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Sherry Ball to retire as Pleasant Ridge city manager at year’s end

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published August 14, 2013

 Pleasant Ridge City Manager Sherry Ball will retire at the end of the year, after 15 years in the position. Ball, 62, started in the Pleasant Ridge city government as a part-time postal clerk in 1987 before working her way up to city manager.

Pleasant Ridge City Manager Sherry Ball will retire at the end of the year, after 15 years in the position. Ball, 62, started in the Pleasant Ridge city government as a part-time postal clerk in 1987 before working her way up to city manager.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

PLEASANT RIDGE — As a young mother in 1987, Sherry Ball was only looking for a part-time postal clerk position with the city of Pleasant Ridge. With her kids in school, Ball responded to a “Help Wanted” ad while dropping off some mail.

Over the next 11 years, Ball served as the city’s water clerk, city clerk and in 1998 she took over as city manager. With 15 years of being city manager under her belt, Ball will retire from her position at the end of the year.

“I have been thinking about it for a while, and I have more than enough time to qualify for my retirement plan, but I thought it was best if I leave after this election to give the elected officials a fresh start with somebody new in this office,” Ball, 62, said. “Plus, it was time for me personally to step down. I have grandkids now and I want to spend more time with them. I also want to explore more things I always wanted to do and maybe something fun, like gardening.”

Ball said she never had an itch to get into local government before she took the part-time postal clerk position, and certainly never aspired to be city manager. However, going through the ranks helped her over the past 15 years, she added.

“By the time I was city manager, I had a good understanding of the daily operations of the city,” Ball said. “It gave me the benefit of knowing the codes, working in the Building and Water departments, and I could answer just about any question and work the counter on a regular basis.”

Ball grew up in Detroit and went through the Detroit school system until her mother determined it was too risky to send her to high school in the area. When she got married, Ball moved into a house in Oak Park, where she has remained for 42 years and raised three kids.

First getting to know Pleasant Ridge residents through Roosevelt Primary School, Ball said it has been a pleasure working in such a small community and getting to know a majority of the people.

“I think working in a small town is really a blessing because you know people on a first-name basis,” Ball said. “If you work in a larger city and you have so many departments, you probably won’t work the counter, and if you are on the street, people probably won’t know you as a friend. In a small town, if I go to an event, I get confronted by people wanting to talk about various things.

“One thing I will cherish is the many, many people I have met and that have helped lead me to the person I am today.”

Frank Rubino, a Pleasant Ridge commissioner, is also a retired city manager, stepping down from the Fraser position in 1996. Losing Ball is going to be a blow to the city, he said, and he has appreciated his time working with her.

“I understand the feeling of wanting to retire and Sherry has been here for a lot of good years and has been a terrific city manager, so I am sad to see her go,” Rubino said. “I think she was a tremendous asset with her knowledge, abilities and stamina to her get-things-done attitude. She was a big part of keeping Pleasant Ridge in the financial position it is in now.”

Commissioner Jerry Bushey has been on the City Commission for as long as Ball has been the city manager. Bushey said Ball’s attitude toward the city in general was one of her greatest assets and helped her have a successful tenure.

“She is a forward thinker and she is always looking at ways to obtain grant money to achieve projects we don’t have the money to do,” he said. “Sherry truly cares about the community; it isn’t just a job for her. She spent her whole career in city government here in Pleasant Ridge and worked her way up the ladder and has great involvement with all residents.”

One of Ball’s favorite aspects of being city manager was not knowing what could happen on any given day. From impromptu meetings to dealing with the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, Ball said “never having the same day twice” was something she cherished.

But the one thing she may remember above all else is how the city came together to get the new community center and pool built. The residents overwhelmingly approved a millage increase to get the center and pool built in 2004.

“The process of pulling together a focus group and seeing the plans, it seems like, overnight, we had this facility built, while it was actually a couple years,” Ball said. “The residents all got behind it and they understand the dollars it would cost to build it and operate it. What a testimonial that center is to Pleasant Ridge; it is like the heart of the city.”

Ball will meet with the city commissioners in the coming months to talk about her replacement. Ball said she may or may not have a say in her successor, but she has some advice for anyone who follows in her footsteps.

“You have to have certain qualities, and one is thick skin, because if something goes wrong, you are the person that has to be able to take the grief for it, and it is not always easy,” she said. “Also, you have to be able to listen and make decisions in a flash. Things come up and this is not a job where you can always consult on the best way to act. Sometimes you just have to act and take the consequences on your actions.”