Berkley begins city manager search following Bais-DiSessa’s departure

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published October 28, 2015


BERKLEY — The city of Berkley has entered into an agreement with the Michigan Municipal League to help with the search for a new city manager after former City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa stepped down from the position Oct. 16.

The Berkley City Council appointed a subcommittee comprised of council members Dan Terbrack, Steve Baker and Jack Blanchard to work with the MML during the process, which the city expects to span a few months to find the right fit.

“The Michigan Municipal League provides this service to many cities across the state, and so the subcommittee will work in collaboration with their staff to find us a new city manager,” Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said. “The Michigan Municipal League will hold focus meetings with key stakeholders, city staff and City Council to see what they would like in terms of a skill set and personality characteristic so (that) before they start looking for somebody, they know what they are looking for.”

The group of stakeholders consists of residents, business owners and city volunteers, O’Dwyer said, and the MML also will meet with the directors of each department in the city to get input.

Bais-DiSessa announced her resignation in September after being named the new deputy mayor in Pontiac. Bais-DiSessa had been city manager in Berkley since 2001.

In the interim, the City Council announced that Berkley Public Safety Director Richard Eshman will serve as city manager until the city hires a permanent city manager. O’Dwyer said Eshman had served as interim city manager from time to time during Bais-DiSessa’s tenure when she was on vacation or out of town on business.

“Chief Eshman will serve as interim city manager, so city affairs will run as smoothly as they have always run while we complete this search,” O’Dwyer said. “Chief Eshman is the person who handled Jane’s role whenever she was gone, so it was natural that we would turn to him. He has great business sense, great leadership and is a very bright man.”

While Eshman helps fill the city manager duties, O’Dwyer said the recently appointed deputy chief, Lt. Mike Crum, will help complete Eshman’s Public Safety Department functions when needed.

In looking for a new city manager, O’Dwyer said he feels there will be a consensus among the various stakeholders and officials that the new leader will need to be financially savvy, a progressive leader and have strong interpersonal skills.

As the process unfolds, the MML and the subcommittee will conduct a national search and weed through applicants to eventually reduce the field to three or four, who will then meet with directors, stakeholders and the council.

In being part of the subcommittee, Terbrack said the group, along with the MML, will be sure to include as many opinions as possible to make sure they select the right candidate to represent the city.

“This is a critical decision for the city in hiring a new city manager, so it is certainly something we are investing in to make sure we make the right choice,” he said. “It is not just the council that will be doing this, but we want community input on such an important decision. Berkley is a great place with a great school district and a number of great things, and we are looking to hire somebody to continue the great work Jane has laid out here and continue into the future.”

While having a city manager is important, O’Dwyer said the search will not be rushed, as city officials feel they can continue to offer the same service while the search is conducted.

“I think the approach we are taking will involve a lot of input from a lot of people,” O’Dwyer said. “Ideally, when making a search like this, we want the most perfect person in the world, but we have to be realistic and practical here and find somebody that fits Berkley and fits our vision for a bright future while respecting the past.

“This process has to be thoughtful and deliberate, and therefore, it is not a process we need to rush.”