From left, former Grosse Pointe Woods City Administrator Alfred “Skip” Fincham, Assistant City Administrator Sue Como, outgoing City Administrator Bruce Smith and new City Administrator Frank Schulte celebrate Smith’s retirement Dec. 17 at the Woods Community Center.

From left, former Grosse Pointe Woods City Administrator Alfred “Skip” Fincham, Assistant City Administrator Sue Como, outgoing City Administrator Bruce Smith and new City Administrator Frank Schulte celebrate Smith’s retirement Dec. 17 at the Woods Community Center.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

New Grosse Pointe Woods administrators bring varied knowledge, years of experience to roles

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 26, 2022


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Grosse Pointe Woods may have two new leaders at the helm, but both of them are familiar to the city and say they learned a great deal from the city administrator who came before them.

Frank Schulte — the Woods’ former director of public services — is the new city administrator, following the retirement of former City Administrator Bruce Smith at the end of 2021. And last year, longtime Woods Executive Assistant to the City Administrator Sue Como was promoted to assistant city administrator, a new position in the city. 

Smith, a big believer in mentorship, mentored both Schulte and Como, recognizing that both of them had untapped potential for larger leadership roles.

“These people are great,” Smith said of Schulte and Como. “She’s really helped me to be a success. And Frank, too. Most of the projects in the city he spearheaded … he showed his leadership abilities time and time again.”

Schulte, 61, was hired to be the Woods’ forester six years ago but soon became the director of public services. A native of the Pointes who grew up in Grosse Pointe Park and now lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, Schulte worked for Grosse Pointe City for 35 years before retiring in 2015 as the public service supervisor. 

“He almost didn’t take the job,” Smith said with a smile, remembering how Schulte was initially reluctant to become the public services director. “I had to give him a (nudge).”

Schulte agreed.

“I thought I was retiring, but then I got myself into more,” Schulte said. 

Schulte said he and Smith “were working hand in hand together” when Smith took him to lunch a couple of years ago to ask if Schulte might be interested in serving as the acting city administrator — someone who could step in whenever Smith was on vacation or otherwise unavailable.

“Bruce liked my management style and my demeanor,” said Schulte, who said he learned how to communicate with people from coaching travel soccer, starting with the team his family played on. “Bruce thought I’d be a great choice to replace him. I thought it would be a great way to finish my career. I started out picking up trash.”

Smith said Schulte “turned the DPW around 180 degrees.” Schulte said there used to be animosity between the unions and city administration, but in recent years, “We’ve been able to make it more of a family atmosphere.”

That kind of camaraderie is something Smith fostered and something Como and Schulte hope to continue.

“We have a wonderful working environment here,” Smith said during an interview with him, Como and Schulte.

“We really do,” Como responded. “Like Frank said, there is no ‘I’ in team. … We have really good leadership from the top down.”

Como, 52, lives in St. Clair Shores and has worked for the Woods for more than 21 years. Schulte will be the sixth city administrator she’s worked with in the city.

“I’ve been fortunate,” Como said. “I’ve learned something from every one of them.”

Mayor Arthur Bryant is confident both Como and Schulte will be great for the city.

“Frank will be a wonderful fit with our present council and other appointees,” Bryant said. “He brings a lot of experience. We love very much being able to promote from within.”

Along those lines, in late December, the Woods promoted longtime DPW employee Jim Kowalski to take Schulte’s place as the new director of public services.

Como, said Bryant, brings “just tons of knowledge about the history of things at City Hall and knowing what things have to be done.”

Smith said the Woods isn’t a huge city, but it’s big enough to warrant having an assistant city manager. Some of the other Pointes also have assistant city managers, including Grosse Pointe City and Grosse Pointe Farms, although in both of those cases, the assistant city manager is also the city clerk. The Woods is larger than the City and Farms, however.

Schulte is glad to have a partner like Como.

“I know Sue’s going to be a great asset,” Schulte said. “She’s going to be … my conscience.”

Having moved up the ranks in municipal work, from starting as a DPW laborer in the City and picking up garbage to being a department administrator, gives Schulte unique insight as a city administrator.

“He gets genuine respect (from the workers),” Bryant said. “He knows the job, and he knows what he’s asking them to do. He fully understands (the job) from the top down.”

Another advantage for Schulte is the fact that he already knows the city managers and many department heads in the other Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods, said Bryant — a plus because the six cities often work together or bid out projects jointly to get better prices based on scale.

Schulte said there were “a lot of improvements” made in the city over the last six years, “but Bruce always made it easy.”

Smith said having Schulte and Como at his side made it possible.

“They’re very deserving and professional,” Smith said. “I’m proud of them.”

Como said Smith “gave us great leadership,” which helped prepare her and Schulte to take on more responsibilities.

“I will miss Bruce immensely,” Como said. “We’ve gotten a lot accomplished together, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him. … I feel like I’ve gained a friend for life.”

Schulte echoed that sentiment.

“Bruce has been able to let me grow as a leader,” Schulte said. “He’s mentored me. Not only is he a great leader — he’s a great friend.”