Public Safety Director tagged for possible administrator post

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 22, 2015


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The Grosse Pointe Woods City Council interviewed Public Safety Director Bruce Smith during a committee of the whole meeting July 21 as the possible long-term choice for a permanent city administrator.

City Administrator Alfred Fincham had planned to retire this summer, but he has postponed his retirement to the end of the calendar year to help facilitate a plan to make a smooth transition.

The city received more than 40 applications for the post, but it looks like it has pegged Smith for a possible permanent replacement. No official decision has been made. The council is still in discussion, but it would be a plan that would unfold over the next year or so if the city pursues it.

“I think it’s a good plan,” Fincham said. “I think it’s in the best interest of the city and the residents.”

If the council chooses to move with Smith, Fincham could leave at the end of the year and the current part-time assessor, Tom Colombo, who is a retired Roseville city manager, would step in as interim at the start of the new year for six to 12 months.

That would give him time to wrap up assessing issues before taking over as interim, and it would give Smith time to get ready for the succession that would take place in his department to possibly move up a new director in the ranks.

Smith has been with the city for several months after coming from top administrator roles in Chesterfield Township and Oak Park during his long tenure in law enforcement.

Council member Vicki Granger called Smith’s resume “impressive.”

Most importantly, Smith has the backing of Fincham, which carries a lot of weight with the council.

“We do have a lot of confidence in Skip (Fincham) and his opinion,” Mayor Robert Novitke said.

Council member Todd McConaghy said he has heard good things about Smith’s time in the city.

“I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about you, and that’s a great thing,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback.”

The council asked several questions of Smith, including what he has learned about the community since he started.

“What I see is the togetherness of the close community,” he said. “I think that’s why people want to live here.”

He talked about the level of services that he believes attracts people to the city, and the local businesses.

Council member Kevin Ketels spoke of the level of customer service that Fincham brings to the table and how that is important to the community.

“Our city needs to be responsive to the residents,” he said. “It’s got to start at the top, and it’s got to filter down.”

Smith agreed.

“People want to be helped, truly helped, not just given an answer or sending them to another department,” he said.

Smith also emphasized that he believes in the importance of department heads and doesn’t believe in micromanaging.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can get in those positions (and) let them do their jobs,” he said.