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Retired Royal Oak city manager offered same position in Mount Clemens

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 6, 2020

 he Mount Clemens City Commission Feb. 3 unanimously voted to offer the position of city manager to Donald Johnson. Johnson retired last summer as Royal Oak City Manager, a position he served in for 10 years.

he Mount Clemens City Commission Feb. 3 unanimously voted to offer the position of city manager to Donald Johnson. Johnson retired last summer as Royal Oak City Manager, a position he served in for 10 years.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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MOUNT CLEMENS — A man with previous experience as a city manager in Oakland County was given a vote of approval to serve in the same capacity in Mount Clemens.

At its Feb. 3 meeting, the Mount Clemens City Commission unanimously voted to offer the position of city manager to Donald Johnson. The motion was to approve the selection and to direct the city attorney to negotiate the terms of an employment agreement, subject to the commission’s approval.

Johnson, who resides in Wayne, retired last summer as the city manager of Royal Oak and was one of six candidates to interview for the open position in January. Other candidates were Elaine Levin, Timothy Novak, Mark Gilbert, Darcy Long and Karen Folks.    

Johnson spent nearly 14 years with Royal Oak, holding the position of city manager for a decade. Prior to that, he served as the city’s finance director.

Johnson was brought back for a second interview with the commission Jan. 27.

In the interviews, candidates were asked to describe their most recent position in city management, why Mount Clemens is appealing to them at this point in their career and what experience they have in development of the City Commission’s goals.

At his interview, Johnson said the most important reason he applied to work in Mount Clemens was that he “really likes Mount Clemens.”

“I think it has enormous potential, and I’m a big fan of downtowns,” he added. “I’ve worked in places with great downtowns and some with a perennially struggling downtown, like Wayne, and a city without a downtown, like Southfield.”

Johnson said that much of Mount Clemens’ basic housing is better than Royal Oak’s.

From a strategic planning process perspective, Johnson said he began the planning process for Royal Oak when he was its finance director.

“Those sessions are extremely valuable. What comes out of a strategic planning session is the core of what goes into a budget,” he said. “We really need to have a commission to decide on goals and objectives so we can put together a budget.”

Lisa Borgacz is serving as the interim city manager.

In 2016, Steven Brown was fired as city manager. Mount Clemens has been without a full-time city manager since then.

Prior to the vote, City Commissioner Laura Fournier said it’s been a difficult process.

“There is no perfect candidate, and there is no perfect response,” she said.
Johnson said the first 30 days on the job require a lot of listening and meeting with the mayor, commissioners and city employees. He wants to do a couple of ridealongs with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office to learn about the city and to assess crime issues in Mount Clemens.

If Johnson accepts the offer, the City Commission could vote on his contract later this month.

Several appointments to boards, committees and commissions were also made at the meeting.

Kathleen Kelchner was appointed to the Board of Review; Elaine Johnston was reappointed to the Board of Review; Theresa McGarity was appointed to the Traffic Safety Committee; Fred Henk was reappointed to the Traffic Safety Committee; and Richard Shoemaker was reappointed to the Traffic Safety Committee.

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