MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
Mayor Landry called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
ROLL CALL: Mayor Landry, Mayor Pro-Tem Capello Ė absent/excused, Council Members, Gatt, Margolis, Mutch and Nagy and Member Paul Ė absent/excused.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - None
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING
Interviews for City
Mayor Landry welcomed the candidates, individually, and advised the candidates of the format of the Special Interview. If they chose they could make a brief statement and comments. Then, Council members would each ask one question at a time. At the end of the interview the candidate would have an opportunity to make a closing comment.
Mr. Alex Allie
Mayor Landry was delighted and honored that Mr. Allie offered to serve as City Manager. He welcomed him to the City of Novi and acknowledged that Mr. Allie is also a resident.
Mr. Allie explained he already submitted information regarding his professional background and career experience, however, now he wanted to share his personal background. He is married to a teacher and has three children that are grown. He is a runner and a 50ís Classic Car enthusiast. He has lived in Novi for the past 16 years and was the Assistant City Manager some years ago.
Member Margolis explained that the focus of City Council has been economic development and she was interested in his views on how the City Manager could direct City Staff and encourage economic development specifically the process issues.
Mr. Allie stated the City Manager sets the tone for the operation of the organization relating to economic projects from inception to completion. Due to the conditions of the economy now and in the future it will be a lot more difficult, the developers wonít be lined up like they have been in the past. The City Manager will need to create the network of recruitment, marketing and presenting the Cityís best face to developers. This will be targeted based on the changes in the economy.
The retail community will not get any larger. Office and technical developments may have some room including light industry. In terms of location, the City is in an enviable location with the freeways and near the highest growth area, being the M14 growth corridor. Providence Hospital will be a stabilizing force perhaps replacing some of the automotive economic opportunities with the loss of the Wixom plant.
The City Manager will need to promote and be on the forefront with developers interested in the community and treat them professionally. Also, continuous improvement of departments and procedures both on the regulatory side for example the Planning Commission as well as the Administrative side where plans are submitted and times waiting for Plan Review. In every organization he has worked with he felt this had proved to be very critical. The City Manager must follow and be well aware the procedures in place. This would be his highest priority.
Member Nagy reviewed his past positions and wondered his reasons for leaving the position he held with the City of Novi previously.
Mr. Allie answered that he took the job of Assistant City Manager with the focus to become the City Manager. He was hired by Ed Kriewall and worked in that position for four years. After which, he interviewed and took the City Manager position with the City of Owosso, Michigan because he felt it offered a great deal of challenge. He believed, at the time he worked for the City of Novi, it was an explosive time. Things moved very quickly, for example, a number of developments didnít have utilities yet and Twelve Oakís Mall was still under construction at the time. He enjoyed the quality of life here in the City of Novi and when he was able to move wherever he wished, he and his family chose to live in Novi.
Member Gatt questioned Mr. Allie regarding his thoughts regarding unions.
Mr. Allie has respect for unionized employees. He has an open door policy. A workforce that is motivated and enthusiastic is the best workforce. He implemented interest-based bargaining, which are pre-contract discussions, where all interests are put on the table. He was Chief Negotiator, in a past position, and felt by being candid as to what the economic position was and where the playing field would be brought him success.
He felt his style of not taking an adversarial role with unions or employees has proved beneficial. He would like the City Council members to actually check with all the labor unions, elected officials and management employees, to make sure each candidate interviewing for this position really does work well with them. Council will find that regarding the people mentioned above, he had a great working relationship with them. He also felt they had a great deal of respect for him because he held regular meetings to show them they were an integral part of the operation, he appreciated the job they did and wanted to keep the lines of communication open.
Member Mutch asked the question from his perspective what does he see as the biggest challenge in Michigan now and for the next 5 or 10 years.
Mr. Allie believed there would be no more economic expansion here and our manufacturing base will be lost. A transition must occur. We need to become less dependent on the automotive industry but so far that hasnít happened. As the manufacturing jobs leave, we will see issues in revenue structure with municipalities. Our tax base will be flat. The way the assessment process works, in some residential areas, the real estate values in some neighborhoods will decline. The dynamics of the property tax base will slow along with new developments. Statutory Revenue Sharing has endangered the current formula, which sunsets in 2007; however, Novi is in an enviable position because we are less reliant on that formula than older fully-developed communities.
