Interim City Manager offered permanent job

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 19, 2014

Months after being named to the interim position, Mike Smith has been offered the position of city manager by the St. Clair Shores City Council.

“I think we can work well with Mike,” said Mayor Kip Walby Aug. 18. “It will be this body that will give direction. He doesn’t tell us, we tell him how we want things to go.

“Mike has developed the skills to, I think, keep the city moving forward and make the changes that we need.”

Phillip Ludos was hired as city manager in August 2013 after an extensive search, but resigned in May. Before that, the previous city manager, Ben Hughes, had resigned his position in November 2012 after serving since August 2010; he replaced Kenneth Podolski, who had served as city manager for five years. Smith served as interim city manager between Hughes’ and Ludos’ hiring and again since Ludos’ resignation.

Walby said that he had been, “holding up, taking a breath, seeing which way we wanted to go,” before jumping into a new search for city manager.

City Council was divided on whether to offer Smith the job, take a look at the candidates passed over during the prior search or start a new search.

“I would like to see us do some interviews. I would like to see what options are out there for us and what kind of candidates we have to choose from,” said Councilman Chris Vitale.

Councilman Anthony Tiseo agreed, saying that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before just handing Smith the job. Even though he has done the day-to-day operations, Tiseo said, there were still questions of vision for the city that were answered by previous applicants, but have never been put to Smith.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie said she was conflicted as to choosing an internal candidate for the position.

“It’s a tough position to be in,” she said. “I have concerns either way.”

The motion offering Smith the city manager position and directing City Attorney Robert Ihrie to draft contract language to be brought back for council’s approval passed 4-3, with Rusie, Tiseo and Vitale opposed.

Councilman John Caron said that he’s worked with Smith longer than either of the other city managers that were in place while he’s been on council.

“He knows the city, knows the department, it was very obvious during the whole budget preparation that he was the one that knew all about the budget,” he said. “While the option is there to go out and do another search, I went back and looked at what we had in the last search,” and didn’t feel there were too many good choices. Caron explained that he didn’t feel there were any other candidates out there now, available for the job.

He pointed to the contracts Smith has negotiated for the city, saving it money each time, and his ability to manage during a crisis as reasons to put him in the permanent position.

Councilman Peter Rubino said he was not very impressed with the candidates they found during the last two searches for city manager.

“When you interview somebody, you’re really not getting to know that person,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect, but I know Mr. Smith’s imperfections. I know what I like about him and I know what I don’t like about him as a city manager. I like the idea … of knowing what I’m getting and knowing I’ll be able to handle those.”

Council hoped to be able to review a contract for Smith at its next council meeting, Sept. 2.