann Arbor city administrator job, during an interview with city councilmembers on July 12.

In addition to Jones, conducting the interviews were councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), mayor John Hieftje, and city attorney Stephen Postema.

Each had been given briefing books prepared by the city’s human resources staff and consultants with Affion Public, a search firm hired by the city. The three panels consisted of (1) Briere, Rapundalo and Postema; (2) Hieftje, Higgins and Kunselman; and (3) Anglin, Derezinski and Jones.

Questions were essentially read aloud as scripts from these prepared materials to ensure uniformity of the interviewing experience. One or two questions were fairly general, for example: What do you think makes a good leader? But the majority were behavioral: Tell us about a time when your leadership skills were put to the test and what the outcome was.

The interviews were part of a two-day process, and included a lunch on Tuesday with staff and a public reception on Tuesday evening at the new municipal center, which featured five-minute presentations from each candidate, as well as time for informal conversations. On Wednesday, the finalists will be interviewed in city council chambers from 8 a.m. to noon. That session, which is open to the public, will also 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.

It’s possible that a resolution making the appointment could be on the council’s July 18 agenda.

The Chronicle sat in on all interviews held Tuesday morning. This article reports on the responses by Powers. A separate article describes how Oppenheim responded to the interview questions. Because candidates often offered similar examples as answers to different sets of questions, their responses are summarized thematically. [Full Story]

City Admin Finalist: Ellie Oppenheim

On Tuesday morning, the two finalists for the Ann Arbor city administrator’s position – Ellie Oppenheim and Steve Powers – interviewed with city councilmembers and senior staff in a round-robin format, cycling through three small groups to answer questions about their experience, abilities and approach to the job. A third finalist, Harry Black, had withdrawn his name from consideration last weekend.

Ellie Oppenheim

Ellie Oppenheim, one of two finalists for the Ann Arbor city administrator job, during an interview with city councilmembers on July 12.

Conducting the interviews were councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), Mike Anglin (Ward 5), mayor John Hieftje, city attorney Stephen Postema and Barnett Jones, head of safety services. Each had been given briefing books prepared by the city’s human resources staff and consultants with Affion Public, a search firm hired by the city. The three panels consisted of (1) Briere, Rapundalo and Postema; (2) Hieftje, Higgins and Kunselman; and (3) Anglin, Derezinski and Jones.

Questions were essentially read aloud as scripts from these prepared materials to ensure uniformity of the interviewing experience. One or two questions were fairly general, for example: What do you think makes a good leader? But the majority were behavioral: Tell us about a time when your leadership skills were put to the test and what the outcome was.

The interviews were part of a two-day process, and included a lunch on Tuesday with staff and a public reception on Tuesday evening at the new municipal center, which featured five-minute presentations from each candidate, as well as time for informal conversations. On Wednesday, the finalists will be interviewed in city council chambers from 8 a.m. to noon. That session, which is open to the public, will also 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.

It’s possible that a resolution making the appointment could be on the council’s July 18 agenda.

The Chronicle sat in on all interviews held Tuesday morning. This article reports on the responses by Oppenheim; a separate article describes how Powers responded to the interview questions. Because candidates often offered similar examples as answers to different sets of questions, their responses are summarized thematically. [Full Story]

Transitions for Washtenaw County Staff

Over the past two months, more than a half dozen people holding key positions in Washtenaw County government have left or announced plans to leave their jobs, for a variety of reasons. Most notably, the county’s deputy administrator, Bill Reynolds – who’s been on medical leave since April – has turned in his resignation, effective June 17.

Wes Prater, Bill Reynolds

In this Chronicle file photo from May 2010, Bill Reynolds, right, talks with Washtenaw County commissioner Wes Prater. Reynolds was interviewing for the deputy county administrator job – he was hired for that position in June 2010, but has been on medical leave since April. He recently resigned, effective June 17.