Some of the older urban core cities in Michigan probably will not survive according to the year-long study by the Governorís task force. More cities will go into receivership. Many of these older urban communities did not look ahead and/or ignored legacy costs. Retirement systems have been under-funded and no money was set aside for healthcare for retirees. These benefits were guaranteed to them in the 1970ís. He still believes that the City of Novi will do well but it will take a long time for the economy to diversify. State government will be in tough shape, the City of Novi will not be able to count on that revenue.
Mayor Landry noticed that Mr. Allie has been in the business of City Management for over 30 years and asked why he would like to be the Manager of our city.
Mr. Allie welcomed the challenge such as the City of Novi and felt he offered a management style that could benefit the City. Right now he has a City Commission that doesnít work well together due to personality conflicts where he works as a mediator. He is very used to an environment where people disagree or are disagreeable. He is looking for bigger things and more challenges.
Member Nagy would like him to address how specifically he will manage performance of employees to ensure customer responsiveness.
Mr. Allie thought the City Council meetings would be tell tale signs of Administrative staff not being responsive to customerís needs. He believed staff should give an answer as soon as it is possible. The answer should include why or why you can not help them. Phone calls are logged and tracked. In a small community, however, residents usually prefer to call the City Manager and start at the top.
Member Nagy asked about the future costs of employees as the city is built out and the issue of health care. How would he handle these issues?
Mr. Allie believed looking to the future will be key. He encouraged five-year budgets, forecasts, setting money aside for tomorrow and not using credit to finance things. Engineering and Planning Departments in previous positions that he has worked with realize these departments are cyclical, both seasonal and economical. For large projects, he would bring in consultants using a quality-based project system.
Regarding healthcare, he felt it is the largest problem faced both in the private and public sectors today. Every year healthcare costs have been going up double digits. According to the law, unless a carrier has 50 percent of the active employees they do not have to take the retirees (who are greater risks). His approach to this problem had been to increase co-pays and deductibles which created a two-tier healthcare system where the city would provide a basic healthcare plan to everyone and if employees/retirees want more they could bear the extra cost.
Member Gatt asked what were his greatest weaknesses?
Mr. Allie felt he got impatient sometimes because government has a tendency to be slow. He felt he was strong in Finance, Personnel and Developmental areas. He was a good facilitator and communicator with all the diverse networks of a community. As he looked over his career, the different Cities he has managed have been very diverse, from blue collar to, for example, Huntington Woods, with a high population of residents having Masterís Degrees, and he still was able to be successful at each type of community. He thought a community gains confidence in a City Manager after they have positive experiences with them and the relationship tends to improve as you go forward.
Member Mutch asked what Mr. Allie saw as the role of government in retaining businesses and workers that are already here.
Mr. Allie saw that retention and attraction of businesses as the primary unit of government. Hopefully, some of the economic policy issues will be dealt with by State Government. He felt the City of Novi will have to promote marketing but will have the help of a great location, quality public education, and the stability of the medical community, in the future, as well as a number of factors where Novi will be at the forefront.
For example, when he was the Manager in Owosso, the economic climate was very automotive. He created a focus group to continuously keep the City communicating with the business community. He met with all key players of business and industry at least once a year, either Plant Managers or owners of retail operations where he tried to keep the lines of communication as open as possible.
Mayor Landry stated the most difficult thing a Manager has to do is to inform people that they are going to get less or pay a larger share for what they are already getting, for example, legacy costs and health care costs. How do you go about talking to employees about these things and keeping high morale among your staff?
Mr. Allie believed an open and honest style would be best. When he was the City Manager of Owosso it was during bad economic times in Michigan primarily because the State had cash flow problems and Owosso was a city very dependent upon State Revenue Sharing. The State had missed three quarterly payments and the City was not in a deficit position for the year but facing serious cash flow problems. He spoke to his employees about the current cash flow problem and discussed how they were going to get around it. Every employee took a one-year pay freeze so he would have time to get his feet on the ground and make longer term plans. This was done by the employees having their union contracts reopened.
While at Huntington Woods, during good times, he believed they were too generous to their employees. Some things that were placed in union contracts without an actuary report, upon his investigation, he discovered they were going to be more costly than originally thought and it took a number of years to collectively bargain that benefit away from the unions. When the actuary report was done to show the City Commission, the cost was 9.5% of payroll. Every retiree was supposed to get a 2.5% increase every year of their retirement. Think of someone who lives 25 after retirement. There were operational components of these contracts that employees had to understand because they were far more lucrative in the public sector than the private sector. It was very unpleasant to open contracts and make changes but a far better option than laying people off.
