City Commission reopens search for city manager

Published on February 06, 2018

Photograph of the City Commission dias on Feb. 6, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City Commission tonight decided to reopen the national search for a new city manager. The Commission voted unanimously to start the process over following a motion by First Ward City Commissioner Jon O’Connor.

The action came during City Commission deliberations following second-round interviews of the three city manager finalists earlier in the day. The Commission agreed to repost the position within 30 days following an evaluation of the process and community engagement along with discussions on how best to move forward.

“Our city needs and deserves a city manager who can help us reach our highest success,” Commissioner O’Connor said. “We need to foster an environment that enables us to attract the best candidates. We can do this through a process that is fully agreed upon by the Commission and supported by our community.”

The three finalists for the city manager post – Pontiac Deputy Mayor Jane Bais-Disessa, Port Huron City Manager James Freed and Arlington, Va., Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten – were part of a six-month search process that started with 61 applicants. The City worked with GovHR, an executive search firm, to find a replacement for City Manager Greg Sundstrom, who retired on Feb. 2.

“We have heard from strong candidates with a breadth of experience,” Mayor Bliss said. “Being city manager of our amazing city is no easy task. We are a growing city with unique neighborhoods, engaged residents and a robust business community. That is why we need to make sure we have the best of the best when it comes to candidates.

“We are committed to finding the absolute best candidates. I have a lot of faith in the Commission and in the collective wisdom around the table and in our community – we will find the right person.”

The finalists participated in a Candidate Forum on Monday night during which they fielded questions from the City Commission and the community on such topics as racial equity, community and police relations, affordable housing and whether they would live in the city if hired as its manager, among others.  

First-round interviews of the five semifinalists for the post were held on Jan. 29. The Commission narrowed the field to three finalists following those interviews. Two panels – one of City staff and another of community stakeholders, including business and civic leaders along with residents – interviewed each of the three finalists the next day.