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Posted on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 9:41 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Administrator Roger Fraser resigns to take job in state treasurer's office

By Ryan J. Stanton

(This story has been updated multiple times.)

City Administrator Roger Fraser publicly announced his resignation at tonight's Ann Arbor City Council meeting, telling council members he'll be taking a new job as deputy state treasurer for local government services starting in May.

"I have the opportunity to join the administration at the state level to work with the treasurer's office," Fraser said, describing his new role with the Michigan Department of Treasury.


Ann Arbor City Administrator Roger Fraser

Ryan J. Stanton |

"The local government operation there really has a lot to do with overseeing how cities are doing with their finances. The most particular thing they do on an annual basis is to look at debt load and whether or not you have appropriate budgets to pay for debt."

Fraser has been Ann Arbor's city administrator since 2002. He said it's with mixed feelings that he's leaving the city, but he plans to stay on long enough to deliver his administrative budget recommendations to the council in April.

He said he won't be around for debates on the budget in May, though.

"This is a bittersweet kind of thing for me because this has been a great ride for me in Ann Arbor. I love this place," he said. "I love the folks who work here, and it's going to be very hard to walk away from that."

Fraser said he'll continue living in his home in Loch Alpine, off Huron River Drive in Webster Township, and make the commute to Lansing.

He said he was tapped for his new position by state Treasurer Andy Dillon. The area he'll be working in is involved with the administration of the state's emergency financial manager program, which has been a hot topic in Lansing lately.

Fraser said he couldn't say how closely he would work with the emergency financial manager program, because it's in what he described as "a state of flux" at the moment.

"What I did basically is say, look, here's my background, here's the financial load that you're taking on, you don't have a whole lot of people in your organization that have the local government experience, and they determined that they liked what I had to offer," he said. "So there's a whole lot of stuff that's really up in the air."

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, who has been in office the entire time Fraser has been city administrator, said Fraser's leadership will be missed.

"I was here when Roger came onboard, and I believe he's done a great job for the city of Ann Arbor," Hieftje said. "You don't need to look any farther than the fact that we wouldn't want to trade budgets with any city in the state. You know, we have our challenges, but we've reorganized, and we haven't had to raise taxes. Those are good things."

A native of Oakland County and a political science graduate of the University of Michigan at Dearborn, Fraser worked for 11 years in Michigan counties as a labor negotiator and human resources director before moving to Colorado, where he managed multiple cities.

He then took a job in Blaine, Minnesota, as city manager in 1996, and stayed there until accepting his current position in Ann Arbor in April 2002.

Hieftje called Fraser a "high-quality city administrator." But he said the city also has some "very able" senior administrators who can step up and fill his shoes in the interim.

"I think council will need to get together and pick someone to serve immediately and then we'll make some decisions about the longer term," he said, acknowledging Sue McCormick, the city's public services area administrator, is one of the people the council likely will consider.

The city's charter states that the City Council must fill the city administrator's vacancy "as promptly as possible." During the vacancy, the charter states, "the council may appoint an acting city administrator to act until the new appointee assumes his duties."

Fraser currently receives a base salary of more than $145,000 as city administrator. No information about what kind of pension he will receive was immediately available.

He'll make $131,000 in his new position.

Fraser said he's proud of his accomplishments over the last nine years. He cited efficiencies in how the city is run and capital projects the city has taken on.

"The council, when I was hired, had a number of agenda items for me to take care of," he said. "First and foremost was to get our financial health in order, which we did in a fairly short order — only to have it constantly challenged from year to year."

Fraser also cited the fact that the city's work force has been reduced from more than 1,000 full-time employees to somewhere around 700.

"I believe that today — with a more than 30 percent reduction in staffing we have in the city of Ann Arbor — we're still doing a remarkable job in providing services," he said.

He pointed to the construction of the Wheeler Service Center at 4251 Stone School Road and the Ann Arbor Municipal Center — a.k.a. police-courts building — at 301 E. Huron St. as two capital projects he's proud to have worked on.

"Those were both on the council's agenda when I was hired in 2002 and I'm pleased to be able to say that one is obviously up and running and very healthy, and the other one is getting near to completion," he said. "And we'll be having a grand opening on that in the months to come."