In Huntington Woods, the workforce was reduced by 40% and jobs formerly done by union workers were privatized. This was accomplished by attrition and other means. He believed interest based bargaining of keeping employees abreast of the situation and painting the picture that we change together or die separately proved successful.
Member Margolis asked about involving the community and goal setting/planning. Describe how that process would work, for example, a five-year budget. Especially considering the fact that we have elections every two years, and the composition of the council changes, and all good efforts in long-term planning are at the mercy of those elections.
Mr. Allie thought there has been an evolution of how government operates now. Government used to be autonomous in nature. Todayís demands are different. The public is highly participative. All the various components of a community at a grass roots level have to be included.
He inherited a fully-developed community predominantly residential based that had cuts in State Revenue Sharing, interaction of the Headley Amendment and proposal A. Even in good times, their revenue wasnít growing very much. What will happen when there is a predictable economic downturn in the future? We have to be prepared. With all the dynamics, he didnít see a way the City could conduct business and usual into the future with the economic structure the way it was currently. He proposed a taskforce committee and had it open to anyone who was willing to make the commitment to the study. He facilitated it and explained to them where they were, how they got there, the trends of what they could do and that there had to be some reductions in services or an increase in revenue or a combination of the two.
The process was implemented. It was made known to the public. The group that was compiled was very diverse group with a range of all interests. This was a 14-month long study that left no stone unturned and took a good share of sensitive facilitation. This was citizen driven and no elected officials played a role. He was not an advocate with any issue. They brought in an outside auditor to make sure everyone was unbiased. The result of this focus group was they developed a series of 29 recommendations ranging from services that needed to be reduced, things that they could be done different and a structured Headley override. They actually put a question to the voters that restored an annual cap on the millage being raised. His five-year budget showed if they did nothing there would be a $600,000 deficit.
The citizen group that developed this long-term strategy on how to meet the budget without a major increase in property taxes, actually sold it to the general public. Any unit of government today must heavily involve all interest groups, Boards and Commissions, and businesses. He took every major construction project scheduled for the next two years and invited them to a focus group to find out their experience with the building process at that city and how the process could be improved.
In conclusion, Mr. Allie stated that he appreciated the opportunity to address any questions or issues. He believes himself to be very candid and will tell you anything you want to know. He doesnít believe in rehearsing because he believes what you see is what you get. He wants to portray himself as openly and honestly as he can. He thinks he has a lot to offer and would love the opportunity to serve as City Manager. Whatever decision is made he will support it. He offered his services as a facilitator or to further explain his experience with the fiscal taskforce.
Ms. Jane Bias-DiSessa
Ms. Bias-DiSessa stated she was familiar with the area due to a family member that resides in Novi. A brief overview, she is currently the City Manager of Berkeley, Michigan. She has been in the field of Public Administration for over 25 years, mainly at the Chief Executive level. She has had the privilege of working for the State of Texas as well as Michigan. She has diverse experience working with both large and small communities, including working with budgets that range from 3 Million to 700 Million dollars. She has worked with communities and assisted them in developing their long-range economic development plans. She has experience with the construction of facilities and has familiarity with community infrastructure. Particularly in San Antonio, where she held the position of Budget and Management Analyst, she worked on some of the Cityís top projects, one being the expansion of the International Municipal Airport and the other the International Auditorium, called the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.
As the Manager of a small City she had the insight of working with the Department Heads and residents which is a lot different from a larger city, like San Antonio. She did have the chance to work with the City Manager, City Council and the Mayor.
She has been involved in identifying new ways in which to implement Municipal services via the Internet.
Member Nagy asked Ms. Bias-DiSessa if she has done long-term budget planning and how would she improve economic development?
Ms. Bias-DiSessa stated that the difficult economic times that Michigan is experiencing reminds her of the time in Texas where they had an Oil boom. The State of Texas had relied heavily on the Oil Industry, like Michigan relies on the Automobile Industry, what they learned from that experience is the need to diversify the economy. But she wanted to answer the first question regarding long-term budgeting.
Ms. Bias-DiSessa was involved in the preparation of a 5-year, long-term financial forecast. In smaller communities, long-range planning has to come hand-in-hand, often times, the City Manager wears many different hats including the Finance Director, Budget Director and Economic Development Director.
In preparation of the budget, she first holds a goal setting meeting with City Council. At this meeting they determine the direction of the budget. She felt the best tool a Manager could have is to develop a Budget Plan which is a living document that can change. Rainy day funds must be set aside. When she worked in San Antonio she had to reduce the budget by 300 Million dollars. Thanks to the guidance of the Mayor and City Council, San Antonio was able to achieve great economic development.
