Pleasant Ridge picks new city manager after extensive search

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published April 30, 2014

 Pleasant Ridge resident James Breuckman will be the city’s new city manager after spending the past three years as manager of planning in Rochester Hills.

Pleasant Ridge resident James Breuckman will be the city’s new city manager after spending the past three years as manager of planning in Rochester Hills.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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PLEASANT RIDGE — Eventually becoming a city manager seemed like a reasonable next step for James Breuckman.

The 36-year-old Pleasant Ridge resident began working with municipal governments as a consultant before moving to work in municipal government as the manager of planning for Rochester Hills for the past three years.

Now, Breuckman has the chance to make that next jump as he was selected by the Pleasant Ridge City Commission and Mayor Kurt Metzger to become the new Pleasant Ridge city manager.

“Ultimately, this is a new challenge, and one of the things that really excited me about it is to be more involved in the Woodward corridor in Oakland County,” Breuckman said. “There is a lot happening there, and the city manager position puts me in the middle of everything happening there. In city management, opposed to planning, I look at it as a way of furthering my career and making more of an impact.”

Former Pleasant Ridge City Manager Sherry Ball retired at the end of 2013 after 15 years in the position. Assistant City Manager Scott Pietrzak filled in as interim city manager.

Breuckman, Pietrzak and three other candidates selected by the Michigan Municipal League interviewed with Metzger and the commission before they decided on Breuckman. Metzger said Breuckman’s experience in planning and community engagement made him stand out.

“Jim was selected as one of the top five candidates among the 36 applications, and I felt Jim had the education and experience that best fit the criteria the commission had laid out,” Metzger said. “Jim had 12 years of post-masters experience in planning, working for both private firms on projects across numerous municipalities and almost three years as senior planner for Rochester Hills.

“He is very adept in technology and has experience with a wide range of community engagement tools. Jim is already a resident of Pleasant Ridge, and has a great understanding and appreciation for the city’s neighborhoods and residents.”

The commission interviewed two candidates who had full-time city manager experience, but Metzger said Breuckman’s experience in strategic planning and knowledge of technology placed him above the other candidates.

Despite not having city manager experience, Breuckman said he felt like he fit what the commission was looking for, in terms of having a broader vision.

“This is not a large community, so there is a lot of unique character and strength we need to continue to capitalize on that have made this city successful for so long,” he said. “I have been working on a finance master’s degree to broaden my horizon, and I think a good backing on fiscal and financial issues will help in maintaining the budget and keeping it stable. The world is moving back toward communities like Pleasant Ridge that kind of have that walk-able character, something the world moved away from, so it is an interesting time to be involved with a town like Pleasant Ridge.”

Breuckman earned his undergraduate degree in history form the University of Notre Dame before going on to earn his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Michigan State University.

One of the big factors in the decision, Metzger said, was Breuckman’s desire to work with other cities in the region and become more involved in things like transit along Woodward Avenue.

“Woodward serves as a community divider in Pleasant Ridge whereas it should unite both sides,” Metzger said. “The future of a strong Woodward for Pleasant Ridge requires close collaboration with Ferndale and Detroit, to the south, and attention focused on the Woodward and (I-696) intersection, which we share with Royal Oak, Huntington Woods and the (Detroit) Zoo. Jim’s planning background brings instant credibility to Pleasant Ridge, and he understands the important role Pleasant Ridge should play in corridor and regional activities.”

Metzger and the commission plan to appoint Breuckman as city manager during the May 13 City Commission meeting. Some of his first orders of business will be to meet with the numerous city committees and groups, as well as put his input on the 2014-15 operating budget.

As a Pleasant Ridge resident, Breuckman said being the new city manager isn’t just a new job for him, but it allows him to be more connected with his own community.

“I hope, ultimately, everyone sees that I have a stake in all of this, as well and it is not just a job, but where we have lived for eight years,” he said. “You always wonder if management has the best interest of the shareholders at heart, but in this case, I am a shareholder. Being close to the ground and grass roots, I hope, is a real advantage.”

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