Two other departures were announced at the June 1 board of commissioners meeting and June 2 working session: Joanna Bidlack, who has served as support staff for the board for several years; and Anya Dale, with the county’s economic development and energy department, who has been taking the lead in a Washtenaw Avenue corridor improvement project.

Dale has accepted a job at the University of Michigan’s Office of Campus Sustainability. She also serves as a board member of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) – that position is appointed by the city of Ann Arbor’s mayor, and Dale says she plans to remain on the AATA board. Bidlack, who recently completed a master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University, has taken a job at General Electric’s operation in Van Buren Township.

Reynolds, who was hired as the county’s No. 2 administrator a year ago, began paid medical leave in early April, citing post-military issues. [He was hired at a salary of $138,000.] On Tuesday, county administrator Verna McDaniel told The Chronicle that Reynolds turned in his resignation in late May, effective June 17. He has been interviewing for county administrator jobs elsewhere, and had been one of three finalists for the county administrator job in St. Croix County, Wisc. When The Chronicle has pressed for additional details about Reynolds’ leave of absence, county officials have characterized it as a personnel matter and declined further comment.

The staff changes come a year after the May 2010 retirement of county administrator Bob Guenzel, who had worked for the county for 37 years. Now under the leadership of McDaniel – herself a long-time county employee – the county is also addressing a roughly $17 million deficit for 2012 and 2013, and is undertaking some departmental reorganizations in part as a response to declining property tax revenues. The county employs 1,331 people, including elected officials and 1,090 employees who are represented by unions.

In interviews this week with The Chronicle, both McDaniel and Conan Smith – chair of the board of commissioners – said this kind of turnover has been anticipated, in light of the county’s financial situation and the overall economy. There’s an understanding among employees that the workforce will be shrinking, Smith said, and that if someone finds an opportunity elsewhere, they’re taking it.

McDaniel said there is no mass exodus of employees, but acknowledged that there will be additional departures – including retirements – before the end of the year. She’s developing recommendations regarding her administrative team, in light of the recent departures, and plans to update the board at their Thursday, June 16 working session. [Full Story]

Filling the Ann Arbor City Admin Job

The April 19, 2011 Ann Arbor city council meeting agenda – moved to Tuesday to accommodate Passover – will include an item appointing an interim city administrator. The same item will authorize a job description for the city’s soon-to-be open position.

The job opening will be be created by outgoing city administrator Roger Fraser, who announced his resignation publicly at the end of a Feb. 28 city council work session on the city’s budget. In early May, Fraser will be taking a job as a deputy treasurer for the state of Michigan.

The recommendation to be considered by the council at its April 19 meeting will come from a search committee, which was appointed at the council’s March 21 meeting. The committee was tasked with recommending an interim administrator and with presenting a plan for a selection process to hire a permanent administrator. The plan is to provide for internal as well as external candidates for the permanent job.

The interim job was open just to internal candidates, with the stipulation that the interim administrator would not be considered for the permanent job. Although the wording of the April 19 council resolution is not yet final, the process for making the permanent hire is expected to begin with a job posting immediately following the council’s April 19 meeting. The committee’s recommendation on base salary will be to target recruitment in the $145,000-$150,000 range.

At the March 21 council meeting, mayor John Hieftje indicated that he would like to see the hiring process completed by late summer, or mid-summer if possible. To meet that goal, an ideal timeline would leave the posting open for 30 days, with basic vetting of candidates completed during that time. Also during that period, starting in early May, the search committee will be recommending that a consultant – Scott Reilly with Affion Public – make a site visit to Ann Arbor for a day and a half of meetings with various constituencies, to gather input on the “intangible” aspects of job qualifications that are expected of the successful candidate.

The ideal timeline would use May and June to winnow the field of candidates and to interview finalists. The city’s human resources department would collaborate with Affion throughout the process. An offer would made at the beginning of July, and the new permanent city administrator would start at the beginning of August.