In Berkeley, when she first started, there was a fund balance of $55,000, which was difficult because both millages they tried to pass, failed. With no other choice, reductions in staff and services were needed. She met with City Council to aid her in this decision. So they decided to fund core services and very little on luxury service. She is happy to report they have a fund balance of 2.5 Million dollars, which wasnít easy but it was a necessary evil. They are still dealing with Headley and Proposal A revenue shortfalls.
Economic Development and the budget go hand-in-hand. When she first came to Michigan the goal was to bring more businesses to their community. She worked with the various downtown development authorities in each community. Given the limited revenue, they worked primarily to improve the infrastructure, the schools and the entryways so businesses would find it a pleasing and welcoming community.
Member Mutch explained at all levels of government more and more we are asked to work together more to cooperate with each other and look at new approaches to providing services regionally and cooperatively, can you describe some experiences in developing or maintaining the provision of services at a more regional level whether through neighboring communities or through a larger regional opportunity?
Ms. Bias-DiSessa answered that one of the ways she had been able to maintain costs, at the City of Berkeley, was through regional development and cooperation with other cities. The City of Berkeley is large enough to provide services to some of the neighboring communities such as the City of Huntington Woods. They also provide Animal Control services to the City of Royal Oak. They are a part of the SOCRA Authority which consists of neighboring communities with 200,000 people. A new contract will be in effect that will save 10% next year. They also shared their planner with the City of Hazel Park and they have safety contracts with neighboring cities to assist the Police officers.
Before she worked at the City of Berkeley they combined police and fire to have a Public Safety Department which is controversial but it works great for them. The officers are trained to do both jobs which saved them a lot of money. They are looking at the possibility of consolidating their Department of Public Works and Department of Parks and Recreation like some other surrounding communities which would reduce a Department Head position. They also joined to consolidate Cable TV Stations with the Grosse Pointes.
Member Gatt asked if she could describe everything she knows about the City of Novi from itís legendary name to present day attributes and problems. What do you see as the critical challenges facing Novi and what personal and professional qualifications does she possess to be our next City Manager.
She stated her co-workers told her that the name came from No. 6 on the railroad stop. To her she thinks it means something new, something big, something powerful and strong. What she knows of the City of Novi is it has various types of housing opportunities and living arrangements. She was impressed with the budget document put together by City Council and the Interim City Manager. The City of Novi is dealing with all the same issues as other cities. Obviously, finance is a big issue, infrastructure and economic development. Novi has an excellent reputation thanks to the hard work of the City Council and strong planning. She hoped we were able to address those concerns and not depend on the fund balance, making sure we recovered our costs whenever possible. And, she thought our schools were excellent which will attract a lot of people.
San Antonio, at the time she worked there was one of the 10th largest cities in the United States. They werenít able to attract people to come to San Antonio because of the lack of an educated workforce. The first thing they did was to work closely with the Universities to get information on the types of education that people need to have to attract the business community to locate in San Antonio.
Member Margolis asked how would she ensure that City staff focus on customer responsiveness and how would she manage performance in that area by Department Heads and City staff and how have you implemented this in any of your positions?
Ms. Bias-DiSessa said when a person first walks into City Hall the first individual they meet will stand in their mind forever. One way is to provide training for all employees in customer service. Another way is to have one individual obtain training and train the rest of the staff. The main goal is to make residents feel they do have access to the City Manager.
In communities she has worked with in Michigan, evaluations of employees have been difficult to implement because of the strong unions. But for new hires, they have six-month and one-year evaluations which have been successful. Department Heads are asked to do evaluations at least once per year.
In the City of Berkeley, they are updating the Personnel Policy Manual called the Merit System for non-union personnel. By evaluating people, you help them understand where the city is going and help them understand what their jobs are. In the City of Berkeley, they just finished a compensation study, while not well accepted by employees, many were concerned they would lose their jobs or have their salaries reduced, however, that did not happen.
The best thing that came out of that process was they now all have updated job descriptions and responsibilities. In the near future, the City of Berkeley will be working with legal council to make sure that their personnel policies are up to speed. A personnel pay plan will be developed to help them understand the steps they will have to achieve. An annual evaluation process where Department Heads will review their employees is in process.
