Sterling officials bid city planner McLeod farewell

McLeod leaves role to work for Rochester Hills

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published September 21, 2022

 Chris McLeod

Chris McLeod


STERLING HEIGHTS/ROCHESTER HILLS — Sterling Heights’ longtime city planner has found new career plans.

During the Sept. 6 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool announced the departure of City Planner/City Development Manager Chris McLeod. In early September, McLeod started his new job as Rochester Hills’ planning manager.

Vanderpool called that “a great loss for us,” and he thanked McLeod for his “incredible work ethic” and professionalism over seven years. He also listed a few of McLeod’s accomplishments during his tenure.

“He’s really left a major mark on our city through our updated master plan, our new landscaping ordinance, our new tree ordinance and the countless development projects that he and his team have spearheaded and recommended,” the city manager said.

“It wasn’t uncommon to get all sorts of messaging from Chris at all hours of the day, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning. I don’t know that he got much sleep, but he still looks really good.”

According to the city’s budget, McLeod’s job responsibilities included — among other things — heading the office that handles site plan reviews, interpreting and upholding regulations like the zoning and tree preservation ordinances, and being the city’s administrative liaison to the Planning Commission and the Sustainability Commission.

Mayor Michael Taylor echoed Vanderpool’s thoughts and said the entire City Council appreciates McLeod’s work. Taylor added that he has been on the council for around 13 years and has been mayor for almost eight, and McLeod has been at the city for “pretty much my entire time as mayor.”

“We are so busy with development, so many projects going on, so many people wanting to do business here, and the way that you’ve handled yourself and the way you conduct yourself with the business community, with the residents, with Mr. Vanderpool and his staff, with your staff, and importantly with us and everyone else, I mean, it’s been exemplary,” he said.

Taylor also praised Rochester Hills and its mayor, Bryan Barnett, whom he called “one of my best friends and one of the best leaders in the state of Michigan.”

“You’re moving on to a great community, in part because they keep taking our employees,” Taylor said.

In addition, Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski said she would miss McLeod and called him the “ultimate professional.” Councilwoman Maria Schmidt praised McLeod for not getting frustrated over answering questions, and she said the departure “truly is our loss.”

Councilman Henry Yanez said McLeod’s absence will leave “difficult shoes to fill,” and Councilman Michael Radtke also said McLeod will be hard to replace, adding, “I can’t even think about what we’re gonna do without you here.”

Councilwoman Deanna Koski said she, too, will miss McLeod and wished the best for him.

“I’m not happy that Rochester Hills took you from us, but I know that you will do well there,” she said.

Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko praised McLeod for being someone the city could count on.

“If there was one fault that Mr. McLeod had, it was, he didn’t know how to say no,” she said. “So it didn’t matter who was calling, whether it be a council member or a resident or a developer, it did not matter because they came first, and not necessarily in that order.”

Nathan Inks, chair of the Sustainability Commission, also thanked McLeod for his hard work and dedication to replying to emails at night-owl hours.

“He’s far too humble to say this, but the work that the Sustainability Commission has done over the past two years would not have been possible without him,” Inks said.

When McLeod — who was consulted for guidance on city matters for the last time — addressed the council, he thanked the city.

“I want to reiterate the fact that it has been my honor and privilege to serve the city,” he said. “It’s a very sad time, for me at least. …  I have a job to do here, so I’m going to try to get through it before I totally break down and make a fool of myself.”

After the meeting, Barnett told the Sentry that his city is excited to welcome McLeod, adding that he is filling the planning manager position formerly held by Kristen Kapelanski.

“We have a really talented team that does exceptionally well. We have a great relationship with our business community. We have a great relationship with our City Council,” Barnett said. “We’re really fortunate to have Chris join us to fill (Kapelanski’s former) position and keep our team strong.”

According to Sterling Heights Community Relations Director Melanie Davis’ Sept. 14 text message, the city’s human resources department is currently working on the recruitment brochure for McLeod’s former position. The approved Sterling Heights 2022-23 budget sets the city planner/city development manager position’s pay range at $92,072-$126,834.

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489. Learn more about Rochester Hills by visiting