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Wakefield City Council makes decision on city manager


January 24, 2019


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Wakefield — In a special meeting Wednesday morning, the Wakefield city council voted to offer its city manager position to Robert Brown, Jr. of Belding, Mich.

Brown, 36, was the first candidate to be interviewed by the council on Jan. 14. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in political science with a concentration in campaign leadership from Southern New Hampshire University.

He works with the three-county Fred Meijer River Valley Trail in Belding while also engaging in political campaign organizing.

Belding is in Ionia County and is about 100 miles west of Flint. Brown was the only city manager applicant from Michigan.

According to city clerk Sue Ahonen, who spoke with the Globe by phone on Wednesday afternoon, city council member Pat Mann informed Brown of the city’s interest after the morning vote, and he is reportedly open to the offer.

The recommendation to support Brown came from mayor John Granato and council member Pat Mann, who composed the city’s search committee for a new city manager.

Mann said Brown is familiar with Michigan laws, has grant experience and had a good attitude regarding city employees “I just think he will be a manager that will hit the ground running,” she said. “He’ll do the work that needs to be done.”

Granato added, “I think that Bob has more ties to Michigan than the rest of our candidates. Right now, he is the best candidate.”

“I thought he was good, too,” said council member Kay Wiita. She conceded that Brown has little experience with utilities, but said he has had experience with finance and five- and ten-year budget plans. Moreover, she added, “He works well with the public.”

The vote to make the offer was unanimous, with all council members present.

Prior to the vote, however, council member Jim Anderson and mayor pro tempore Amy Tarro did first speak favorably of another candidate the council interviewed by Facebook on Jan. 17.

“I also liked Chase Waggoner,” said Tarro, who added he has had municipal experience, including in public works.

Anderson added of Waggoner, who is from Osage Beach, Mo., “He had a little bit of experience in all the areas we need.”

Granato said Waggoner did not supply references, despite the city having asked for them as part of the application process.

The mayor said that after city attorney Ray O’Dea clears a contract for Brown, the city will include it on the agenda of the council’s Jan. 28 meeting. As soon as the council then votes on the contract, it will be presented to Brown.

Granato said the offer to Brown still remains contingent upon a background check.

The council also interviewed Jack Ardaugh of Joliet, Ill., and Kevin Nelson of Perham, Minn.

Each candidate was given the same list of predetermined questions.

If for any reason Brown or any of the current candidates do not work out, council members then plan to advertise via the Michigan Municipal League. They are hoping to avoid that because of the $14,000 cost.

The contract of current city manager Richard Brackney expires on May 24 when he plans to retire.


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