At meetings held on Wednesday and Friday morning – April 13 and 15 – the search committee discussed goals for the interim administrator, salary range for the permanent job, the public process, and how the city’s human resources department will work with an outside consultant. [Full Story]

AAPS To Visit Finalists’ Home Districts

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education special meeting (Feb. 18, 2011): Following a week of interviews for the district’s top job, last Friday the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education winnowed the field of six down to three finalists for superintendent: Patricia Green (North Allegheny School District, Pennsylvania.); Michael Muñoz (Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa); and Shelley Redinger (Oregon Trail School District, Oregon).

Deb Mexicotte and Glenn Nelson AAPS School Board

AAPS board president Deb Mexicotte and trustee Glenn Nelson at Friday's meeting to select superintendent finalists. (Photos by the writer.)

This week, a team of three trustees – Christine Stead, Susan Baskett, and Glenn Nelson – will be conducting site visits at each of the finalists’ current districts. Each finalist will then return to Ann Arbor to answer questions from the community at separate forums tentatively scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, March 5, and have a second interview with the board tentatively scheduled for Sunday, March 6. Immediately following the second interviews, the board will meet in open session to review community input, hear reports on the site visits, and choose the new AAPS superintendent. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Starts New Year

Ann Arbor District Library annual board meeting (Jan. 17, 2011): The library board’s first meeting of 2011 served as the board’s “annual meeting.” It kicked off with a swearing-in for four board members – including three incumbents – who won their elections on Nov. 2. The ceremony was officiated by Judge Elizabeth “Libby” Hines of the 15th District Court.

Barbara Murphy, Ed Surovell, Nancy Kaplan, Jan Barney Newman

From left: Barbara Murphy, Ed Surovell, Nancy Kaplan and Jan Barney Newman were sworn in as Ann Arbor District Library board members at Monday's meeting. Elizabeth Hines, a judge in the 15th District Court, officiated the ceremony. (Photos by the writer.)

The seven-member board also elected new officers – there were no competing nominations, and all votes were unanimous. Margaret Leary, who has previously served as president, was again elected to that office, replacing trustee Rebecca Head. In her final remarks as president before new officers were elected, Head gave an overview of the past 18 months, citing both challenges and accomplishments during that period.

The board also heard some details about AADL director Josie Parker’s involvement in the Digital Public Library of America initiative. Parker has been invited to be part of a small working group that will help launch the project, which is spearheaded by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Paul Courant, dean of libraries for the University of Michigan, is also involved. [Full Story]

Washtenaw County Board Starts New Year

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Jan. 5, 2011): In a meeting that combined elements of celebration and some sharp debate, the county board marked the new year by electing officers and adopting its annual set of rules, which had been revised from the previous year.

Donald Shelton, Yousef Rahbi

Before Wednesday's board meeting, Donald Shelton, chief judge of the Washtenaw County trial court, talks with Yousef Rabhi, a Democrat who represents Ann Arbor's District 11 on the county board of commissioners. Shelton later donned his judicial robes to officially swear in commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

The boardroom was packed with friends and family, many of them turning out especially for the four newly elected commissioners: Rob Turner (R-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3) and Yousef Rabhi (D-District 11). A reception for commissioners was held prior to the board meeting and was attended by several other elected officials – including sheriff Jerry Clayton, prosecutor Brian Mackie and water resources commissioner Janis Bobrin – as well as county staff.

Newly elected state senator Rebekah Warren was also on hand to watch as her husband, commissioner Conan Smith (D-District 10), was elected to chair the board, as anticipated. Officers for the board, the ways & means committee and the board’s working session were all elected unanimously, without discussion. There was considerable debate, however, over aspects of the new board rules, though they were ultimately adopted with only one minor amendment. [Full Story]

Leadership Change for Art Commission

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Dec. 14, 2010): On Tuesday, Margaret Parker presided over her final meeting as AAPAC’s chair, a position she’s held since 2004. She had previously announced her intent to step down, with the hope that commissioners would elect a replacement. Parker has been attempting to relinquish the job for more than a year, and the vice chair position has been vacant since December 2009.