In her opinion, the toughest part of an evaluation is training the Department Heads so they will be conducted properly. The most critical thing she has found, even in small communities with limited budgets is mandating Department Heads to attend conferences or be part of various associations so they can come back and teach everyone else. When Ms. Bias-DiSessa first came to Berkeley, people there felt it wasnít necessary to spend the money to go out of state for training. However, she left it up to the Department Heads to determine where the money was best spent either in state or nationally.
Ms. Bias-DiSessa said she recently spoke for the International Hispanic Network in Laredo, Texas and was also in attendance of some conference sessions. At this conference, she learned Immigration doesnít just affect Hispanic people but all people affecting Michigan, Canada and the entire United States as well. She served as a moderator and she introduced some of the most successful Hispanic women, one being the Mayor of Laredo, Texas, Elizabeth Floydes and another being the County Administrator from Hennipan County, Minnesota, Sandy Vargas who received an award of Hispanic Woman of the Year for 2004.
Mayor Landry asked Ms. Bias-DiSessa why her work history lists the length of time at each job only from two to five years? Why such a short period of time?
Ms. Bias-DiSessa responded that when she first came to Michigan she hoped to stay in every community a long time, however in some of the small communities she worked for she longed to go back to her roots and work for a larger city. Understandably, the City of Novi would be the largest City she has ever worked for in Michigan and she hoped it would be the last. For the most part, she moved to grow, learn and work on new challenges. Looking at her work in San Antonio, which had a population of 1 Million people, the staff was 6,000 Ė 7,000 at the time. She worked in Human Resources, Equal Employment Opportunity Department and finally in Budget Management. With every move, she has learned a lot, met interesting people and worked on interesting projects. Every place she has worked she would be welcomed back.
Member Nagy realizes being a City Manager would be difficult because there are so many people to serve. She asked about her management style and how would she manage having a negative impression and does she think there should be some positive changes in the way departments interact. Being new, how would you garner the trust of the employees?
Ms. Bias-DiSessa stated that one of the ways she had handled this was by ensuring the Directors that they are a team by implementing their recommendations when they come to her. Sometimes even taking a chance and implementing their ideas.
She learned early on in her career the importance for a City Manager to know what her employees do. One of the things she has done is to collect garbage, sleep in Police Stations and drop off garbage at landfills. Her first year, she would meet with the staff, Boards and Commissions, resident associations to introduce herself and attends their meetings to gain understanding.
Gaining the trust of the Executive Staff is very critical. She would do this through Staff Meetings where she would ask them to provide information that will impact everyone. For example, if the Public Works Department is going to be constructing a new street, how will that impact our Public Safety Department and who else needs to be informed: schools, neighbors and any others. She would give Department Heads the idea that we are here to provide services for the residents.
She believed she had a good rapport with everyone and knows many all the main players in Oakland County. Due to working with so many diverse communities she understood the importance of being flexible and that it takes a while to gain trust. She identified with the TQM Management Style which empowers your Department Heads by giving them an opportunity to implement their ideas and suggestions. Trust is earned and takes time.
Member Mutch wanted to give Ms. Bias-DiSessa the opportunity to discuss the controversy involving a former Finance Director out in the open for the public and City Council.
Ms. Bias-DiSessa explained that it is in court at this time and can only be talked about in a limited way. She said it was an unfortunately situation that was blown out of proportion by the press. Her Council decided to conduct an internal special investigation to make sure the City Manager had conducted herself in accordance with the laws. Due to the fact that itís still in Litigation, she doesnít want to hurt the City of Berkeley or the employee in any way. She is confident it will be resolved soon.
Mayor Landry asked if she wanted to ask Council any questions.
Ms. Bias-DiSessa asked if she were to be given this position what would be the first project for the City Manager to address.
Mayor Landry responded that the job of the new City Manager would be to come in and make an assessment of what needs to be done, what goals are currently existing, what former councilís have set.
Ms. Bias-DiSessa said in her opinion the City Manager should work in conjunction with the City Council. She also asked what the next step will be for this process.
Mayor Landry explained the next steps are the council will have a special meeting to discuss the candidates and or possibly ask some candidates to do additional interviews. Everything has to be done in the public eye.
In Conclusion, Ms. Bias-DiSessa wished the City Council luck in this difficult process. She hopes to have the opportunity to work with everyone.
Mayor Landry was honored that she stepped forward to be a candidate.
Mr. Clay Pearson
Mayor Landry stated that Council was delighted he applied for the job of City Manager. There are a number of very qualified candidates and they are very happy he has agreed to step forward for this job.