But some remain upset that Fraser pushed the construction of the $47.4 million police-courts building at a time when the city is making deep cuts and laying off employees. In some union circles within the city, the new building is referred to as the "Raj Mahal."

The city of Ann Arbor has seen its total primary government debt more than double from $107.6 million to $248.2 million while Fraser has been city administrator, city records show. On a per capita basis, the city's debt has gone up from $943 to $2,199.

Hieftje gives credit to Fraser for helping reorganize the city over the last decade.

"We've gone from a period when there were over 20 department heads and we have five now," he said. "That's some of the reorganization we've done. So good things have happened with Roger here, and it does not surprise me that he has been tapped to move up to a higher level."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 8:01 a.m.

@ a2townie4life If not Sue McCormick for City Administrator who else? Tom Crawford maybe?


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Tom Crawford? You have to be kidding. Now that Fraser is leaving, he'll be gone as soon as he finds a private sector job that pays as well as his public sector one.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 3:46 a.m.

Does anyone think Fraser would have lasted 9 years if he were not doing exactly what the Mayor and Council wanted him to do? I dont. Blame the micro-managers with their arsty and eco-expensive initiatives.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 3:20 a.m.

He and Sue McCormick have had it out for the unions for a long time - don't kid yourselves. Was anyone paying attention when several year ago under the guise of "restructuring" the workforce they sold us a re-org that was supposed to save us a bunch of money. For years they paid a lot more money to union workers to do exactly the same job they were doing before. It wasted a lot of our taxpayer dollars and in the end still undermined the strength of the union. They have slowly dismantled departments and many workers are just cogs being shifted from job to job at the expense of an experienced workforce who wanted to do a good job. Workers used to take pride in their work because they new they had a career path, now they don't care because they are just a general, non-titled piece of the municipal machine. Glad to see Fraser go and hope not to see McCormick get any part of his old job.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

Raj looked ahead, and realized that the light at the end of the tunnel WAS, in fact, an oncoming train, and got off the tracks. I notice his new salary is lower than what we pay him - he probably saw the hand writing on the wall about his salary prospects here, too.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

He can afford a pay cut once you realize how much he is going to get as a pension from A2


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Gee no big surprise there! how many of these so called demoncrats in leadership role here in Ann Arbor would jump at the chance to work with Snyder and all his other union busting republicans. Hey mayor and city council, why dont you go join your republican friends too. Good by Roger Farwell!!!


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

If number of employees was really reduced by 300, why did Fraser claim there was a space problem that required an expensive addition to City Hall?


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

I worked with Mr. Fraser and was always impressed with his depth of knowledge on how the City and its various Departments functioned. He'll be a great asset to the State. Good luck, Roger!


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

The reason Fraser knew how the city functions is that scrapped everything that came before and remade it from the top down according to corporate business design. I'll admit he made departments more accountable financially but couldn't do the same for the elected officials.

Leslie Morris

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Why was this story taken off the web page?


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

Hey, perhaps he should think about carpooling to work with Rick Snyder.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

Note that I've updated the story to note Fraser will make $131,000 in his new position.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

Post how much he will get from his pension from A2 for just 9 years!!!!! Let all see.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

Since he says he will remain in Washtenaw County, I wonder if his travel perks will be greater than the $5000 he currently receives to drive his personal vehicles as city administrator?

Mike Martin

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Well time to start a national search for a new administrator. And let's get realistic and recognize that we'll never get the sort of talent we need, the sort of talent that is leaving with Mr. Fraser, unless we commit to a salary in the $500,000 range. I'm sure the council already has that sort of search in pre-planning stages. After all, it's only money, our money, and the mayor and council are excellent at spending it and then justifying their spending.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

If Fraser is so good then he has trained his staff as part of his work here. Let's promote from within -- no national searches, please -- and NOT fill the position of the person promoted.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

While Fraser never lived in the city, nor paid a dime in taxes to support it, he constantly included himself, often referring to "us" and "we" when speaking about the city and its residents. Like almost every city administrator in the last 20 years he was not of this place, nor did he understand the city. He looked at the city as a problem to be solved and never had any interest in being part of the city that he served or in the taxpayers who paid his generous salary and benefits.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

City employees do not have to live in the city. After taking a $30,000 bribe from council to live in the city Fraser chose to live take the money and live in the township anyway. Additionally he gets a $5000 annual stipend to drive his own car to work. It seems that a city supplied Chevy isn't good enough for him for his 5 mile drive to work.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 3:36 a.m.

