Birmingham city manager, assistant manager depart

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 20, 2020

 Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine, who began his career with the city as an intern 24 years ago, will resign at the end of the year.

Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine, who began his career with the city as an intern 24 years ago, will resign at the end of the year.

File photo provided by the city of Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM — As the Birmingham City Commission gears up to start hosting meetings in person again in City Hall chambers, they’ll start with a particularly important task: finding replacements for two roles in the city manager’s office.

At the beginning of the month, Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine announced his intentions to resign at the end of the year. After a career of 24 years with the city, he explained, he’d like to explore new opportunities.

Valentine started his career in Birmingham as an intern in 1997 and has served as a management specialist, the acting director of the Birmingham Shopping District, human resources director, assistant city manager, and two stints as interim city manager, accepting the position officially in July 2014.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this community for more than two decades in multiple capacities,” Valentine said in a prepared statement. “Over the span of my career, I have had the pleasure of engaging with thousands of residents, businesses and community stakeholders who all share a special passion for this community. I also have to thank and acknowledge the dedicated and hard-working employees for their individual contributions in making Birmingham a premier community.”

During his tenure as manager, Valentine counts among his accomplishments six years of decreasing Birmingham’s millage levy, strengthening the city’s AAA bond rating and overseeing the completion of the first two phases of downtown infrastructure replacements and the reconstruction of a fire station, among other things.

“Joe is a dedicated public servant who has spent his career ensuring Birmingham remains vibrant, prosperous, and on a path toward continued success,” Birmingham Mayor Pierre Boutros said in a press release. “I’m proud to have worked with him, and he is leaving us with a solid platform as we begin to look for a replacement.”

It was just over a year ago that the City Commission approved a new contract for Valentine that included a 3% raise and a controversial severance clause, dictating that he would receive 24 months of pay in the event the city terminated his employment without cause. Some protested the length of the severance package and called it a “golden parachute,” because Valentine resigned and was not terminated, he will not receive that package.

In late September, just before Valentine announced his resignation, Assistant City Manager Tiffany Gunter said she would be departing. Gunter could not be reached for comment before press time, and Marianne Gamboa, the communications director for the city of Birmingham, declined to comment on Gunter’s resignation.

While the City Commission sets out on the search for Birmingham’s next city manager, there’s a chance that a familiar face could be among the contenders. According to documents included in a City Commission meeting agenda packet, former City Manager Tom Markus emailed Boutros to express interest in the position.

Markus left the city in 2010, and most recently served as the city manager of Lawrence, Kansas. He explained in his email that he didn’t retire, but rather resigned so he could move back to Michigan to be closer to his grandchildren.

“I recognize that Birmingham is struggling through a stressful period, but like most communities, Birmingham will find the correct compass heading and return to a unified path forward,” wrote Markus, adding that he would commit to at least a five-year length of service.

That offer, however, comes with stipulations.

“I will only accept this position based on a super majority vote of the commission. While I would hope for unanimous approval, I would accept a super majority vote and would work tirelessly to gain the support of the entire commission,” he wrote to Boutros. “I have no desire to serve as an interim manager or participate in an executive search process. Your six commission colleagues know of my 21-plus years of service and my reputation. If you decide to pursue another course of action to fill the position I would understand and would wish you the best. I believe you can reduce the stress on your organization, save public funds and time by considering my candidacy at this time.”

Boutros said in an email to the Eagle that he looks forward to having a discussion with the rest of the City Commission about Markus’s proposal at the earliest opportunity.

The City Manager recruitment process was listed on the agenda under new business for the City Commission’s Oct. 19 meeting, after the Eagle’s press time.

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