Royal Oak picks search firm for new city manager

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 1, 2019

File photo


ROYAL OAK — On Sept. 23, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved GovHR as the executive search firm to assist in hiring a new city manager, at a cost not to exceed $19,500.

The decision came after the commission heard presentations during its Sept. 9 meeting from the top three search firms that had submitted proposals. The other two firms were Novak Consulting Group and Slavin Management Consultants.

GovHR Vice President James Vettraino, a Michigan resident and former Rochester city manager, will oversee the entire process, which he estimated would take approximately 100-120 days.

Commissioner Patricia Paruch, who moved to select GovHR, said she thought all three firms were talented, experienced and held great track records, along with similar price points.

“We should appreciate the fact that they made proposals to us and are interested in our community, but I was impressed with GovHR’s sense of the community,” Paruch said. “They just seemed to understand Royal Oak, and I think that’s a whole component of this search process.”

She added that she was pleased GovHR seemed committed to a hearty public engagement process, including soliciting input from all city employees, not just the “upper-echelon staff.”

During his presentation Sept. 9, Vettraino said GovHR has expanded to reach 31 states and is working with other consultants to draw candidates from all over the nation. Most recently, he said, the group’s clients have included Rochester Hills, South Lyon, Ferndale, Troy and Kent County.

“This is a really good city manager position in Michigan,” he said.

He added that if for any reason the city manager departs from the city within 12 months, GovHR will come in and repeat the process for no consultant fees, just expenses, and will remain until the city selects another candidate.

“The price is all-inclusive, but we will not pay for candidate travel to the community for interviews,” Vettraino said.

When asked the most important attribute in determining the success of a city manager, Vettraino responded that, in the case of Royal Oak, the most important attribute is being able to work well with the current and future elected bodies, as well as department heads.

On June 30, former City Manager Don Johnson retired after nearly 14 years with the city. He held the position of city manager for the past decade, and before that, served as the finance director.

Johnson briefly entertained the notion of returning on a contractual basis until the city could find a replacement, but the city denied his proposed flat rate of $18,000 per month July 29, and he subsequently rejected the city’s counteroffer of $14,000.

Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue, who also holds the title of assistant city manager, took up the mantle of acting city manager until the City Commission unanimously appointed City Attorney David Gillam as interim city manager Aug. 12.

The city voted to add an addendum to Gillam’s employment agreement to compensate him for six months, unless mutually extended by both parties, at a monthly rate of $1,500.

For more information, visit or call Royal Oak City Hall at (248) 246-3000.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.