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St. Clair Shores

July 30, 2013

Shores city manager job offered to Saginaw assistant manager

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

The city of Saginaw’s assistant city manager for public safety is being offered the job of city manager for the city of St. Clair Shores, following months of search, hours of interviews and a 6-1 vote to extend Phillip Ludos a conditional offer of employment.

Mayor Kip Walby said at a special meeting July 29 that a number of City Council members contacted the four finalists for the job again after the July 25 and 26 interviews to get more information and “put an effort in analyzing them.”

The motion to extend a conditional offer to Ludos was made by Councilman Peter Rubino and supported by Councilman Chris Vitale.          

Ludos is currently assistant city manager-public safety in the city of Saginaw and was previously the director of public safety in Greenacres, Fla.; chief of police in Cocoa, Fla.; deputy chief and chief of police in Inkster; and chief of police in Memphis, Mich., and the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians in Petoskey.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie was the lone vote against Ludos’ hiring.

“I just don’t feel he’s the right fit for the city,” she said, explaining that decision partly stemmed from his answer that he may only stay in the community for two to three years.

Rusie was also concerned with Ludos’ lack of background with some city departments, like the department of public works and senior center, although “he’s very big in public safety.”

Vitale said he appreciated Rusie’s concerns, but thought a shorter amount of time on the job would mean a leader who stayed fresh. He also said he thought Ludos showed a background of reform in his previous jobs.

“He emphasized the need for quality neighborhoods and schools,” Vitale said. “He shows a willingness to embrace technology.”

And according to Rubino, when talking to Ludos after the interview, Ludos said that he perhaps could stay longer than three years on the job.

“He’s managed larger budgets and more personnel than anyone else we interviewed,” Rubino said. “I feel he is the perfect person for our city at this time.”

In his July 25 interview with City Council, Ludos said he had experience on both sides of the bargaining table in contract negotiations, having served as grievance chairman for a union early on in his career.

“I understand where they come from, but it’s more important that I sell where I’m coming from,” he said.

He said he also increased the use of technology in Saginaw, where they created an app for iPhones that allows users to get updates on crimes in the city and give tips on serious crimes; in the future, he said they planned to allow users to file police reports online.

Ludos said he sees opportunities for development along Harper Avenue, as well as the Nautical Mile and that St. Clair Shores has a lot to offer.

“You have to first market all of the assets that St. Clair Shores has,” he said, including parks and good schools. He explained that when he was serving in Florida, there was often a rehabilitation of the housing stock from people tearing down homes built in the 1940s or 1950s and rebuilding brand new homes.

“What are we going to do with this older housing stock? How are we going to change the face of the Shores if we leave it like it is?” he said are issues to consider.

“Let people see what’s attractive about St. Clair Shores.”

Councilman John Caron said 35 people submitted applications to the Mercer Group, which was hired to run the city manager search. The company followed guidelines submitted by council, which included candidates having management experience, and submitted 10 semi-finalists for City Council’s consideration.

Seven of those were city or township managers already, he said, and three were major department heads, and those candidates were whittled down to the four interviewed by council: Oakland Township Manager James Creech, Ludos, Marine City Manager John Gabor and James Palenick, the interim Town Manager for Dallas, N.C.

Rusie said she wanted to do a second round of interviews with the top two candidates, which she thought were Ludos and Gabor, to “get some of our concerns answered publically.

“I wish we would have had a little more public back and forth with the candidates,” she said.

Nevertheless, she said, “I hope he (Ludos) does a good job. I hope he proves me wrong on some of these things.”

Walby said acting City Manager Mike Smith would be letting Ludos know of council’s decision. Contract negotiations were expected to begin Aug. 2 and any contract will have to come before council for approval.

Former City Manager Ben Hughes, who resigned in November, earned an annual salary of $115,000, along with benefits including insurance, a retirement plan and a car allowance. A total compensation package of about $165,000 is budgeted for the position of city manager in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.