Grosse Pointe Park City Council discusses qualities wanted in next city manager

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 9, 2019

GROSSE POINTE PARK — The search for a successor to Grosse Pointe Park City Manager Dale Krajniak — who retired June 30 after more than 30 years in the post — has officially begun.

During a special meeting June 26, the Park City Council sat down with Jeff Mueller, an executive recruiter with the Michigan Municipal League, to talk about the city and the qualities that council members are looking for in a city manager.

One of those qualities, while seemingly both obvious yet intangible, is that the next city manager be someone “nice,” said City Councilman Daniel Clark. It’s something Krajniak had, and it’s a quality that made for everything from smoother labor negotiations to better prices from contractors.

“There’s a collegial approach to getting things done,” Mayor Robert Denner said.

Clark agreed.

“I think the most critical element in selecting a person is to select a nice person,” Clark said. “That covers a lot. You can get someone who’s perfect in every other respect, but they’re just not nice.”

A good communicator and someone who is open and transparent are other qualities they said they’d like to see, as well as someone who understands the importance of constituent services.

Denner quoted late, longtime Mayor Palmer Heenan, who used to say, “‘What we’re working toward is to provide all of the amenities of a private club to our residents.’”

Denner said the Park — and its administrators and elected officials — had the vision and the will to transform the city, and benefited from having generous residents who provided funding to make dream projects a reality. The city’s parks include amenities such as private, first-run movie theaters, a fitness center and more.

“I’d say the (Park’s) quality of life’s very good. … If you came from elsewhere in the state, you’d have a stereotype of what Grosse Pointe (is) — and you’d be wrong,” said Denner, pointing to the city’s diversity in professions, housing and other areas.

Clark said the Park has the greatest racial diversity and diversity in housing stock of any of the Pointes, from older rental homes to waterfront mansions.

“I think the community actually prides itself on the diversity,” City Councilwoman Barb Detwiler said.

Councilwoman Lauri Read said the Park is a tight-knit community where people get to know their neighbors.

Officials said residents like their Public Safety Department and schools, although the recently announced closure of Trombly Elementary School will present challenges to the city.

Having an eye toward economic development and strategic planning is also important, Read said.

The city manager needs to be able to work with the other Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods, as well as Detroit.

“We need to collaborate a lot more with our neighbors,” City Councilman Daniel Grano said.

Officials say they need someone who’ll engage with the community and be part of organizations and activities.

“It’s not just a job,” Denner said. “To do it right, you have to be part of the fabric of the community.”

The next city manager needs to be someone who’s always looking ahead.

“The personality of this city and city government is to continue to evolve and change,” Denner said. “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. We don’t want a city manager who’s going to (settle for the) status quo. … I think we have to be dynamic in order to be successful.”

Mueller said that once the ad for city manager starts running — likely this month — candidates would have 30 days to apply. He’ll present the city with a list of the best candidates — albeit without their names — and from there, the City Council members will discuss which candidates they like the best in a closed-door session.

Once they decide which candidates they’d like to interview — identifying them by number — Mueller said he’ll invite those candidates for an interview. Only when candidates have agreed to be interviewed will their names be made public, he said. Interviews will likely take about an hour per candidate, and Mueller said those interviews would be open to the public, although only council members will be able to ask questions.

At the end of interviews — which would likely be conducted during a single day — the council would be able to discuss the candidates and likely vote to select one, Mueller said. Ideally, he said, the council would unanimously agree on the same person. Mueller said most city councils end up with three to five candidates for interviews, out of a pool of roughly 10 finalists.

Candidates for the position can send resumes and letters of interest to the Michigan Municipal League, 1675 Green Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105.