Not exactly sure why a city employee MUST live within the the limits to be credible, hard working and honest. Your argument is made especially weak by the use of both absolutes and generalizations. But thank you for you opinion!


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

Good riddance!! His body language always made it clear who he thought was in charge. Maybe this time we'll get someone who really appreciates the city.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

Thanks for all you've done Roger. It's comments like this that I think back to all the wonderful things you've done for this city. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

Context, people, context! Guy Larcom was administrator in the 60s. The economy was *terrific* in the 60s compared to today. The economy today is as bad as the Great Depression. If Larcom was any good as an administrator, he would have done pretty much what Fraser has done. Fraser has *not* tried &quot;dismantling public service unions&quot;, that's what Gov. Walker is trying in Wisconsin. Fraser has just cut costs to try to keep the budget balanced. That's also known as doing a good job as administrator. Unless the voters are willing to vote for an income tax, that's all the guy has to work with. The City Hall add-on was in the Capital Improvement Plan a decade ago. So basically, Fraser has done a great job in the most difficult economy in living memory. It's our loss, and the state's gain. Too bad for us, but the state needs all the expertise it can get.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

There are more ways to destroy unions than simply locking them out.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

If Fraser was serious about balanced budgets, he would have given up some of his perks and not increased the city's long term debt.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Sorry, but you have no clue in regards to Fraser's desire to dismantle public service unions. The city reorg was designed to cut AFSCME off at the knees. It worked.

Top Cat

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

I'll take the job if the City is willing to pick up my tab at Arbor Brewing. On a serious note, with what is coming down the pike, this is going to be a difficult, thankless job. Whoever takes it will need to made of stern stuff.

Bob Martel

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Eight years is a long time to fight the good fight in Ann Arbor. Good luck with the new assignment, Roger!

Barb's Mom

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

Why does he get a pension? He's only been working for the city for 9 years. Does every City employee get a pension after 9 years? Also why does he need such a big salary? The city is asking the police, fire department and other employees to take a cut in pay so this salary should be cut also. And the City Administrator should be required to LIVE in the city of Ann Arbor as should the Major. If they are responsible for creating budgets and budget deficits decreased services etc., they should have to pay for them with the same Taxes as the City residents

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

&quot;&quot;I believe that today — with a more than 30 percent reduction in staffing we have in the city of Ann Arbor — we're still doing a remarkable job in providing services,&quot; he said.&quot; Like snow removal, etc.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

&quot;The city of Ann Arbor has seen its total primary government debt more than double from $107.6 million to $248.2 million while Fraser has been city administrator, city records show. On a per capita basis, the city's debt has gone up from $943 to $2,199.&quot; Nice to know this information now that he's leaving to work for Union Buster Andy Dillion. So can you break this 'debt' down to specifics projects for us?


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

&quot;No information about what kind of pension he will receive was immediately available.&quot; Why would Fraser (or anyone) get a pension if he's resigned from his job? I should say quit, because that's really what he's doing... quitting.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

More talent pulled from Ann Arbor. What's good for the gander is good for the goose.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

&quot; It does look like Ann Arbor is taking over State Government.&quot; is that a surprise to anyone?

Bob Martel

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

I agree. It does look like Ann Arbor is taking over State Government. Let's hope we don't fall flat on our faces!


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:45 a.m.

Mr. Fraser was actually an excellent administrator. His largest liabilities were the micromanaging mayor and city council, and their folly focus. These liabilities prevented him from running the city in an efficient, service-oriented manner. As usual for the a2 city administrator position, politics strangle performance and efficiency. How ironic that Mr. Fraser becomes a state overseer of how cities are doing with their finances and budgets. Might there be a certain focus on unfunded pension liabilities . . . by a pension recipient? Further irony: It is likely that cities that have ability to pay their way will be expected to do so, without state help . . . Enjoy, a2


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

PS . . . &quot;Hieftje gives credit to Fraser for &quot;helping&quot; reorganize the city over the last decade.&quot;&quot; &quot;The city of Ann Arbor has seen its total primary government debt more than double from $107.6 million to $248.2 million while Fraser has been city administrator. . . On a per capita basis, the city's debt has gone up from $943 to $2,199.&quot; The circumstances that lead to these numbers are solely the result of mayor and council plans and actions . . .


