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City manager finalists meet with public next week

Birmingham City Commissioners this week conducted public interviews with three candidates seeking to be the city manager when current city manager Tom Markus leaves his position this June, and agreed to have all three hopefuls back for a public meet and greet event in the coming week.


Originally six candidates for the city manager spot were scheduled to be interviewed this past Wednesday and Thursday but then only five were finally set for the public interviews.


On the first night of the public interviews it was announced that two candidates had withdrawn from consideration. Candidate George Lahanas, the city manager until recently for East Lansing, was hired Monday evening to be the city manager in Northville, so he withdrew his application. Oak Park City Manager Eric Tungate withdrew from consideration before the Tuesday session, expressing that he no longer had an interest in the position.


The remaining three candidates were Jana Ecker, currently an assistant city manager in Birmingham; Troy Bell, who most recently was the city manager in Muskegon Heights; and Blaine Wing, who most recently was the city manager in Rochester.


When the final interviews concluded on Thursday evening, commissioners raised questions on the best way to proceed with the process of reviewing candidates. Markus informed commissioners that the city police department would conduct criminal background checks on the remaining candidates and the human resources department would run further reference checks on the three contenders.


City commissioner Clinton Baller suggested to other commissioners that he felt Jana Ecker would be the likely best choice for the position due to her years of service with Birmingham, citing the city's history of promoting from within for the city manager spot. But after discussion, it was decided that commissioners would fill out a paper ballot indicating which candidates they favored and those polling at least four votes would be invited to the public meet and greet session.


Results of the balloting showed Ecker with seven supporters, Wing with five supporters and Bell with four supporters. All three contenders will appear at a public meet and greet event on the evening of February 15, from 7-8 p.m. in the lower level of Baldwin Public Library.


Before commissioners adjourned the session mayor Therese Longe took time to comment that the city had “run our search appropriately” using city manager Markus as head of the search rather than employing a search firm. Longe noted that the city had received 46 applications, similar to what other municipalities in Michigan and other states had received, and in most cases had received the same finalist candidates as other municipalities that have been running recent searches for city managers through national search firms.

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