Margaret Parker

Margaret Parker, the long-time chair of the Ann Arbor public art commission, stepped down from her leadership role at Tuesday's meeting. The commission haven't yet elected a new chair. (Photos by the writer.)

After some discussion, commissioners decided to postpone the election of officers – no one is eager to take on that responsibility. Instead, they plan to rotate the chairmanship on a monthly basis, until they can come up with a way to resolve the situation.

Tuesday’s meeting also included some debate over how to handle debate and discussion during AAPAC meetings, with Parker’s call for more formality meeting resistance from other commissioners. Parker observed that the city councilmembers don’t debate at their public meetings – they make statements. She felt that AAPAC should use that as a model, to make its meetings more orderly and efficient. A compromise was eventually reached, eliminating some of the stricter rules that Parker proposed.

Commissioners also got updates on several projects, including Fuller Road Station. Though city council hasn’t given final approval to Fuller Road Station – a joint city/University of Michigan parking structure and transit center – work is moving ahead, including the formation of a task force for public art.

For the municipal center – also known as the police/courts building, at Huron and Fifth – AAPAC approved the installation of nine-panel, 27-foot-wide mosaic murals by artist Gerome Kamrowski in the building’s atrium area. The murals were previously located on the outside of city hall, at its main entrance. There was no update available on the municipal center’s largest public art project – the outdoor water sculpture by Herbert Dreiseitl.

Looking ahead, Parker announced that starting next year, AAPAC’s monthly meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of the month, not the second. The request is to accommodate the schedule of AAPAC’s newest commissioner, Malverne Winborne, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. [Full Story]

County Board Acts on Budget Items

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Dec. 1, 2010): Farewells and recognitions took up much of the board’s last meeting of 2010 – four commissioners are wrapping up their service at the end of the year.

Mark Ouimet, Ronnie Peterson, Rolland Sizemore Jr.

Outgoing commissioner Mark Ouimet, left, is greeting by fellow commissioner Ronnie Peterson before the start of the Dec. 1 board meeting. Board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr. is seated to the right. (Photos by the writer.)

Also during the meeting, the issue of appropriate compensation emerged again. Local attorney Tom Wieder, who had initially raised the issue in October, spoke during public commentary about the need for commissioner Mark Ouimet and others who were inappropriately reimbursed for per diem and mileage to repay the county. An independent accountant’s report on the matter, one that was commissioned by county administrator Verna McDaniel, has been completed but not yet publicly released. Commissioners will be meeting individually with accountants regarding the report next week, and it will then be released to the public.

A resolution that would have cut spending accounts for commissioners from $3,550 annually to $1,500 wasn’t brought forward for a vote – Conan Smith had circulated a draft of the resolution via email earlier in the day. But he said he decided not to introduce it, because after talking to individual commissioners before the meeting, it was clear that he couldn’t marshal enough votes to get it passed.

The board did take action on several budget-related items, with little discussion. Commissioners gave final approval to revisions in the 2011 budget, which among other things directs county administrator Verna McDaniel to make proposals for cutting $1,034,988 out of the original budget of $98,493,155. The board also voted to accept the county’s apportionment report, which gives details of the 2010 taxable valuations for property in the county, by municipality. The report also includes the amount of millages levied and the dollar amounts collected in taxes. December tax bills have already been mailed out to property owners, based on these calculations.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved two appointments, nominated by board chair Rolland Sizemore Jr. Commissioner Conan Smith was appointed to the board of the land bank authority, and outgoing commissioner Ken Schwartz was appointed to the board of the Washtenaw County Road Commission. [Full Story]

AAPS Superintendent Search: Role for Public

At a meeting Wednesday night with Ray & Associates – the search firm hired to help find a new superintendent – Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board members set a tentative timeline for the search process. They aim to have a new superintendent in place by the end of February or early March 2011. Ray & Associates met yesterday with each board member individually to solicit input to be used in developing a candidate profile.

