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Wollenweber appointed city manager in Shores

Interim city manager named to permanent position by City Council after debate on selection process

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 30, 2012

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GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Officials undertook a statewide search for a new permanent city manager, but it turned out the right person for the job was someone they already knew.

Interim City Manager Mark Wollenweber, who was named to that post in March, became the permanent city manager during an Aug. 21 City Council meeting. Wollenweber had originally only been slated to work for the city until July, but officials have been so impressed with his performance and the way he’s worked with city personnel that they decided to appoint him to fill the vacancy after he applied with other candidates.

City Council members on the city manager search committee said there were 17 applicants. Committee members interviewed the eight leading candidates by phone, and from that group, they arrived at three finalists, of which Wollenweber was one. The committee consisted of City Council members Robert Barrette, Bruce Bisballe and Daniel Schulte, and Mayor Ted Kedzierski said applicants were directed to send their packets to a post office box maintained by City Clerk Bruce Nichols “to avoid a conflict of interest.”

“I think it was an open and transparent process,” Kedzierski continued. “We worked very hard to make it an open and transparent process.”

But Schulte and some residents criticized the process, arguing that Wollenweber had an unfair advantage and access to city officials who’d be making the hiring decisions. Schulte said the “selection committee was probably remiss in not turning this over to a private (selection) firm or the whole council.”

Resident Janice Pemberton said Wollenweber should have made an announcement that he was applying for the permanent manager position, and she criticized him for not personally telling her he was a candidate when she spoke with him recently.

“I was kind of shocked,” Pemberton said. “It’s part of our information that I think we have a right to.”

City Council member Kay Felt disagreed, saying she disclosed that she asked Wollenweber if he was applying for the job.

“I don’t think it’s been any secret,” she said.

Kedzierski insisted that no candidate had an unfair advantage.

“We have worked diligently to make this (process) beyond reproach. … We were all open-minded,” the mayor said.

City Council member Robert Gesell said when they hired Wollenweber on an interim basis, he called a few people he knew and said they offered “glowing reports on his (skills), his intelligence and his ability to run a city.”

Even Schulte and Pemberton said they had nothing against Wollenweber or his performance to date.

Shores resident Dr. Raymond Rahi applauded Wollenweber’s appointment, saying his reputation of professionalism and integrity is “second to none” and that the city was “privileged to have a man like him as our manager.”

“The process wasn’t perfect, but the important thing is getting the right man for the job,” City Council member Dr. Alexander Ajlouni said. “It’s all been in good faith, and no one has a hidden agenda.”

The council voted unanimously in favor of Wollenweber’s appointment, with Schulte saying he agreed with the candidate but not the process.

At press time, Wollenweber hadn’t settled salary details yet with city leaders, but he assumed his deal would be similar to agreements reached with other department heads who’ve recently retired and come back on a contract basis, including Public Works Director Brett Smith. It’s likely his pay will be in line with what he was making as the interim manager. Under that contract, his salary was based on an annual amount of $80,000, and the city contributed an amount equal to 4 percent of that salary toward a deferred compensation plan, but Wollenweber otherwise received no benefits from the city, including health and disability insurance. Kedzierski said the agreement would be modeled on that reached with new Public Safety Director John Schulte, who, like Wollenweber, retired from another city with a pension and benefits, meaning he didn’t need those from the Shores.

Wollenweber has worked in municipal government since the 1970s. Most recently, he was the interim city manager in Ferndale, a post he occupied from January-July 2011. From October 2004 until June 2010, he was Grosse Pointe Woods’ city administrator. He was the city manager of St. Clair Shores from January 1990 until October 2004. He’s also a former Huntington Woods city manager, and he worked as a city administrator in Plymouth and Westland before that.

Wollenweber’s professional affiliations include memberships in the International City/County Management Association and the Michigan Local Government Management Association. He is a past president of the City Managers Association of Michigan and has been active in many similar organizations. Last year, he received the 2011 Patriarche Colloquium Award for distinguished service to Michigan communities — the highest honor given by the MLGMA. Wollenweber is a former MLGMA president and board member. Wollenweber holds a bachelor’s degree and Master of Arts in urban affairs from the University of Detroit Mercy, has been a credentialed manager with the International City Managers Association since 2002 and been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners since 2001.

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