Mr. Pearson thanked the Council, Tia Grondlund-Fox and Mr. Slavin for their professionalism. He stated that he was here to continue the dialog they have built even as recently as Monday night when the budget was passed. The journey to this chair has been a combination of education, hard work, experience and cooperation. He felt himself to be fortunate to have found a profession that he truly loves and enjoys coming to work every single day. He loves cities and everything about them, considering himself to be an amateur student.
Over the last five years, while he has driven, walked, biked and runs around the City of Novi he took great pride in the projects that he had a hand it and sees some of the things on the horizon yet to be done. Heíd like to celebrate the successes that we have all had together and look ahead to what we can build upon. He felt himself to be a hands-on Civil servant attending homeowner association meetings, resolving drainage problems with the staff and sharing ideas with department heads. He liked to sell Novi because it is a place to believe in and he thought he was a good advocate and cheerleader for the community. As presented in the budget we talked about the virtuous circle and he will be ready to keep that momentum we built together going. He would be ready to provide continuity of his work ethic and own unique leadership style that he has been able to show for the last four months.
Council Member Gatt believed government exists for the most important reason of public safety. Without Public Safety the roads and everything else would not matter. Can he assess what he thought are the strengths of Noviís Public Safety Departments, where itís been and where itís going and what he will to do to enhance those strengths?
Mr. Pearson concurred that the first priority of any government especially local government is Public Safety. When there is a problem or crisis, residents will call 911 and expect a response and deservedly so. Public Safety in a larger sense in terms of natural disasters, snow and ice control. Novi has been very fortunate because the Public Safety organization has a culture of service that is very genuine. Emergency preparedness has been one of our strengths and has always been a high priority. Over the last few months, we have gone through a new round of training sessions with our staff where we had everyone attend mandatory training sessions for personal safety, public safety, etc.
One of the best experiences, as a Manager, was the August 2003 blackout of the entire Northeast where he was at Erickson Fox Run Village with Mayor Landry. Our public safety department excelled because their teamwork with homeowners associations and neighborhood groups (10,000 water bottles were handed out). We learned greatly from that experience. Mr. Pearson was in charge of the emergency operations center for three days and to debrief everyone afterwards. In a report that he wrote regarding the lessons learned from that experience lead to upgrades to our generators and facilities.
Day to day our Police and Fire Departments are in capable hands and he felt comfortable at what we are able to provide for them. It is something that we want to monitor in terms of staffing and facilities, having targets for performance from staffing to service levels that are agreed upon.
His previous experience in Elgin, much different from here, urban, inner city, self-sustaining had all the problems that come with a full-blown urban experience. He led a Code Department when rental licensing was a big part of their Public Safety. He spent a great deal of time in basements there as part of their Legal Occupancy Enforcement Action. They had an anti-gang program, resident officer programs and other innovative programs that he brought with him to Novi.
Member Margolis asked him to describe how we should go about goal setting in this community.
Mr. Pearson said one of the best processes he was involved with, in Elgin, was the Community Input Sessions where they received input from 39 neighborhood meetings involving Boards, Commissions and basically anybody and everybody that would meet with them. He was in charge of writing down the themes that emerged from those meetings then make changes to the budget to meet those goals. He felt the assessment and what was put into place prior would help set lofty goals to decide where the community needs to be in five, 10 and 20 years down the road.
The City of Noviís Master Plan for land use was a well-conceived document that is under utilized at this point, with a lot of resources in it. Our fiscal analysis needs to be dusted off, refreshed, and used. And, Regular reports on progress towards our goals would be a key indicator of the framework.
Member Nagy asked what will he do to make sure our departments function better and our relationship with the business community would be smoother?
Mr. Pearson felt he was in the best position to help improve that further. When he first started, there were a lot of complaints which was a real concern. There was a very direct policy from City Council that change was needed. The system was very fragmented. There were 23 plan sets required for every submittal round that were distributed out, returned then distributed out again.
As you know, a big part of that transition was to outsource some of our work from the Planning and Engineering Departments. After being well into the process, it was discovered that not informing employees of the huge culture change that outsourcing was going to bring proved to be challenging, however a lot of progress had been made in this area.
For one, a lot of projects are getting done. The City of Novi had the most non-residential projects in the state of Michigan last year. With Councilís support, we recommended the Process Study which was exactly the vehicle to analyze what we are doing now and how we can do it better. Ask people what they want in terms of the customers and developers. Ask our staff what they can approve because they are doing the job every day. Have someone from the outside on this specific project whose experience is to make recommendations that we can implement.
