Scottville talks traits, priorities of ideal city manager
SCOTTVILLE — Is Scottville a city looking for change, or a traditionalist community longing for the past?
It’s one of the key questions that city officials addressed Monday with Kathy Grinzinger, lead recruiter for the Michigan Municipal League, in a discussion about finding a replacement for outgoing City Manger Amy Williams, who is leaving the post in April.
At Grinzinger’s request, commissioners talked about the city, its residents, its strengths and the challenges it faces, and the question of Scottville’s identity stemmed from the discussion about the residents and their priorities. Rob Alway, at-large commissioner, mentioned tradition, while Mayor Bruce Krieger called Scottville “a city looking for change.”
Grinzinger said it’s rare that the two qualities come in the same package, and suggested that seeking a candidate that priorities both could be problematic.
First Ward Commissioner Brian Benyo agreed.
“Being accepting of change and (being) traditionalist really don’t mesh together,” he said. “We need to look at our opinions and find out what we really want to be.”
Grinzinger said officials needed to determine what they wanted for the city and in their new city manager, and cautioned them against setting conflicting requirements.
“If you really want a trotter, don’t tell me you want a racehorse because then we all fail,” she said. “If you really want a racehorse, it’s incumbent upon you to give that person the right marching orders.”
At-large Commissioner Sally Cole said honoring the city’s past while looking forward to its future don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
“We need to embrace the past while growing. It doesn’t mean we have to forget about the past,” Cole said. “It’s like goodness waiting to happen. There’s good potential on the horizon here.”
Alway said he believes the two qualities can overlap, especially from the perspective of encouraging economic development.
“A lot of the business in Scottville has gone west … and I think it’s important that we collaborate without losing our identity,” he said. “That’s part of what can fill that traditionalist gap. We want to collaborate — we don’t want to just become a bedroom community.”
Economic development was the most discussed issue at the work session, and commissioners agreed that Scottville’s next leader should be experienced in fostering economic growth.
Commissioners said municipal government, finance, planning and zoning and public relations are also crucial areas of expertise for the next city manager.
Profile of the city
Commissioners described Scottville as a small, close-knit community whose residents share a sense of togetherness and pride — a city with plenty of untapped potential that is also facing some significant financial challenges, including a lack of young, professional homeowners living in the city limits.
Benyo said he sees a generational divide in Scottville between retired residents and younger people who feel “trapped” in the city, and noted that attracting a younger demographic to the city is important.
Generating revenue and addressing blight are also chief among the challenges faced by the city, according to Alway.
“We’d love to increase our city’s revenue structure without raising taxes,” he said.
Public satisfaction with the city was a topic of contention. At-large Commissioner Sue Petipren saying the public was displeased with the commission’s decisions. Alway disagreed, saying the city has worked well with the public, and that the current commission lineup had a strong vision and was willing to do what’s necessary to creatively address any problems.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a stronger city commission when it comes to having a vision,” he said.
On the issue of communication as a whole, however, everyone agreed that a seasoned and skilled communicator is a top priority.
“I’d like to see someone who’s outgoing and will walk downtown and talk to folks,” Krieger said.
Several commissioners identified strong and competent leadership as desired qualities.
“There are leaders that drag you with them, and there are leaders who, when they look behind themselves, everyone’s following,” Grinzinger said, asking the commission which of the two was the better fit for Scottville.
Marcy Spencer advocated for the latter.
“Someone who people follow,” she said. “I’d like to see someone who’s outgoing and approachable.”
Krieger expressed concerns about the city’s ability to attract a candidate who will stay in the area long term.
“We’ll be lucky to find someone who will stay here,” Krieger said. “Usually, we get a younger person who stays a few years and leaves, or we get an older person who stays for a few years and retires.
“Do you think we can find somebody who will stay?”
Grinzinger said she thought the candidates who were invested in the ideas Scottville wanted — economic development and community building — would stay longer than might be expected.
“If you …work together, you will keep that person longer than you think,” she said.
Grinzinger encouraged the commission to consider a higher salary range for the incoming city manager.
“The $55,000 to $65,000 (per year) range will get someone in the chair, but you really can’t keep them,” she said. “There are some serious salaries being offered to the west and to the north.”
Members of the public also spoke up, with residents Ed Hahn and Barb Burwell encouraging the city to rethink its stance on allowing medical marijuana provisioning centers within the city.
This, too, is an issue commissioners felt an ideal candidate would be familiar with.
“Opinions seem to be divided on the medical marijuana issue,” Benyo said. “Whoever’s coming in needs to understand that every municipality in the state is dealing with this hotly contested undertaking.”
The final list of characteristics included expertise in economic development finance skills, some experience in municipal administration or government and at least a bachelor’s degree in public administration, finance, business or equivalent working experience.
Grinzinger said the information collected on Monday will be used to create a brochure to advertise the position. The rough draft should be completed within a week, and after necessary changes are made, the position will be advertised on job sites and networks nationwide.
“You should know who your body is, you should have that person selected in 90 to 100 days,” Grinzinger said.
Based on that timeline, the Scottville would be without a city manager from late-April to mid-June. Krieger said an interim city manager would be required for that time.