Robert Slavin, president of Slavin Management Consultants, fields questions from the Novi City Council as to why his firm would be the right choice to aid the city in its search for a new city manager during the Jan. 23 council meeting. 

Robert Slavin, president of Slavin Management Consultants, fields questions from the Novi City Council as to why his firm would be the right choice to aid the city in its search for a new city manager during the Jan. 23 council meeting. 

Photo by Charity Meier

Slavin Management hired to find new city manager in Novi

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published January 25, 2023

NOVI — The Novi City Council voted to hire Slavin Management Consultants during its regular meeting Jan. 23 to help the council find a new city manager.

The council heard presentations and asked questions of two firms during the meeting: SMC, which is based out of Norcross, Georgia, with an office in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Amy Cell LLC, which is based in Ypsilanti.

Amy Cell, president of Amy Cell LLC, gave a presentation of how her firm would handle the city’s search for its next manager and then fielded two questions from each of the seven council members.

Robert Slavin, whose firm, SMC, has aided the city of Novi in a past search for a manager, gave a brief overview of his company and how it conducts a search and then went directly to the council’s questions.

“We spend a lot of time at the beginning of each project finding out what this community is all about and what this council is looking for,” Slavin said. “We take the information we garner from this period of time, put it into a graph and bring it back to you folks for approval. Once we have that approved, we don’t change a thing. So, what we end up accomplishing almost all the time — I can’t think of an exception — is providing a set of candidates who meet that criteria.”

Slavin said SMC does thorough background work on the candidates and guarantees its work for two years. He said that if one of SMC’s candidates does not work out for any reason, the firm will do another search for no additional fee. However, he said the firm has yet to have that service called into play.

After hearing the presentations, Councilman Brian Smith put a motion on the floor to hire Amy Cell LLC. Smith said that both candidates were “excellent” but moved to hire Cell based “solely on the localness.” His motion was immediately supported by Councilwoman Ericka Thomas.

“I think they were both qualified applicants. They came and they did a good job,” said Thomas. “I feel like Amy Cell presented better. I feel like I had a clearer understanding of her vision and what she would be doing for our city.”

Mayor Gatt disagreed with the choice, as Cell had made a minor error in her proposal, which was discovered during questioning. Cell had put down that her firm had found 60 “qualified candidates” for another city instead of simply saying 60 “candidates.”

“I think both firms presented very well and they gave us a lot of reasons why they’d be good, they’d be acceptable,” Gatt said. “I can’t support the motion for one reason, maybe this is the cop in me, but we all got packets of information from both candidates and one fact in hers wasn’t accurate. … I can’t support a candidate that gives us information that when questioned about it admits that it wasn’t accurate.”

Mayor Pro Tem David Staudt said he has participated in three city manager searches and felt that Slavin would be able to give the city a better edge, as he has national reach to bring both local candidates as well as those from outside the state of Michigan who are looking for an opportunity.

“One of the things that we find it more and more difficult in Michigan is to find somebody here in Michigan who is qualified to take on a city like Novi,” said Staudt. “Those who are out there in larger cities aren’t going to move down. … It was very difficult then to find candidates who I felt were qualified in Michigan then. I think it’s going to be even harder now. One of the benefits of Mr. Slavin is that he has a state and national view, and I think Novi deserves to at least cast a net nationally and see if there is somebody out there who is interested in an opportunity to come to a community that they could really do something with. … Everybody in Michigan knows who Novi is, and if they want to come here, they’ll apply. So, I think casting the net nationally is a big advantage.”

Staudt said that he believes the city will receive several really good Michigan candidates, including one from the city’s own ranks — interim City Manager Victor Cardenas. Staudt also said that he would like to see more diversity in the candidate choices. He said that SMC shows a lot of placements for minority and women candidates, and the issue was not addressed by Cell.   

“We’re a city that is extremely diverse. We heard earlier tonight that we have a large segment of women and we need to cast the net out to that,” said Staudt, recalling that Novi had potentially one woman apply in the past.

“We need to look at all the applicants and really cast a wide net and see what the future of Novi looks like, and we can do that by placing that position with somebody who is minority aware. So, I think that is a strong qualification for Mr. Slavin,” he said.

Councilman Justin Fischer agreed with Staudt, saying that the geographical reach Slavin has outside the state is a benefit.

“I think the challenge for me is just the depth and breadth of experience in doing municipal searches,” said Councilwoman Laura Marie Casey, who complimented both firms. “This is not an easy job to hire for. This is not an easy job to do, and the amount of experience in doing searches like this for cities of our size, with our assets, is something that Mr. Slavin, his firm just has that depth of experience and I think is critical to us for our success.”

Smith’s motion to select Amy Cell LLC, whose services would cost $18,500, failed by a vote of 2-5. Fischer then brought forth the motion to select Slavin Management, which passed unanimously.

The services from SMC will cost the city $24,375. The process is anticipated to take between 60 and 90 days.

Gatt congratulated Slavin and told Cell they were all impressed with her firm and wished her “the very best.”