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Berkley city manager named Pontiac deputy mayor

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published September 23, 2015


BERKLEY — Jane Bais-DiSessa, who has served as city manager of the city of Berkley since August 2001, has been appointed the new deputy mayor of Pontiac.

Bais-DiSessa said the Berkley City Council agreed to allow her to shorten her mandated 45-day notice to 30 days, although a final date has not been set for when Bais-DiSessa will cease her Berkley city manager duties and start as the deputy mayor.

“For me, something I have always strived to do is work with communities and whatever challenges lie ahead, and the city of Pontiac is going through some major changes right now,” Bais-DiSessa said. “This is the first time I will have ‘mayor’ next to my title, so that will take me a while to get used to, but I have the opportunity to be able to utilize my education and work experience and help a great city continue to be greater.”

Before her 14 years as city manager in Berkley, Bais-DiSessa worked as a public administrator in five other cities in both Michigan and Texas, including serving as city manager in two other cities.

Bais-DiSessa said some of the projects she will walk away feeling most proud of include helping Berkley continue to put forth a balanced budget and helping pass several road bonds and millages that the city needed to complete that task.

She said she had the opportunity to help the Downtown Development Authority develop and construct two downtown parking lots in her time as city manager.

Her financial background, as well as her long history of working in Oakland County, is what Bais-DiSessa said she she can bring to Pontiac.

“I think my work experience in the budgeting field will definitely be important, and knowing how to collaborate and knowing the key people will be a tremendous asset for them,” she said. “I have also worked with construction and capital improvements throughout southeast Oakland County and have worked in Wayne County as well.”

Berkley Mayor Phil O’Dwyer agreed with Bais-DiSessa that her handling of the city’s finances has it in a good position as the city transitions between city managers in the coming weeks. O’Dwyer has worked with Bais-DiSessa for 10 years in the city of Berkley, the first six as a City Council member and the past four as mayor.

“Jane has been an exceptional financial manager, and she certainly leaves the city of Berkley in a secure financial state,” he said. “I think she can really help Pontiac a great deal with exactly those same skill sets. She made a terrific contribution to our city and stabilized our finances, and put us on a footing that leads us into being one of the best places to live in Michigan.”

Bais-DiSessa’s appointment as deputy mayor was confirmed by the Pontiac City Council and the Pontiac Receivership Transition Advisory Board on Sept. 17. According to a release from Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, the city of Pontiac once had 800 employees but now employs a staff of just 28.

Moving forward, O’Dwyer said, the Berkley City Council will appoint a subcommittee to work in conjunction with the Michigan Municipal League to identify qualified candidates and fill the position. Once the group narrows down the candidates to two or three, O’Dwyer said the city’s department directors and selected residents will have the opportunity to meet the candidates before City Council makes the final decision.

In looking for someone with sound financial management, interpersonal skills and a progressive vision, O’Dwyer said the city won’t miss a beat.

“As projects unfold, we will appoint an interim city manager when Jane leaves to carry on business as usual, so there will be no decline in movement going forward,” he said. “I think when somebody does come, their first task will be to understand the players and the City Council and the direction the City Council is moving the city in. And then they will grow in the position.”

Before moving on, Bais-DiSessa said she wants to take the time to thank everyone who helped get Berkley to where it is today.

“I think it is really important to simply thank the city, the citizens of Berkley, the mayor and City Council, and the city staff for allowing me to be part of their community,” she said. “I think Berkley has come a long way, and I am so proud and honored to be part of that.”