After five years, we have changed and improved a lot which includes building reporting mechanisms that were not in place previously.
Member Mutch asked what in his past experience as an Assistant City Manager what would allow him to take on the role even though he havenít served in the capacity as the City Manager?
Mr. Pearson stated for the last four months that he had been the Acting City Manager would be a good indicator of future performance. On top of regular duties a budget document was prepared for City Council, and was approved. He thought he was absolutely ready to take on this new role.
He has worked with City Managers for the past 15 years, this is his chosen profession. Each Manager he has worked with and both types of communities, large and small, he has learned a lot. He felt he brought a certain freshness and energy to the job. Stamina is any part of an Executiveís job. He felt the discipline of training and preparing for a large event like running a Marathon would help him in his new role. He stays fresh by reading and attending training sessions. Novi is a young community and he can help bridge a generational dichotomy that is part of our workforce and our community.
Mayor Landry asked if Mr. Pearson was hired as City Manager what would he do different than the past City Manager, Rick Helwig.
Mr. Pearson believes his style is very open and transparent. He gets out and extends himself and tends to be more open to new technologies, he attended the Small Business Expo and Automation Alley. His style is open, transparent and results oriented.
He stated Mayor Landry was right about the roles. When you are the Assistant you are working for the Manager. The Manager takes direction from the City Council and the Assistants job is to help implement that within the organization to get things usually behind the scenes without much credit, which is fine and he is proud of the role and felt he did a decent job. He thought this was in preparation for the next role to be the Coach or the General Manager and that is where he is at now.
Member Gatt asked what was the biggest problem facing our community and what does he plan to do about it?
Mr. Pearson felt the biggest challenge was to keep the good things we have going on right now going. From his past experience in Elgin, Ohio, he felt once things were lost it would be very hard to get them back. Elgin had half of the assets that Novi does. Another problem is managing growth and making the City a desirable place to live; good schools, safe neighborhoods, good transportation and good basic services. Right now, we have a great reputation and the challenge is to keep that going. We are not doomed to decay and lose our tax base. There are plenty of examples of Cities around the country that have been solid for generations and which we should emulate.
Member Margolis asked Mr. Pearson what he learned in the past four months that he can bring to the future or what has he learned that perhaps he didnít know as an Assistant City Manager.
Mr. Pearson said that in terms of something he learned that he didnít know was his own leadership style. He realized, early on, he had to do it his way and present his own style on how he interacted with staff, Council and the Community. He figured out that his style will work. In terms of specific programs, he learned that his instincts were right in terms of listening in January when the joint meeting of the Planning Commission on the topic of Economic Development came up for the very first time. We need to have Economic Development goals. His instincts were right and thatís what led to the Sikich Proposal that is underway now.
Member Nagy thought being a City Manager is one of the toughest jobs a human being could do because it involves politics. The next toughest job would be to pick an Assistant City Manager that compliments you in some regard and is different in ways. What kind of person would you look for in an Assistant City Manager?
Mr. Pearson stated there are a lot of commonalities with a good assistant and heíd start with that. He thought he was a good assistant here and in Elgin because of his willingness and an ability to be hands on and to interact with different departments and solve problems. He was able to anticipate the needs of the Manager independently. He would look for someone who would compliment this community and again a high-energy, ready, willing and able to put in what it takes. This is a good organization and a great City. He would look for an assistant quickly. The staff has been really supportive in the past four months.
Member Nagy asked if Mr. Pearson would be looking to promote from within or look outside?
Mr. Pearson state that one of the first things he would do is to put in a job announcement would be for the Assistant City Manager to have a Masterís of Public Administration or equivalent. A generalist expertise is what we need here. As much as he would like to promote from within, our staff isnít deep enough or big enough to develop talent and give people that opportunity on a regular basis.
Member Mutch asked what his vision is for the City of Novi in the future? And, maybe a couple of examples of what he would like to see happen.
Mr. Pearson believed being the implementer is a good starting point. The other extreme in terms of writing vision statements as he did in Elgin and with this last Budget Document he tried to lay out the big picture. He felt he was gearing it in between the specifics of how you are going to get to that end. Organizationally, we have work to do such as the Performance Measure program which is an ongoing multi-year benchmark so we can assess where we are. A program like that will professionalize our operations quite a bit and give our council better decision making tools for the future. The Council needs to hold the Manager accountable on how our performance has been. This will give the financial measures of service delivery, customer satisfaction and certain financial indicators.
