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Four candidates to be interviewed for St. Clair Shores city manager

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 10, 2019

 Dennis Champine

Dennis Champine

 Matthew Coppler

Matthew Coppler

 Tracey Cordes

Tracey Cordes

 John Light

John Light

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Candidates from as near as Center Line and as far as Illinois will be considered for the position of city manager of St. Clair Shores during public interviews June 15.

A pool of 104 applicants has been whittled down to four finalists for the job that will be vacated by City Manager Mike Smith upon his retirement in August.

“I think we’re looking for an individual that’s got a significant balance of public entity experience,” Mayor Kip Walby said. “I think we’re a top 20 city in the state of Michigan, (and) we need someone who has experience in municipal work.”

He said that he also is looking for a candidate that has experience in economic development, is fiscally responsible, and is “someone who’s got a welcoming, open-door-policy personality to talk to residents and even get out to the community and get in front of some of the businesses, and be part of the community here in St. Clair Shores.”

The four candidates being considered are Dennis Champine, who has been the city manager, city clerk, downtown development authority director and human resources director for the city of Center Line since 2015; Matthew Coppler, who has worked for the city of Lincoln Park as city manager since 2015; Tracey Cordes, who is the county administrator for Gratiot County; and John Light, who is the human resources director for the city of Des Plaines, Illinois, where he has worked since 2016.

“I’m looking for that overall well-rounded manager that can jump into any particular issue that is going on any particular day and resolve it,” City Councilman John Caron said.

Prior to working in Des Plaines, Light was the chief administrative officer and department head for various cities and counties in Colorado and Illinois, including as the county administrator of Stephenson County, where he managed a budget of more than $40 million.

Cordes has worked in public service in Oregon and Michigan at the state, local and federal levels, and spent 12 years practicing law prior to that.

Before coming to Lincoln Park, Coppler was the town manager for Enfield, Connecticut, for nine years and has worked as a city or town manager for various communities in Ohio, New York, Connecticut and Michigan for 27 years.

Champine has experience as a property and facilities manager, and as the community relations director for the city of Warren, as well as serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a bookkeeper for Van Dyke Public Schools for 10 years.

Caron and Walby both praised the efforts of Amy Cell Talent, the agency that conducted the city manager search for St. Clair Shores.

“In terms of the recruitment process that we had, I thought it was very thorough. The talent agency gave us more information than we’d ever seen in the past,” Caron said.

In addition to background check information, the agency has already pre-interviewed the candidates and shared the results of those interviews, along with a video interview of the candidates, with the mayor and City Council.

Public interviews of the candidates by the City Council and city staff will be held from 1:30 to 5:20 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at St. Clair Shores City Hall, 27600 Jefferson Ave., with a community reception to follow from 6 to 8 p.m. at St. Clair Shores Golf Club, 22185 Masonic Blvd.

City staff will interview Light at 1:30 p.m., Cordes at 2:30 p.m., Coppler at 3:30 p.m. and Champine at 4:30 p.m. The City Council will interview Cordes at 1:30 p.m., Light at 2:30 p.m., Champine at 3:30 p.m. and Coppler at 4:30 p.m.

The council interviews will be broadcast on SCS-TV at a later date, and the staff interviews will be shared on SCS-TV’s Vimeo page,