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 8:52 a.m.

@bugjuice- so right you are. She's been grooming herself for this position since day one. Though Shallow Mayor, &quot;we've gone from ...over 20 department heads and we have five now..., that's the reorganization we've done...&quot; WE? Did Roger do this? If it was so keen to complete, why wasn't it done during your watch before Roger got here? So again, it's not the Mayor who runs the city on a daily basis, the mayor is just a figurehead, so please stop taking credit for much of what you've simply didn't to. Do you, mayor, take credit for doubling the the primary government debt too? Oh, sorry, this from someone who wants to keep open a decade long money losing golf course. So I guess you can take credit for doubling the debt!


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 6:11 a.m.

Roger Fraser's resignation will bring glee to many Ann Arborites, but the sad truth is his replacement may be no better. He was overpaid and only had a fraction of the abilities of Guy Larcom. He was not a good fit for Ann Arbor; a manager with a zero personality. He was a political hack for the Council Party in Ann Arbor and likely will be one for Treasurer Dillon. If he had one &quot;talent&quot; it was dismantling labor unions; a task he heartily enjoyed. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Roger.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 4:32 a.m.

Geez, At least he could have moved to Colorado like his classless Police Chief. What was his name? Carl Oates? Warren Oates? Hall n Oates? Ah who cares anyway. Good riddance.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 4:24 a.m.

Sue McCormick will be the next City Administrator.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 4:19 a.m.

Oh, oh. We won't have Roger Fraser to kick around any more. I'm sure the next guy will be better - just like Roger was better than Neil Berlin. Who hired him anyway?

Geek Chick

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:56 a.m.

Resurrect Guy Larcom. He was the only City administrator in memory who understood the job and did it well. He also left a legacy for future generations. I think of him fondly every time I go to Gallup Park, or drive on a well-planned road that he helped get built. And he was wise about people.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:53 a.m.

when the going gets tough the lightweights leave.

Joe Hood

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:40 a.m.

I had assumed the new state program was targeting the Detroit city schools (where court orders are wreaking havoc on the appointed manager there). Looks like A2Chronicle and scooped a2politico.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

Fraser was the only voice of reason in negotiating with unions in this town. Now that he's gone the unions will rule the roost.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

I'm waiting for Alan Runt to pop out from behind a curtain. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

The &quot;Edit Button&quot; is your eyes carefully reviewing your text prior to clicking on the &quot;Submit&quot; button.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

where is that pesky edit button when we need it?

Joe Hood

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:53 a.m.

He'd look pretty ghostly. Time to switch Ann Arbor to a strong mayor government?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

Funt Aaaaaaargh

Mike Jennings

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:29 a.m.

I would like to throw my name in the hat for the City Administrator job. I have lived in Ann Arbor for the past 27 years and am sure I know and understand Ann Arbor better than Roger Fraser, who has never lived here. This is my city. As it is yours. We should make it great. From the roots up we shall grow.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

I am guessing 2.5% x 9 years plus his health care. Just a guess but an educated one. I could be wrong though.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:17 a.m.

Snyder will use Fraser's skill at dismantling public service unions.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

He will also teach other municipalities how to make budgetary magic with shell game financing.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

I hope so.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

So what is his pension agreement or did they stop that plan after Neil Berlin?

Dominick Lanza

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 4:18 a.m.

Free health insurance for life hes bailing out as the truth about the City finances will start to unravel. His blatant hatred for our fire department has cost us another Fire Chief who got frustrated with his obvious lack of concern for public safety. Maybe he will take City Manager in training Sue McCormick with hime so she can build state facilities in Ohio out of the state like the Wheeler Center out of the city. Tom Crawford and his shell game of budget construction could use his talents at the state level . Wake up people its a golden oppurtunity to tell the Council to end these follies