The next step in the search process will be to gather similar input from board associations, community leaders, and the public at open forums as well as invitation-only meetings by the end of October. The firm also suggested posting a 33-item survey on the district’s website to encourage even wider participation in the profile’s development. [Full Story]

Farewell to Roberts, Search Firm Selected

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Sept. 29, 2010): Though Todd Roberts, outgoing superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), sat in his regular seat at Wednesday’s school board meeting, there was also a newcomer at the end of the table. Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent of operations, did not participate, but he sat with the board for the duration of the meeting. Roberts’ last day with the district will be Oct. 8, and Allen will be taking over as interim superintendent on Oct. 9.

AAPS Robert Allen

From left to right, outgoing AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts, board president Deb Mexicotte, treasurer Irene Patalan, vice-president Susan Baskett, and Robert Allen, who will assume command of AAPS as interim superintendent on Oct. 9. (Photos by the writer.)

AAPS is hosting a public farewell reception for Roberts at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, at Skyline High School. Board president Deb Mexicotte quipped that the reception would be an opportunity for everyone to express good wishes or condolences to Roberts “as he moves on to accept a not-as-good position in North Carolina.” At Wednesday’s meeting, the board chose Ray & Associates, an executive search firm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to help them recruit and select a new superintendent.

The meeting also served as the annual organizational meeting for the board, during which trustees elected three new officers, changed the composition of their standing committees, and set their meeting dates for the remainder of the school year.

The board also heard a first briefing on yet another high school option being developed county-wide – an international baccalaureate program. [Full Story]

AAPS Search Firm Choice: Down to Two

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education search firm interviews (Sept. 22, 2010): The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board has narrowed its short list of potential consultants to help with its superintendent search to two firms: Ray & Associates Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and McPherson & Jacobson LLC of Omaha, Nebraska. Both firms have significant expertise in conducting national superintendent searches.

During a seven-hour meeting held at the Balas Administration Building, the board discussed selection criteria, set their interview process, interviewed five firms, and decided to check the references of two of them. A theme that emerged throughout the day was the challenge of conducting a search in an “open state” such as Michigan, where candidates’ names will be made public early in the process as a requirement of the Open Meetings Act.

The board is expected to make a final selection at its regular board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 29. The search firm will be seeking a replacement for outgoing superintendent Todd Roberts, who announced his departure in mid-August. AAPS deputy superintendent Robert Allen was recently selected to serve as interim superintendent when Roberts leaves within the next two weeks. [Full Story]

Interim Superintendent: Allen to Lead AAPS

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Sept. 15, 2010): As part of a full agenda during its first meeting since the start of the school year, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education appointed the district’s deputy superintendent of operations, Robert Allen, as its interim superintendent.


Ann Arbor Public Schools outgoing superintendent Todd Roberts, left, with Robert Allen, right, who'll be interim superintendent. (Photos by the writer.)

The transition to Allen from current superintendent Todd Roberts will occur on a date between Sept. 30 and Oct. 11. This will make the next regular board meeting on Sept. 29 Roberts’ last before he leaves to take his new post in North Carolina.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley was named as the next deputy superintendent of instruction, and Ruth Williams, a recently-retired AAPS principal, will be hired to fill Dickinson-Kelley’s current role as administrator of elementary education.

In other business, the board approved offering two alternate paths to a high school diploma: the Early College Alliance or the WAY Washtenaw program. New computers were approved for the district’s food service program. And the board set parameters for the interviews it will hold next Wednesday with five consulting firms it is considering for help with the superintendent search. [Full Story]

Seven Submit Search Bids for Superintendent

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education formal bid opening (Sept. 10, 2010): Seven professional services firms have bid on an Ann Arbor Public Schools contract to aid in the search for a new district superintendent. Dave Comsa, AAPS assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services, chaired a formal bid opening today, publicly opening the stack of mail containing the bids.


