City manager candidate Matthew Coppler, center left, talks with residents, as well as City Councilman John Caron, center right, and St. Clair Shores Fire Chief James Piper.

City manager candidate Matthew Coppler, center left, talks with residents, as well as City Councilman John Caron, center right, and St. Clair Shores Fire Chief James Piper.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

Coppler to be offered city manager job in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 12, 2019


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The current city manager of the city of Lincoln Park is being offered the job in St. Clair Shores.

The St. Clair Shores City Council voted unanimously July 9 to extend an offer of employment to Matt Coppler, of Lincoln Park, for the position of city manager. St. Clair Shores’ current city manager, Mike Smith, previously announced that he will retire in August.

Coppler has been the city manager in Lincoln Park since September 2015. Before that, he spent nine years as the manager in Enfield, Connecticut. He said that he is into his 27th year as a town or city manager, having served in three communities in Ohio, one in New York, one in Connecticut and one in Michigan.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” he said in an interview July 10. “I think St. Clair Shores is a really nice community. The organization is a top-notch organization. Current manager Smith, he’s done a phenomenal job there.”

Coppler was chosen over three other finalists who were interviewed by the City Council and city staff June 15: Tracey Cordes, county administrator for Gratiot County; John Light, who works for Des Plaines, Illinois; and Dennis Champine, the city manager of Center Line.

Smith told the City Council July 9 that he feels confident leaving the city in Coppler’s hands after working for St. Clair Shores for 14 years.

“For council, this is probably the biggest decision you’ve got to make, and it’s not always gone as well as we’d like it to go,” he said, going on to praise Coppler for always making his own career moves in a job where the person in the position doesn’t always last long.

“He’s gone from one community to another, but always on his own terms, and that’s saying something,” Smith said.

Although the City Council was scheduled to choose a candidate June 19, just four days after the interviews, that meeting was delayed for several weeks while an investigative background check was conducted on Coppler. Smith said it was important to him that the next city manager go through the same process the city uses to look into the backgrounds of other potential employees “to make sure we get a complete vet ... make sure that everything we needed to know, we knew.”

“I think, after hearing that information, they feel more comfortable in moving forward.”

Mayor Kip Walby said that taking the time to review all of the interviews, and also having the opportunity for residents and staff to meet with the candidates after the interviews June 15, was a very good process for choosing a new city manager.

Now, he said, the council will ask City Attorney Robert Ihrie to put together an employment contract with Coppler.

City Councilman Chris Vitale said that in developing a contract, he would like raises for the new city manager to be based on annual performance reviews.

“That would have to be something that showed above-average performance by agreement of a majority of council,” he suggested.

Coppler said he is very excited to be the next city manager of St. Clair Shores. While the details of his contract still need to be worked out, he said that, “I think we’ll be able to come to an agreement.”

He said he will be coming to St. Clair Shores on his own. His three children are grown. He said that his oldest lives in New Jersey and works in New York City; his middle child is an attorney for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.; and his youngest lives in San Mateo, California, and works in Silicon Valley.