Bringing Markus back good move for city
The city of Birmingham is undergoing a period of stress and uncertainty, as city manager Joe Valentine has tendered his resignation after admirably serving the city for 24 years – his entire professional career. Just previously, the assistant city manager left due to personal considerations, leaving a hole in succession planning. Whether greater pressure, perceived or real, from a changing city commission in addition to the COVID pandemic played into Valentine's decisions, the reality is city government is at a crossroads, and the city commission made a wise decision to interview and enter into contract negotiations with former city manager Tom Markus, who capably served Birmingham for almost 22 years before moving on. Upon hearing of Valentine's resignation, Markus, who mentored Valentine as his assistant city manager, reached out to mayor Pierre Boutros and expressed his interest in returning to the position of Birmingham City Manager for a period of five years. In an interview with the full commission, he clarified he would be willing to come for three to five years, has a son and grandchildren in the area and returns frequently, and has followed the city since he left to be a city manager in Iowa City, Iowa and Lawrence, Kansas. Markus assuaged concerns that he would move the city backwards – if anything, he illustrated his expanded knowledge in areas such as social justice and police reforms, issues confronting communities like Birmingham – and acknowledged that the past was just that, and zoning ordinances need to constantly adapt and change. He also was not only open, but enthusiastic, to participating in a search for a younger assistant city manager who he could train and mentor – who would then take over as city manager from him one day. A small but extremely vocal group of residents has consistently articulated their opposition to Markus, stating it would be a step back for the city. We disagree. Markus has always been a strong manager, and definitely no pushover who can be manipulated by those with special interests – in or outside City Hall. It's one of the things most admired about him. He is a leader in the truest sense. Markus will put the priorities of the city first and foremost, provide a sense of stability to a rudderless staff, which has several key openings, and be open and transparent with all. We believe he can help the city, staff and commission come together to be the best Birmingham, for residents, businesses and visitors.