Ferndale City Manager Begins Interview Process for Birmingham Job
Ferndale City Manager Bob Bruner starts the interview process for the Birmingham City Manager's job with a presentation on sustainability and efficiency.
Formal interviews take place today, with the commission making its final decision either today or Sunday. Other candidates include former city administrator from Amherst, MA., Larry Shaffer and former city manager of Clinton, IA, Gary Boden. A fourth candidate, Kevin Welch from Tecumseh, Mich., withdrew his name from consideration at the beginning of the week.
Bruner is hoping to fill the position recently vacated by Tom Markus, now city manager of Iowa City, IA.
Friday's presentation to the commission asked the candidates to answer one of four questions that addressed various challenges a city manager might face.
Bruner chose to speak to the question of sustainability, the importance of it and how it can help a community recover from economic shortfalls.
He started out by defining sustainability as the way people and places endure within the economy, environment and civic engagement.
Bruner said with a shrinking tax base and high retirement costs, reducing costs and personnel can only go so far. He said cities need to look at efficiency.
"What's really exciting is the opportunity to improve efficiency," Bruner said.
Bruner said he's most proud of the role he played in reorganizing Ferndale City Hall, which, he said, streamlined much of the city's day-to-day functions to both keep costs down and improve services for residents.
He also said that cities should embrace technology. In the past, Bruner worked to create a citizen request and job tracking system, but the greatest success has been putting Ferndale City Council meetings online.
"We need to be more progressive in promoting civic engagement," Bruner said. Adding: "I'm still trying to figure out how to use social media to improve my role."
Bruner said the city manager role should be to anticipate problems and consequences before they escalate and before they take people by surprise. Constantly evaluating feedback and looking at alternatives is also key to accurate decision-making, he said.
The Birmingham City Commission will conduct formal interviews beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. After, the commission will go into executive session and make a final decision, unless it believes more interviews are needed.
Ferndale City Council could know if it needs to start looking for a new city manager tonight.
Bruner was hired to Ferndale's City Manager on Feb. 12, 2007. He found out last month that he would be one of the finalists for the Birmingham job.
Birmingham Commission Mayor Gordon Rinschler said last month when the news was released that Bruner's proximity was not a factor. "If you read his resume, he's an impressive guy," Rinschler said.
A key factor in Bruner's decision to pursue the new job was the stability of the Birmingham city manager position, he said. During the past 45 years, Birmingham has had only two city managers. Outgoing City Manager Tom Markus served for 22 years. The average tenure of a city manager is seven to eight years.
The position also would include a pay raise. Bruner, who took a 5 percent pay decrease last summer, currently is pulling in about $98,000. The Birmingham job's annual salary is listed as ranging from $110,000 to $128,000.
"This is my adopted home," Bruner said. "It's walkable, urban, a great sense of community … Birmingham (city manager position), however, is arguably one of the best jobs in the state."