Amy Osinski and Dave Comsa, opening the bids. Comsa is assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services; Osinski is the school board's secretary.

In each case, Comsa checked whether the bid contained a signed original, as well as a notarized affidavit disclosing any familial relationships that might pose a conflict of interest. Comsa stated that the purpose of the morning meeting was simply to open the bids and cursorily examine them, but not to answer questions or hold any discussion.

However, representatives of two bidders were present – David J. Kinsella & Associates, and the Michigan Association of School Boards. These were the same two firms that attended the pre-bid meeting last week. [Full Story]

Superintendent Search Step One: Hire Help

Representatives from two executive search consultants met with two members of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education on Friday to discuss the request for proposals (RFP) recently issued by the district. In the last week of August, the district issued the RFP, which solicits proposals to help with the board’s search for a new superintendent, after Todd Roberts resigned in mid-August.


AAPS board members Susan Baskett and Glenn Nelson met with representatives of two search consultants who will be bidding for the contract to help AAPS with its superintendent search. (Photos by the writer.)

The two consultants that attended were the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), from Lansing, and David J. Kinsella and Associates, from Ann Arbor. By the end of the meeting, both consultants said their questions had been answered, and that they planned to submit proposals.

As the board embarks on the replacement process for Roberts – the district’s current superintendent who will be leaving in November – it has decided to hire an executive search firm to help in the recruitment, selection, and hiring process. Friday’s meeting was optional, and offered potential bidders a chance to ask questions of board members Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett before bids are due on Friday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. [Full Story]

School Board Issues RFP for Search Firm

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Aug. 23, 2010): At a special meeting held Monday, the school board approved a request for proposals (RFP) from professional services firms to assist them as they search for a new superintendent. The RFP was released to search firms and posted on the AAPS website [.pdf of RFP]. The district’s current superintendent, Todd Roberts, has resigned, and will be leaving the district by mid-November to move closer to family and to become chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math.

Christine Stead and Deb Mexicotte

Christine Stead and Deb Mexicotte discuss a draft of the RFP from search firms to help with the hiring of a new superintendent. (Photos by the writer.)

Board treasurer Christine Stead had offered to draft an RFP for board review at the last regular board meeting. Monday’s meeting was an opportunity for the rest of the board to review her work, and suggest changes. Most of the recommended changes were accepted without objection, but others led to some reflective discussion that revealed priorities for the board.

One of the changes made to the RFP was to add a pre-bid meeting for the purpose of answering clarifying questions about the RFP. The pre-bid meeting will be held on Friday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m., at the Balas Administration Building, 2555 S. State Street. Any interested bidders are invited to participate in person or via teleconference. The deadline for submitting responses to the RFP is Friday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.

The only other official business conducted at Monday’s meeting was the passing of a motion to entertain Roberts’ suggestions for interim staff, which he will bring to the next board meeting. [Full Story]

Firm to Aid Schools in Superintendent Search

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (Aug. 18, 2010): At their opening meeting of the 2010-11 school year, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) school board trustees discussed how to proceed in light of the recent resignation of superintendent Todd Roberts. Roberts is moving to his hometown of Durham, N.C. to become chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math.


The information sign outside Skyline High School welcomes incoming freshmen. Registration for Skyline's 9th graders is Aug. 26, for 10th graders it's Aug. 25, and for 11th graders, it's Aug. 24. Tues., Aug. 24 is also the same day the school board has added an extra meeting – at the Balas administration building – to work on an RFP to hire a search firm to help with the hiring of a new superintendent.

