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Davis picked to be new city community relations head

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 19, 2019

 From left, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, former Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce leaders Melanie Davis and Wayne Oehmke, and the chamber’s Nate Tallman reveal a Lil Adams Award in 2017.

From left, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, former Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce leaders Melanie Davis and Wayne Oehmke, and the chamber’s Nate Tallman reveal a Lil Adams Award in 2017.

File photo by Donna Agusti

STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights’ messaging is getting a new manager, though it will be a familiar face to many in the community.

At a July 2 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, the council voted 6-0 to confirm Melanie Davis as the city’s new community relations director. Mayor Michael Taylor was absent for the vote.

During the meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool said city administrators underwent a “comprehensive selection process” to find a replacement.

He said Davis, a Sterling Heights resident, “comes from our very own backyard.” And he praised her “impressive combination of extensive work experience and superior academic credentials,” as well as her communication and networking skills.

“Ms. Davis’ impressive career track exemplifies her strong belief in continuous improvement, effective leadership and an ability to multitask with positive outcomes,” Vanderpool said.

Davis is set to replace the previous community relations director, Bridget Kozlowski. Kozlowski said her last day in that role was May 15. She started a new job May 20 as the manager of public affairs for the nonprofit health system Advocate Aurora Health.

“My husband got a great job offer back in Chicagoland, where we are both originally from. After much consideration, we felt it was the right decision to be back by family as we just had a baby,” Kozlowski said in a text. “I loved my job very much, it was a hard decision to leave!”

Among her listed credentials and accomplishments, Davis, 48, holds a master’s degree in public relations and organizational communication from Wayne State University. She has worked at the Detroit Regional Chamber, and she also previously was the Macomb County Chamber’s president. In addition, she worked as executive director for Adcraft Club of Detroit.

Davis became the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO in 2016. She also has been on the executive committee of the Innovate Mound road reconstruction project and is involved with the Sterling Heights Area Community Foundation.

Davis has been a supportive voice for the city’s Visioning 2030 strategic plan, which was finalized in 2014. According to the city, she also supported the 2016 Recreating Recreation millage, as well as the Safe Streets millage, which will be up for renewal this year. And she has been involved with events like the Sterling Edge Business Awards and the State of the City Address.

When the public had a chance to speak at the July 2 meeting, resident Jerry Sieja acknowledged the work that Davis has done for local businesses but wanted her to also consider the importance of working with residents.

“I just hope she can connect with the residents as well as she (can) connect with businesses and everything else with the chamber,” he said. “She has to remember, she has to connect with the residents first. We’re the ones that grow this city and stuff.”

After the residents spoke, Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko said the council members had a chance to meet with Davis to ask questions and discuss issues. Ziarko praised the idea of hiring someone who lives locally.

Councilman Michael Radtke said the city has been missing some of its outreach since Kozlowski left her position, and added that “Bridget is a hard act to follow in some areas.” But he believed that Davis will excel in her new role.

“On a personal note, I’ve always been impressed by (Davis’) willingness to go above and beyond,” Radtke said.

Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski said Davis has been “very engaged” with the community and believed that she could help form a team with the city and residents.

After the meeting’s confirmation vote, Davis said the legacy of past directors like Pat Lehman, Steve Guitar and Bridget Kozlowski means that “there are some big shoes to fill.” But she said the Sterling Heights chamber of commerce has had a history of community engagement through activities like the Sterlingfest Art and Music Fair, a food truck rally and more.

“One of the things that stands out about our chamber of commerce here is that we do so many events that are really for the residents,” Davis said. “And as a resident myself, I share a lot of your same concerns.”

Davis’ last day at the chamber was scheduled for July 12, and her first day at the city was scheduled for July 15. In an interview with the Sentry, she called her departure from the chamber “bittersweet.”

“I’m really sad to leave such an amazing organization, for sure,” she said. “But I’m really also looking forward to the fact that I could take what my predecessors at the city have built on, and move forward.”

Davis said her talks with council members revolved around the chance to closely monitor what type of content residents are consuming and where they are consuming it. Furthermore, she said she aspires to “target specific communications to different groups of residents in different ways.”

She added that she looks forward to promoting recreational activities and handling the public art program.

“Amenities like that are what make world-class cites,” she said. “It’s what makes Sterling Heights such a vibrant city in which to live, work or play.”

When asked about her views on public art, she said it is designed to start conversations, something that works like the M-59 golden ring sculpture — later dubbed The Halo — succeeded in doing.

“It gets people talking,” Davis said. “One of the things that the mayor had mentioned is that it really did do what it was intended to do: bring attention to the Golden Corridor.”

Chamber Chair Angie Lommen said she will remember Davis for her habit of proactively reviewing the organization’s services to make sure they were valuable to members.

“Fortunately, given our close relationship between the chamber and the city, we have the privilege of continuing to work with Melanie in her new role,” Lommen said in an email.  

Prior to Davis, Lil Adams and, later, Wayne Oehmke led the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce. This month, the chamber is looking for successor candidates who at least have a bachelor’s degree in business, public administration or something similar, as well as five years of relevant and progressing experience.

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489. Find out more about the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce by visiting or by calling (586) 731-5400.