Muskegon Selects Its Top Candidate to Fill City Manager Job

Andrew Trzaska | July 31, 2013

A special city commission session Wednesday ended with the selection of Muskegon’s new city manager.

The mayor and commissioners collectively voted 7-0 to offer its soon-to-be-vacant city manager job to Franklin “Frank” Peterson.  Peterson will assume his role when current city manager Bryon Mazade retired at the beginning of October.

The commission spent the better part of Tuesday interviewing four finalists from a pool of over 50 candidates identified by Texas-based Waters Consulting Group. View live-blog updates from Tuesday’s interviews:

Rich Houtteman, Deputy Administrator for the City of Kentwood, Michigan

Kathy Dillon, City Manager for Union City, Tennessee

Franklin Peterson, City Manager for Springfield, Michigan

Natasha Henderson, City Manager for Muskegon Heights, Michigan

Commissioners and the mayor ranked the four candidates ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, giving points to their first and second choices. 6 of the 7 ranked Peterson as their leading choice, Kathy Dillon received one top vote, and the other candidates tied for third with a portion of the second-place rankings.

Peterson has run Springfield since 2007, but spent time as city manager of Grant, Michigan from 2005-2007. Prior to that he was a planner in the city of Lafayette, Indiana. At 32 years of age, he was the youngest of the four finalists.

During his interview, Peterson emphasized the similarities between Muskegon and Springfield, which he characterized as an urban area even though it is a suburb of Battle Creek. He also expressed a desire to be involved in economic development efforts in the city, saying the city manager must be a part of it.

Commissioners were positive about the decision to offer the job to Peterson.

“I was impressed with all of the candidates as well, and would like to congratulate Mr. Peterson,” said commissioner Willie German, Jr. “I was looking for a new face to take Muskegon in a different direction… I think he was very impressive.”

Commissioners German and Sue Wierengo also commented on Peterson’s energy shown during his interview.

It should be noted that Peterson is a finalist for the city manager job in Port Huron. It was not apparent at Wednesday’s meeting if Muskegon’s offer will end his pursuit of the Port Huron job.

On a question from commissioner Lea Markowski, city attorney John Schrier said the commission would be able to choose how to proceed if Peterson does not accept the offer.

After the vote, Commissioner Eric Hood commented on the seemingly lopsided endorsement of Peterson compared to other candidates:

“The candidates were much closer than the vote showed,” said Eric Hood. “I want to thank them for applying for the job.”

At this time, city staff will work to negotiate a contract with Peterson.  The contract will return to the commission for an approval before Peterson is official in the role.

 

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst