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  • By Lisa Brody

Commission to pursue negotiations with Markus

With a supermajority of 6-1, Birmingham City Commissioners voted to have their labor attorneys begin discussions with former city manager Tom Markus regarding terms of possible employment, as well as acting as a go between with the commission on their terms, at their meeting on Monday, October 26, following the recent resignation of current city manger Joe Valentine, effective at the end of December.

Markus proposed returning to the city for a five-year stint in light of current city manager's Joe Valentine's resignation. Mayor Pierre Boutros received an email from Markus on Thursday, October 8. The city commission held a lengthy discussion with Markus on Friday, October 23, during which Markus indicated his interest and allayed concerns about his age, length of service, and how he would approach the job if he were offered the position. Markus was city manager from May 1989 until November 2010, when he left to take the city manager position in Iowa City, Iowa. According to his resume, he left Iowa City in May 2016 to become city manager of Lawrence, Kansas. He was in that position until June 2019. “I merely resigned to be closer to our grandchildren,” Markus explained. During the Friday, October 23, interview, Markus said he was not afraid of being part of an executive search, but doubted he would be around for it, as he is currently a candidate for another position. Markus, who is 69, said, “I'm a healthy adult.” He said he had offered to work for Birmingham for five years as a sign of stability, but he was not requiring a five-year contract. He would be flexible about whatever the commission deemed appropriate, although he indicated he would like to be there for two to three years. “There is an expense and a disruption to life” in a move, he said. Markus has a son and grandchildren in Birmingham, and he has come back to the city frequently. He said he has walked every street of the city in the last year, talked to staff, knows the issues, and reads the newspapers. “You're every bit the premier community in Michigan and country.” To questions from commissioners as to what he learned in his positions since he left Birmingham, he noted both communities were university cities. “Social justice plays more of a role. They instituted social justice reforms, community police review boards, and had interactions with neighborhood associations,” he said. He emphasized he would not feel constrained by prior policies. “My mantra is, attack the issue, not the person,” Markus said. “That book of ordinances – it's constantly changing. You have to adapt. Society is constantly changing. I don't covet authorship or feel I have to defend the status quo.” To questions regarding the 2016 Plan and what some see as the overabundance of office space and strain on the city's parking system, Markus responded, “It's an indication of trouble and success. Economies of any given time change how any office or retail space is used. As for office space, there's always opportunities to shuttle people into town. It's used across the country. We're also going away from single occupancy vehicles. I'm not necessarily in support of building more parking decks.” Markus said he would be willing, and eager, to assist in finding an assistant city manager and mentor that individual. “I'm a big succession planner. There are some other vacancies in the city, so it may be a good idea to go with someone who knows the city,” he said. “Your experience speaks volumes,” Boutros said. On Monday, October 26, only commissioner Brad Host voted against beginning negotiations with Markus. Boutros said the city's labor attorneys would begin discussions immediately with both Markus and the commission.

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