Royal Oak hires new city attorney

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 29, 2021




ROYAL OAK — Following the departure of longtime Royal Oak City Attorney David Gillam to serve as the administrator for his hometown of Wolverine Lake in November, the Royal Oak City Commission embarked on a national executive search to hire a replacement.

On April 26, the commission unanimously approved an employment agreement with Aaron Leal to serve as city attorney for an annual salary of $150,000. Leal, who currently serves as city attorney for Denton, Texas, and has 16 years of experience in municipal law, will begin his job with Royal Oak June 14.

Leal has served the fast-growing city of Denton, which has a population of approximately 148,000, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area since 2011, and he has been in the role of city attorney for Denton since 2017.

“Their workforce is four times our size and their budget is six times our size, so we’re fortunate to have the breadth of experience and the complexity of issues Mr. Leal has handled in his current organization,” Royal Oak City Manager Paul Brake said.

The city attorney serves as the city’s legal adviser and is responsible for managing development agreements, contracts, insurance policies and all civil litigation.

Leal graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law, and began his law career in Holland, Michigan, before moving to a larger law firm in Grand Rapids. He said he and his wife are excited to settle down in Oakland County and be closer to immediate and extended family in the state.

Leal is also a U.S. Navy veteran who served as a hospital corpsman in the Gulf War prior to attending college.

“I’m ready for something different,” he said. “Royal Oak has a lot of very positive attributes that I really like. It’s a dynamic city with all the mandates one expects for a large city, but still has the comfort of a small town that really intrigued me.”

He said he and his wife were charmed by the pride Royal Oak residents take in their homes and trees, and that the residents and staff he met proved to be friendly and community-minded.

“I believe that Mr. Leal has a great wealth of experience,” Commissioner Monica Hunt said. “We’re very lucky to have him coming in.”

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said he felt the city conducted a “very thorough process.”

“We had a very competitive pool of candidates. We landed on Mr. Leal and knew he was the right fit and most qualified amidst a competitive pool,” DuBuc said.

Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch called Leal an “extraordinary candidate.”