Grosse Pointe City is courting a Valentine for its next city manager

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 25, 2023

 Joseph A. Valentine

Joseph A. Valentine

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Grosse Pointe City’s anticipated next city manager is someone who’s been working and living in Oakland County for years, but he’s no stranger to the east side.

Joseph A. Valentine is the assistant city manager in Farmington Hills, but Grosse Pointe City Councilman Chris Walsh said Valentine grew up in St. Clair Shores and worked for the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club when he was younger.

“So, obviously, he has a good familiarity with the area,” Walsh said during a special City Council meeting at 7 a.m. July 13.

The City’s city manager search committee — Walsh, Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak and City Councilman Terence Thomas — recommended Valentine to the council during the July 13 meeting, with the council concurring by voting unanimously in favor of naming him to the city manager position. Although Valentine and the City still need to hammer out a contract, he’s expected to become the community’s next city manager, succeeding Pete Dame, who left in April to take a position as chief development officer of Portage, Michigan — his hometown.

In April, City officials selected the Michigan Municipal League to lead an executive search to fill the vacancy. They worked with MML consultant Jeff Mueller, a Grosse Pointe Woods resident and former city manager for Lathrup Village who served as assistant city manager of Grosse Pointe Park early in his career.

Mueller said 25 candidates applied for the City’s top administrative position. Based on feedback from officials about what they were looking for, he narrowed that pool down to 10 candidates, who were presented to the search committee using a blind matrix. This means that the committee could see their qualifications, experience and skill sets, but not their names or genders. Tomkowiak said from that process, the committee narrowed the candidates down to four finalists, a pool that included two white men, a woman and a Black man. The committee interviewed the finalists July 11 and 12 and came up with its recommendation of Valentine from those interviews.

Before going to Farmington Hills in May 2021, Valentine worked for the city of Birmingham for about 24 years, serving as that city’s human resources director, assistant city manager and, for his last six years, city manager.

“He’s done everything we need done,” Tomkowiak said after the meeting of Valentine, who she said oversaw a series of upgrades to Birmingham’s downtown.

In addition, she said Valentine has been involved in legislative committees for the MML.

“The wealth of experience is enormous,” Tomkowiak said. “He’s got some pretty big shoes to fill.”

The City is in the midst of replacing its lead water service lines as mandated by the state, one of the many infrastructure issues older municipalities face. Tomkowiak said Valentine “also understands our infrastructure challenges,” one of the other qualities that stood out about him to City leaders.

“Universally, we were all impressed with his background” and qualifications, Walsh said.

“I also thought he brought a great deal of preparation and energy” to the interview, Thomas said.

Tomkowiak agreed with Thomas.

“We are facing some significant budget (difficulties) down the road,” said Tomkowiak, adding that Valentine was aware of those issues.

She said Valentine also served as Birmingham’s downtown development authority director for quite some time, another plus.

“Considering we’re a small community where a number of hats need to be worn (by the city manager) … he’s worn all of those hats,” Tomkowiak said.

Like the search committee members, City Councilman Dave Fries said he was “impressed with (Valentine’s) profile and core qualifications.”

While Birmingham is larger, Grosse Pointe City and Birmingham are both upscale older communities with vibrant, established downtown shopping districts. Tomkowiak said Birmingham and Grosse Pointe City are about the same age.

“There’s a lot of similarities with Birmingham,” Mueller said. “It’s very exciting. (Valentine) checks all of the boxes.”

City leaders said Mueller made the search go smoothly. Mueller and the MML were hired when Grosse Pointe Park conducted its own search for a new city manager in 2016.

Tomkowiak said the City would be working on a contract with Valentine over the next couple of weeks. If they can reach an agreement, she said the City Council would vote on the contract at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 21.

Until a contract can be inked with Valentine, Stephen Poloni will continue to serve as the interim city manager. Poloni, currently the city manager of Grosse Pointe Shores, formerly worked for the City as public safety director, after he retired as the public safety director of Grosse Pointe Shores.

Valentine has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from Wayne State University. He also holds a certification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was a reserve police officer in Birmingham, where he also lives.

Valentine could not be reached for comment before press time.