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 From left, Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski presents former Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber with a resolution in his honor during a Sept. 17 City Council meeting. Wollenweber retired Oct. 3.

From left, Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski presents former Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber with a resolution in his honor during a Sept. 17 City Council meeting. Wollenweber retired Oct. 3.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Praise pours in for former Grosse Pointe Shores city manager

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 30, 2019

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — 2019 marked the end of an era for a legendary longtime city leader.

Grosse Pointe Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber, 71 — whose previous positions including serving as city administrator for Grosse Pointe Woods from October 2004 to June 2010, and city manager of St. Clair Shores from January 1990 to October 2004 — retired from the Shores Oct. 3.

Wollenweber also served as Ferndale’s interim city manager from January to July 2011, city manager of Huntington Woods from March 1978 to January 1990, assistant city manager/administrative assistant in Plymouth from May 1976 to March 1978, and  administrative assistant to the mayor in Westland from March 1974 to January 1976.

He was named City Manager of the Year in 1982 by the Detroit Metro chapter of the American Society of Public Administration and received a Special Award of Merit in 1991 from the Michigan Municipal League.

“I think it’s a sad day for Grosse Pointe Shores to see him leaving,” Department of Public Works Director Brett Smith said. “I think he has taken us from a city that was off-balance and put us back on balance. He is very good at bringing people together, and it was a pleasure to work with him.”

During his tenure, the Shores undertook a massive infrastructure overhaul that included energy-efficient streetlights and improvements at City Hall, a project that paid for itself in savings. Wollenweber also worked with the nonprofit Grosse Pointe Shores Improvement Foundation on projects such as the splash pad at Osius Park, and with author/historian Arthur Woodford on getting historical designation for the Albert Kahn-designed Shores City Hall from the Michigan Historical Commission.

One of the accomplishments he’s proudest of was getting the Shores a AAA bond rating — the highest one possible. High bond ratings translate into lower interest rates when a city needs to borrow money. But Wollenweber refused to take credit for the Shores’ achievements in recent years.

“Any success that the city has, I share in that,” Wollenweber said. “It’s really based on cooperation with the council, past and present, and the good work that the staff did. The council deserves the credit because they’ve allowed us to do the work that’s resulted in successful projects.”

Mayor Ted Kedzierski presented Wollenweber with a resolution in his honor during Wollenweber’s last council meeting Sept. 17. The resolution notes, in part, that Wollenweber “served this community ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty on numerous occasions, beginning his career here more than seven years ago, following an already substantial career in public service.”

Former City Councilman Bruce Bisballe — who chaired the Finance Committee — lauded Wollenweber’s tenure.

“Mark was a seasoned professional, consummate team builder and responsive to the needs of residents, and I miss him terribly,” said Bisballe, who resigned from the council Nov. 19.

Shores Executive Administrative Assistant Laurie Duncan, who retired Aug. 30, also praised Wollenweber.

“It’s been a joy to work with him,” Duncan said. “I have learned a lot from him — especially how to treat people with integrity.”

It’s the people Wollenweber said he’ll miss most, from the staff and administrators to “all of the great people in the community.”

When Wollenweber started in the Shores in March 2012, the city was suffering financial woes caused by the recession and a shift to a new fiscal year calendar that resulted from becoming a city. Now, the Shores is on solid financial footing.

“I think, clearly, we’re better off today than when I came,” Wollenweber said. “If things are better off when you leave than when you came, you’ve done a good job. … It’s been a team effort, from the City Council to all of the department heads. Without their support and the help of staff, we wouldn’t have gotten so much done.”

Longtime Beautification Commission Chair Helen Bai said, Wollenweber’s focus on inclusion extended to the city’s many volunteers. Under his leadership, she said the Shores’ traditional December luncheon for committee and commission chairs — which used to be held at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club — was transformed into a luncheon at City Hall to which all volunteers, as well as Shores personnel, were invited.

“Another city manager (in the Grosse Pointes) has said that Mark Wollenweber was the best thing that ever happened to Grosse Pointe Shores, and I agree with that,” Bai said. “He brought his wealth of information to the Shores, and his contacts. If you needed something done, he knew who to contact. His Rolodex was just incredible.”

Wollenweber, who lives in Burchville, said he was looking forward to traveling more — he and his wife, Nancy, a retired nurse and caseworker, were going to a Disney theme park in December and on a cruise in February 2020. The University of Detroit graduate and University of Michigan sports fan was also looking forward to continuing his tradition of attending all U-M home football and basketball games, as well as many U-D games. He and his wife also have two adult sons, Britt and Bryan.

In 2020, Wollenweber said, he and his wife will celebrate their 50th anniversary. He said they met during a blind date on New Year’s Eve circa 1967.

He might be retired, but Wollenweber is remaining active in the governmental sphere — he’s a board member and treasurer of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging and chair of The Library Network, a library cooperative that includes Wayne, Oakland and Livingston counties. As a member of the International City Managers Association, Wollenweber acts as a senior adviser, volunteering his time and knowledge to assist newly appointed city managers or managers tackling tough times.

“He was a fabulous city manager,” Bai said. “I was very sorry to see him go. I don’t know who can fill his shoes.”