Huntington Woods commission picks next city manager

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published January 20, 2014

 Amy Sullivan, who has served as the Franklin village administrator for more than three years, is slated to be the new Huntington Woods city manager after current City Manager Alex Allie retires next month. The hire was pending the City Commission’s final approval Jan. 21, after press time.

Amy Sullivan, who has served as the Franklin village administrator for more than three years, is slated to be the new Huntington Woods city manager after current City Manager Alex Allie retires next month. The hire was pending the City Commission’s final approval Jan. 21, after press time.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — Returning to Huntington Woods won’t be a completely new experience for Amy Sullivan. The current Franklin village administrator served as assistant city manager in Huntington Woods from 1985-1989.

This time around, Sullivan will be taking on full city-manager responsibilities as the City Commission selected Sullivan from among five candidates they interviewed to succeed current City Manager Alex Allie starting next month.

“It is a wonderful community, and I say that from experience from working there a long time ago,” Sullivan, 55, said. “The city has such a great reputation, and the jobs for these nice communities don’t come up very often, and the fact that Alex has been there for 24 years speaks to that fact. They are rare opportunities, and I wanted to work for a nice community like Huntington Woods.”

After more than two decades as city manger, Allie announced his forthcoming retirement last August, citing the long workweeks and a desire to work on other projects.

In looking for a new city manager, the commission wanted someone who could make a seamless transition from Allie and bring in some new ideas. Commissioner Bob Paul feels the city got just those things in Sullivan.

“We thought (Sullivan) was the best transition from the city-manager style we have now to the new city manager,” Paul said. “We are very happy with what Alex has done for the last 24 years, and we want to continue on in that same vein. I think the biggest thing is continuing on in the strategy we have in place now, and (Sullivan) has big shoes to fill with Alex leaving.

“She brings a lot of experience in city management and knows a lot of fellow city managers, and we are looking to do more work with neighboring communities. We think she can do very good at helping that.”

Sullivan started working in municipal government in 1980 in Madison Heights before making the move to Huntington Woods. From there, she became city manager in Sylvan Lake and spent some time in the West Bloomfield government.

Before taking the job as village administrator in Franklin more than three years ago, Sullivan spent 17 years as a contractual worker for cities and communities in arbitration with police and fire departments.

While making the leap to city manager is nothing new for Sullivan, having served in the position in Sylvan Lake previously and having her husband serve as the current city manager in Northville, she said the Huntington Woods job intrigued her because of what the city offers residents.

“Huntington Woods offers more services than Franklin, with the library and public safety department, and they have more staff and there are more things to oversee,” Sullivan said. “I think the biggest issue for Huntington Woods, and it is not uncommon to most communities, is there is a level of expectation of services. With the revenues the way they are, it is a constant challenge to provide services with the dollars that are available, and trying to be innovative and looking for new ways to do things that are efficient but don’t compromise services.

“Huntington Woods is about 97 percent residential, so the biggest burden of the tax base is on the residents, and we don’t have commercial or offices to help offset that cost, and that is challenging.”

Allie said he would spend about a month working with Sullivan after she takes over to help her adjust and bring her up to speed on current projects. But one of the things he will discuss with her is the same challenge she already expects.

“Even though the Michigan economy is coming back, there will be miniscule increases in revenue for Michigan cities, so I think we are in this era of cutback management, of providing the services we provide now with fewer resources,” he said. “Being a manager currently, (Sullivan) is aware of that, and I think she will do a fine job. She knows the community, and she knows the city-manager lifestyle.”

Being familiar with the community wasn’t a huge factor in the hiring process, Commissioner Jeff Jenks said, but it did hold some weight. Her familiarity, combined with what she can bring to the table, made her the right choice for Huntington Woods, he said.

“She was involved in our city years ago and people know her, and her style is that of team-building rather than the sergeant top-down style,” Jenks said. “She is a specialist in labor relations, and she has developed, where she is (in Franklin), a budget that looks backwards 10 years and looks forward five years, so she is very creative in pre-planning to deal with problems.

“She has been working specifically with local governments for 30 years and brought the most experience to us.”

Sullivan’s contract is for $92,000 annually and would run until it was terminated by one of the parties. If the city terminated the contract, it would owe Sullivan 90 days pay.

The hiring of Sullivan was pending a final vote by the City Commission during the Jan. 21 meeting.

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