Former city manager returns to Birmingham

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 7, 2020

 Tom Markus, who served as the city manager for 20 years before leaving in 2010, will return to Birmingham in the new year.

Tom Markus, who served as the city manager for 20 years before leaving in 2010, will return to Birmingham in the new year.

Photo provided by Marianne Gamboa, communications director for the city of Birmingham


BIRMINGHAM — The City Commission announced that it has found a suitable replacement for outgoing City Manager Joe Valentine’s position, and a new face will join the team at City Hall Jan. 1.

Well, not such a new face.

Former Birmingham City Manager Thomas Markus will return to his former post beginning at the start of the new year through June 20, 2023. He’ll take over for Valentine, who submitted his resignation in October to pursue other career opportunities.

Markus previously served Birmingham as city manager from the spring of 1989 through fall of November 2010. Most recently, he’s worked as a city clerk in Lawrence, Kansas, but has returned to Michigan to be closer to family.

“Tom brings a strong skill set, and he will excel at carrying initiatives forward that are already underway,” said Birmingham Mayor Pierre Boutros in a prepared statement. “We look forward to a seamless transition as we welcome him back to Birmingham.”

Markus is a graduate of the Harvard University JFK School of Government and has more than four decades of city manager experience spanning seven cities in five states. He highlights his experience and education in planning disciplines, budgeting and finance, and management among his strong suits.

But not all of the commissioners were comfortable with the three-year contract Markus proposed with an option to renew, explaining that they saw the former manager as a temporary solution to Valentine’s resignation.

Commissioners Brad Host and Clinton Baller expressed interest in a shorter contract to possibly seek new leadership going into the future.

“Two and a half years is too long, I believe. I was all the way on one year, then (the commission) coerced me up to a year and a half, and then all the way up to two years,” Host said during the meeting. “This is not pinch hitting. This is making you the designated hitter.”

Ultimately, the commission voted to approve a contract with Markus for 30 months of employment with the city, a compromise Markus suggested and agreed to. He’ll earn an annual salary of $160,000 — less than he earned when he left the post in 2010 — and benefits, including life insurance.

The contract also includes a severance package of 12 months for termination without cause. That’s half of the infamous 24-month deal Valentine struck with the commission just last year that drew criticism from residents for being too pricey.

Since Valentine resigned and was not terminated without cause, he will not walk away with the 24 months of pay.

As for Markus’s contract, when it came time to vote, Host was the only dissenter.

“We welcome you, we look forward to working with you,” Boutros said after the resolution to approve Markus’s contract was passed. “We couldn’t ask for better experience, a person that had led the city for 20 years. Welcome back, and I fully believe … that you’re a great fit and you’ll do what’s right.”

Markus said among his first priorities in office will be to help fill and train people in other roles recently vacated, including assistant city manager. He’ll also make sure the parks and recreation infrastructure improvement projects get off the ground after voters passed more than $11 million in bond funding on Election Day.

All of this, of course, comes amid the city’s day-to-day operations, now being performed during a global pandemic. For that reason, Markus agreed to relocate to Michigan early, before Valentine’s departure, to get up to speed.

“I look forward to being back. My intentions are to be back in the last couple weeks of December,” he said. “I’ll be spending some time with Mr. Valentine, and I’ll touch base with each of you in those weeks.”