As part of the plan, the board settled Wednesday on the idea of hiring a search firm to assist with the selection of a new superintendent. To review an RFP (request for proposals) for a search firm, an additional board meeting has been set for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the Balas administration building main conference room, 2555 S. State St. Update: The date and time for the additional board meeting has been changed to Monday, Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Early in Wednesday’s meeting, Roberts thanked the board, the staff, and district parents for their support of his work over the past four years. He named the district’s parents specifically as a “great strength” of AAPS, and said that during his tenure, he has felt both “supported and pushed – as it should be – by the community of parents to be the best that [he] could.” Referring to the district’s budget challenges last year, Roberts noted that the collaboration, partnership, and shared sacrifice has set AAPS up for a good year this year. He said he is sad to leave, and reassured everyone that he will be here this fall to get the district off to a great start.

President Deb Mexicotte said the board would be sad to see Roberts leave, but that they are happy that he and his family have this opportunity. She thanked Roberts and wished him “all the best and continued success.”

Also at this meeting: the final projects being funded by the 2004 Comprehensive School Improvement Program (known as “the Bond”) were reviewed; the board welcomed Elaine Brown, the newly-hired director of Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS); Chartwells provided an update on the district’s food service program; and two local programs offering students alternative paths to a high school diploma were presented for the board’s consideration. [Full Story]

With Roberts’ Exit, AAPS Plans Next Steps

When Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent Todd Roberts made public his resignation on Friday, one person who was not surprised was AAPS school board president Deb Mexicotte. She had been contacted three weeks ago to be a reference for Roberts as he moved through the hiring process to become the newest chancellor of the North Carolina School for Science and Math (NCSSM).

Todd Roberts

Todd Roberts, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, at a budget forum in 2009.

He got the job offer on Tuesday, Mexicotte said in a phone interview with The Chronicle, and then spoke to each board trustee individually throughout Wednesday and Thursday, most of them in person, to share his decision and reasons for leaving. Tuesday was also the filing deadline for candidates to run for school board. Only incumbents – including Mexicotte – filed for re-election, so the seats will be uncontested.

Joni Worthington, vice president for communications for the University of North Carolina, confirmed that Roberts was originally tapped for the position by the NCSSM’s chancellor search committee, which hired a consulting firm to aid them in the process. Once making it through the rounds of school-level interviews in May and June, Worthington said, Roberts was interviewed directly by the president of UNC, Erskine Bowles, who then recommended Roberts to the UNC board of governors at their regular meeting yesterday.

Located in Roberts’ hometown of Durham, NCSSM is a public boarding school for 11th and 12th grade students gifted in math or science, and is ultimately governed by UNC, as one of its 17 campuses. Roberts will be the school’s fourth chancellor since its founding in 1980, and is succeeding Gerald Boarman, who resigned at the end of July. An interim chancellor, Thomas J. Williams, will serve NCSSM until Roberts arrives, no later than Dec. 1. [Full Story]

Novak Hired to Lead Housing Commission

Officially, it was an interview. But with just a single candidate vying to head the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, there was little doubt about the outcome.

On Wednesday evening, the commission’s five-member board listened to a 30-minute presentation by interim executive director Marge Novak and voted unanimously to take the interim off her title after posing fewer than a dozen questions during a 40-minute Q&A.

With 10-plus months as a temporary leader of the commission, Novak has considerably more time with the organization than some of the commissioners who endorsed her. Effective today, the hiring comes less than two months after the Ann Arbor city council dissolved the previous board. [See Chronicle coverage: "Housing Commission Set to Hire Director"]

Despite the unusual circumstances, the decision was well received by most of the roughly 30 residents of commission-run properties who attended Wednesday’s special meeting. [Full Story]

Housing Commission Set to Hire Director

The Ann Arbor Housing Commission‘s new board is moving ahead with the selection process for its new executive director, but is now considering only one candidate for the job – interim executive director Marge Novak.

Marge Novak

Marge Novak, interim executive director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, talks with commissioners at their April 21 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Novak will be interviewed by the board at a special meeting on Wednesday, May 12. The meeting, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. at Miller Manor, 727 Miller Ave. It will include an opportunity for public comment.

The board made its decision to move forward with the interview process at its April 21 meeting. That was the first meeting for new board members Ron Woods and Sasha Womble, who were recently appointed by Ann Arbor city council. Council had dissolved the previous board in March, following a consultant’s report that recommended an overhaul of the organization, and a follow-up report written by city administrator Roger Fraser at the end of February.