Building partnerships with other organizations such as schools, the Road Commission and the Automation Alley are things he would like to do more. The culture of this community is conservative, so he doesnít see building any massive civic facilities. The library is very important and we need to take a look at helping more to get a new one built.
The build out the City has a role in fashioning and shaping the future. The Main Street Development is something that can be done without spending a lot of city dollars.
Mayor Landry asked what Mr. Pearson thought the proper role of City Manager was when he/she sees the City Council is going in the wrong direction. Perhaps they are in the process of signing something that perhaps they may get sued over or embarking on something that is totally contrary to the staff?
Mr. Pearson explained that Mayor Landry laid out several examples and they all have a different answer. Our job is to present the information, give our recommendations as best we can and let the Council decide. His job was to present the information so that Council would come up with the same one. We will implement whatever the Council decides. He would always be ready to defend the policies and decisions of the City Council.
Member Gatt asked what he hoped to accomplishment within the next six months?
Mr. Pearson stated that in his Mutual Expectations document his six monthís goals are already in place. He would like to gather the Administrative group at Walsh College and do a mini-retreat. He needs to prep with the City Council regarding a Library presentation that they have asked to be done. Hire some key positions, an Assistant City Manager and a Fire Chief. A number of development projects. The Sikich Group study will be important over the next few months which will be implemented over the next six months. Finally, spend the time in December to give feedback on what the study revealed.
Member Margolis asked in terms of citizenís service, customer responsiveness, business community and residents, how would you manage performance and give some examples?
Mr. Pearson said the test he used prior was to track the complaints and then take them up with the Department Heads. He would be open benchmarking and look to other cities that currently have a program. He would also be interested in using an instant survey on the Internet to get feedback on our performance. Another example, in the Building and Planning Review Departments, when we complete a project a feedback form should be presented so we can learn from their comments. Feedback needs to be as constant and systematic as possible to get quantifiable results.
Member Nagy asked if Mr. Pearson if he were to be the City Manager would he set up a five- year budget so he could marry that with Economic Development?
Mr. Pearson responded yes. He stated, his first year in Elgin, he was part of building the first five-year financial plan which helped confidence levels. Any multi-year budgeting is helpful. He said the County adopts a two year budget that is intriguing and seems to have some advantages. If nothing else, it would help to get us out of the Annual talk about minor things and get that more routine. He was nervous with this budget because they didnít find time to do a full goal session. In September, that will be one of his six-month goals, to do a full goal session.
Member Mutch asked what his timeframe, Council willing, to be here for the long-term.
Mr. Pearson said he didnít plan to be leaving in the near term. Depending on the challenges, a City Managerís Code of Ethics dictates a minimum of two or three years in any position. He was in Elgin for nine years and the City of Novi for five plus years and ready to make that next five year plan.
Mayor Landry asked what does he think is Noviís biggest asset?
Mr. Pearson thought the biggest asset Novi had was our location and it is our responsibility to take advantage of that. It affords us the ability to demand a lot from our developments. We donít have to take the first offer that comes in. When he first came here, there was a lot of talk about quality development standards and maybe that has become so accepted that we donít talk about it anymore. He would look to reinstate that vision. As a student of government, we are in a good location.
Mr. Pearson stated the interviewing situation is not his forte, he would rather talk about what the Community or what the Council is doing. It also requires a lot of looking back and he would rather look ahead. Rick could deliver a stump speech that would motivate a large group. When we had the blackout, the staff was very complimentary. They said, "you didnít give us a speech about what we needed to do, you gave us the ability to do our thing ourselves and you were there when we needed you."
Mr. Pearson said he will be out there talking one on one with employees, residents, and to small groups, like what was done last Fall, administering the Administrative pay packages. He felt there were a lot of things he could offer, is in support of the Council and the decisions being made. He will help the Council to be successful.
Mayor Landry thanked him for stepping forward to interview for this job.
Dave Stout, 223715 Niland, wanted to point out a couple of things going on this weekend in Novi. The Novi Jaguars have 367 teams that are going to participate in a tournament. The tournament started with 60 teams four years ago. This is a very large event. Also, the Wizard of OZ has been heavily attended, sold out with additional shows selling out. If you have an opportunity, try to see it. Hopefully within the next few meetings they will come to us with a short presentation with Park Naming Rights.
There being no further business to come before Council, the meeting was adjourned at
David Landry, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, City Clerk
____________________________ Approved on: May 22, 2006
Transcribed by Kristine M. Niemi