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Posted on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Council to begin search for new city administrator to replace Roger Fraser

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-0 tonight with one member absent to establish a Council Search Committee to recruit a new city administrator.

The charge of the committee is to place on the April 19 council agenda a recommendation for an interim city administrator and to present a plan for the selection process for a permanent city administrator. Internal and external candidates will be considered.

With confirmation from the council, Mayor John Hieftje appointed four council members and himself to the search committee.

The committee will be chaired by Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward. Other council members appointed to the committee include Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward; Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward; and Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward.


City Administrator Roger Fraser

Ryan J. Stanton |

City Administrator Roger Fraser is leaving the city at the end of next month to take a job in the state treasurer's office. He has been the city's administrator since 2002.

The City Council, which is in charge of hiring and firing the city administrator, received a letter of resignation from Fraser on March 2.

Hieftje said the committee was chosen not based on seniority, but rather by his own efforts to try to get a good mix of council members with various backgrounds and experience.

"I come with a lot of baggage to this committee," Derezinski said, "because I used to be involved in superintendent searches for schools, including here in Ann Arbor a couple of times, and the process is a unique dynamic and one that is incredibly important."

Whether the city hires a search firm is one of the decisions the council must make. Derezinski said he'll be encouraging the council to consider tapping some outside expertise.

"I think we definitely have to consider that as part of this process," he said. "And I think also as Sandi Smith mentioned there has to be full robust discussion in terms of the process by the full council and that's what I think the mayor certainly has mentioned he intends to have."

Hieftje said questions such as what salary range will be advertised are yet to be decided, but he sees no reason to vary much from the current level. Fraser currently receives a base salary of more than $145,000. He'll make $131,000 in his new position.

"We'll be considering all those questions," Hieftje said. "That salary, if you look at comparative cities, Mr. Fraser's salary is not on the high range. I think it's probably on the lower end, but I don't see any reason going into this why we would change that."

Hieftje said it's his intention to make the search process a quick one. He said he'd like to have a new city administrator hired by the end of summer, if not mid-summer.

"I don't see us taking too long with this," he said. "We'll be working with the city HR department, and we'll be, I'm sure, talking to other people like the Michigan Municipal League."

Hieftje said he's not sure the city needs to hire a search firm.

"I think that we can do this without hiring a search firm," he said. "I'd like to save the money, for one thing, and I think we can do just as good a job by using other resources. But there are other members of the committee that might have another opinion and I'm happy to discuss it."

Among the most likely internal choices for the city administrator position would be Sumedh Bahl, community services area administrator; Sue McCormick, public services area administrator; and Tom Crawford, chief financial officer. There's been no confirmation yet that any of them are even interested in the position, though.

According to the city ordinance that establishes pension benefits for city employees, the annual pension benefit level for all nonunion employees is equal to the final average compensation times 2.5 percent times the number of years of service. As a person qualified for full retirement, Fraser also will be able to have his medical care covered by the city in retirement.

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, Mar 22, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Please don't offer a candidate $30,000 to live in the city only to take the money turn around and reside somewhere else. Also, provide the administrator a City Motor Pool Car instead of paying him $5,000 a year to drive his own.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

Fraser is ahead of the game. Have you thought about why he might be going from Ann Arbor into state government?

Pete Warburton

Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

Let the us embrace the concept of consolidation and use Ypsi's Fire Chief and City Manager . A move like this may help us get some of our tax dollars back from Mr. Snyder.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

No hurry. Soon Governor Snyder will declare Ann Arbor as financially distressed and will use his new imperial power to replace the administrator position, the Mayor and the City Council. Secretary of State Dillon may even send Roger Fraser back to Ann Arbor but this time with dictatorial powers to dissolve contracts and create new ones to his own specifications. And he will get a salary increase as well!

rusty shackelford

Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

I know it's part of city law, etc, but what is the point of a city administrator? Aren't his tasks those that the mayor performs in cities without an "administrator?" Why this extra layer of unelected, costly bureaucracy? Are small towns concerned that no resident is competent to actually competent enough to run things? Really, can someone explain this idea of administrator as distinct from mayor to me?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

If what you're saying is what you believe, you don't understand the type of "strong administrator/weak mayor" kind of administration Ann Arbor has. For the most part, elected officials do not have the knowledge or background to administer multi million dollar budgets, negotiate contracts, manage 800 employees etc. If Ann Arbor did have a "strong mayor/administrator" not only would this person have to run for office every two years instead of managing city business, but the'd be able to massage a budget to favor their re-election.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

Because our elected officials are too dense to understand a smoke and mirrors budget

rusty shackelford

Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

Sorry about typos in second to last sentence...


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

Wanted: Dictator with the following job requirements: 1) Build some more disgusting buildings that no one wants, or can afford. 2) Dismantle all public workers, but tell residents "everything will be ok" 3) Spend lots of tax payer dollars on studies that a 5th grader has enough common sense to do. 4) Must be a good puppet master. (Strings to mayor and council members will be provided.) 5) Live outside the city after getting an extra $30k TO live in the city. 6) Must be arrogant. 7) Other duties as you see fit.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

Also, is he going to work in the State treasurer's office with plans to become the emergency director for Ann Arbor after Gov. Snyder uses the "Shock Doctrine" as in the book by Naomi Klein to dismantle Ann Arbor municipal and school district contracts? It would be ironic to declare Ann Arbor in violation because of expenses Fraser endorsed and then send Fraser in as the Emergency Manager. Don't think it couldn't happen, but hope it doesn't.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 10:11 a.m.

Well if taking a firefighters course over the summer qualifies someone to become fire chief, maybe someone who took an online course from Harry's Bookkeeping School over the summer can be the new city administrator. And goodness, who negotiates benefits for the administrative non union employees at the City? Oh never mind.