Jayne Miller, the board’s new president and a former top-level city administrator, supported Novak, saying the housing commission – which oversees the city’s public housing units and the Section 8 program for a three-county region – has transformed over a very short time. “I truly believe it’s because of her leadership,” Miller said. [Full Story]

County Board Says Farewell to Guenzel

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (May 5, 2010): At his last board meeting before retiring later this month, Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel received an extended standing ovation from commissioners, staff and others in attendance, including his wife, Pam Guenzel.

Bob Guenzel

On Wednesday, Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel attended the last board of commissioners meeting of his 37-year career with the county. (Photos by the writer.)

The board’s tribute to the outgoing leader came at the end of a meeting that included a first-quarter budget update with news both good and bad. Though the county’s general fund budget is on track to show a surplus, it’s not as much as needed to carry over into 2011 – which means the budget could be tighter next year. And Guenzel cautioned that 2012 and 2013 could be even more challenging.

Also during the meeting, two finalists for the job of deputy county administrator were introduced: Bill Reynolds, who leads the Chippewa County (Wisc.) government and is former chief of staff for Sen. Arlen Specter, and Jose Reyes, CEO of a Southfield management consulting firm. They had been interviewing all day for the position now held by Verna McDaniel, who’ll be the next county administrator.

And what was expected to be a relatively short meeting was lengthened by a discussion about the Washtenaw Urban County‘s annual plan, which commissioners were being asked to approve. Despite some apparent confusion on the part of one commissioner over funding sources in the plan, it ultimately received unanimous support.

After the meeting, commissioners and staff headed over to Argiero’s to give Guenzel a send-off. A larger farewell party is planned later this month at The Ark, where he is a long-time board member. [Full Story]

A Night of Transitions at County Board

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (March 17, 2010): The theme of Wednesday night’s meeting was one of transitions, as commissioners voted to dissolve the county’s land bank authority, join a regional energy office, and approve a contract for the next county administrator, Verna McDaniel.

Wes Prater, Paul Schreiber

County commissioner Wes Prater, left, talks with Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber before the start of Wednesday's county board of commissioners meeting. Schreiber came to speak in support of the county's land bank. In the background is deputy clerk Jason Brooks. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners also got an update from their lobbyist in Lansing, who spoke of upcoming transitions in state government that will impact the county. Kirk Profit said the turnover in the legislature, governor’s office and other administrative posts could lead to opportunities for the county. Several commissioners raised concerns over the state budget and state funding for local programs, and are worried that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday’s meeting also included two official farewells to long-time county employees: finance director Pete Ballios and Trenda Rusher, director of the county’s Employment Training and Community Services (ETCS) department. Both received standing ovations from commissioners, staff and others in the boardroom. [Full Story]

County Board Takes Step in Major Transition

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting (Feb. 3, 2010): The evening ended for some at the Heidelberg to celebrate the appointment of Verna McDaniel as county administrator – a hiring that drew a round of applause from commissioners, staff and members of the public who attended Wednesday’s county board meeting.


After Wednesday's county board meeting, several commissioners and staff went across Main Street to the Heidelberg to celebrate the vote to hire Verna McDaniel as the next county administrator. (Photo by the writer.)

But much of the meeting had a more somber undertone, with concerns that the worst of the county’s budget challenges are still to come.

Those concerns were manifested in different ways. Some commissioners cited the need to take action in planning the transition for the next administration, and in setting priorities to guide their decisions. Others cautioned that the county should be wary of making short-term fixes, like selling property or cutting programs that might help avert bigger problems down the road.

And most alluded to the fact that even though they addressed a projected $30 million deficit for the next two years, it’s likely that the economy will continue to plague county finances. Ronnie Peterson put it this way: “No one has a clue about how bad next year will be.” [Full Story]