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Posted on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Ann Arbor city administrator finalist withdraws, leaves 2 candidates to be interviewed

By Ryan J. Stanton

One of the three finalists for Ann Arbor’s city administrator job has withdrawn his name from consideration, city officials said this afternoon.

Harry Black, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Global Commerce Solutions Inc. in Washington, D.C., no longer is in the running. That leaves two candidates — Ellie Oppenheim and Steve Powers — who will be in town this week for interviews.

"The committee decided to select three candidates, not alternatives, so now we have two to interview," said Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, a member of the search committee.


Harry Black

"Each candidate that the committee selected had a different strength," she said. "It seemed to me really clear that Mr. Black had a lot of financial strength and that's a good thing to have, but we'll see what we think when we meet the other people."

Powers has served as the administrator in Marquette County since 1996. Marquette County sits on the south shore of Lake Superior and is home to Northern Michigan University, so he brings experience dealing with a university — which Ann Arbor officials are looking for.

Oppenheim was president and CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority since 2006 but resigned in February saying she wanted to be able to spend more time with her ailing mother. She currently serves on the Nevada State Commission on Tourism and Destination Marketing Association International Board of Directors.

She also has worked for the cities of San Jose and San Diego, as well as the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University.

Ann Arbor received about 60 applications for the administrator job. A consultant hired by the city, Affion Public, narrowed the pool of candidates down to nine last week.

Briere and other members of the search committee reviewed the qualifications and backgrounds of those nine and decided on the three finalists. She acknowledged there were multiple internal candidates.

Briere said it wasn't a conscious choice to go with external candidates only. In fact, she said there was no discussion of it.

"Council members took a straw poll — they named the letters of the candidates they liked and there was consensus on these three," she said. "We didn't know who were were looking at."

The search committee is chaired by Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward. Other members include Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward; Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward; Mayor John Hieftje and Briere.

Powers and Oppenheim are expected to participate in interviews with council members starting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday inside city hall.

The public will have a better chance to meet the finalists at a public reception for the candidates in the Justice Center lobby at 301 E. Huron St. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

On Wednesday, individual candidates will participate in public presentations to the City Council in the city hall council chambers from 8 a.m. to noon. Each candidate will present for 15 minutes followed by 40 minutes for interview team questions.

The presentations will be televised on Community Television Network.

Briere said she's going to refrain from making any judgments until after the interviews. She added she's not committed to making a decision between only Powers and Oppenheim

"If the two that are remaining don't do it for us as a whole council, that's not going to kill us," she said. "Tom Crawford is doing a fine job in the interim and we can reinitiate the search or go back and look at the other candidates."

For more info on the candidates, read their bios here.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

the mayor and UofM run Ann Arbor so it's a case of which one of the two candidates can brownnose these two entities the best.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 8:37 p.m.

And the Mayor is Mary Sue Coleman's "boy"! Signs his UM paycheck every month! Talk about a "company town".


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

When I read the headline, I thought "let it not be Harry Black." Having read the resumes, the man appeared to be outstanding. So, of course, it was him who withdrew. I really don't understand why the other two were applying or how on earth they made the finalist list. I think they should start over, but they won't. Neither of the remaining two look like they could hold a candle to Fraser. He did an excellent job under very tough circumstances.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

Democrats will be the downfall of this country.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

task nearly complete!


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

So, based on this sampling of responses to the last remaining candidates, it seems that we have wasted our money paying a consultant to find viable candidates. I even read that the selection committee might decide to go back to the consultant and find more candidates. Why wasn't this done in th first place? I do not believe, based on a review of these candidates bios that the consultant did the job that needs to be done for the Ann Arbor residents. Whether this is a failure of the consultant, the selection committee criteria or both. In any case, we are about to watch our elected officials hire the wrong person to help lead our city. I personally do not wish to be in this position. Collectively, we need to stop this and demand a change in our leadership.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

Not too surprising, really. Same old stuff, different day. Until the voters wake-up and vote the current administration out, they will continue as they always have, so no one should be taken aback. Voters need to see credible alternative candidates, before this can happen, otherwise they choose the devils they know, not the ones they don't. Surely, we can do better than this crew.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

The most solid candidate would have been the one with the financial background. I'm guessing he did his homework and saw the mayors and councils agenda and did not want to become involved in the political circus. One of two candidates left with a background in tourism...really? Since Ann Arbor is a city, not the Grand Canyon please hire someone who can manage a city and provide the basics services the citizens have been screaming for and not run it into the ground further.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

As the world turns again...absolutely ridiculous that these were the best candidates that could be found. Seems to be the same 'ol junk. History continues to repeat the absolutely atrocious job of hiring department heads and city managers. For a city like Ann Arbor we should only settle for absolutely the best. Again we will be wiping egg off our faces.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

Both of these candidates reminds me of what Rush Limbaugh always says about Progressives,Liberals,Democrats that FAILURE is a Resume enhancement! Both have run organizations that can be considered LOOOOOSERS! Ms. Oppenheim ran Reno's tourism and it dropped dramatically after she took over and she left being Deputy Mayor in San Diego after reduce her pay by $12,000. Sounds like a loooser! Mr. Powers had some issues with people retiring and then 30 days later being hired by the county so that they could collect a pay check and a pension. Sweet deal! I want to retire and work for HIM. $$$$$$$ I am sure that this one is the city employees choice!


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

It is a shame Mr. Harry Black seemed like was great choice. @AA City Counsel let not screw this one. Citizens of AA are tired of that.

Dog Guy

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

Although just a candidate, was Mr. Black able to buy enough time to start drawing an Ann Arbor pension?


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

A good one, Dog Guy.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

I don't understand how Oppenheim made the cut considering her credentials. Where is her experience managing a city of some size and a demonstrative record of acheivement working with multiple unions in what can be a toxic city hall? This candidate simply does not meet the standards that should be used in screening city manager candidates. Again, are we using our resources to best advantages when using an outside agency to select candidates? It seems to me we have enough talent in the state whereby we could at least come up several qualified candidates withour resorting to suspect recruiting agencies who have their own criteria tied to a fee.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

You might want to check out the comments section on the site: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Seems like Oppenheim has some baggage that slipped through the screening process.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

Fascinating comments in the Chronicle. Maybe the folks should read it and write a piece on the failure of Governors Granholm and Snyder to tweet on the subject of choral music.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

I just read the information in the link provided. If this is true about Ms. Oppenheim, how did this candidate make it through the review of the consultant?


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

It would be nice to have a &quot;Michigan&quot; Man or Woman...If it looks good for the football team, it will also look good for the city. With the art fair, university, and many conferences, Ann Arbor does not need help with tourism, just city politics.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

Apparently the candidate who withdrew must have done due deligence on Ann Arbor.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

Or read this blog on a regular basis.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

Time to sell and move out of Ann Arbor. Our council leadership is dysfunctional, not willing to be prudent spending our money and do not have a clue how to pick viable candidates for the open positions. Time to get out of here.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

Don't let the screen door hit'cha....


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

Smart move.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

Ellie Oppenheim for city manager? Why? She has little ongoing city management experience, and left that field for tourism. Apparently, this is exactly what mayor and council want. On the other hand, it seems she has (controversial) experience in convention and hotel marketing. So, that explains it . . . While the mayor and council continue to micromanage the city with their hidden initiatives, agendas, and folly buckets and fountains, the new city &quot;manager&quot; will be spending their time marketing the Hieftje Hotel and Conference Center. Time to dust off those library lot yard signs ?