Sue McCormick's departure for job in Detroit leaves Ann Arbor key administrative opening
Sue McCormick, Ann Arbor's public services administrator, has been chosen by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing for a new job as director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
McCormick was introduced to the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners earlier this week, according to published reports. The board must vote to approve her selection at its next meeting on Nov. 16. If approved, McCormick would start Jan. 1.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje confirmed on Friday that McCormick, one of the city's top administrators, is leaving for the new job.
"I think for the Detroit community and the surrounding communities that use Detroit's water system, this is going to be very good for them," he said. "Sue McCormick always did excellent work at the city of Ann Arbor and I'm sure she will continue that in her new position."
McCormick's departure comes just seven months after City Administrator Roger Fraser left Ann Arbor to take a new job as deputy state treasurer in Lansing. Fraser was replaced recently with Steve Powers, who left his position as Marquette County administrator to come to Ann Arbor.
Hieftje said conversations about how to replace McCormick are just starting, but he's confident the city will be able to manage the transition.
McCormick is the third-highest-paid city official at $135,600 a year, just behind the city administrator and city attorney. Hieftje said McCormick is one of five service area leaders or so-called "bubble heads" in the city's administration.
She oversees the entire water and sewer utilities system, which has included overseeing the complete rebuild of half the city's wastewater treatment plant — an ongoing effort that is considered by city officials to be the largest capital project in the city's history.
She also oversees the city's entire physical infrastructure, including roads and maintenance of city facilities and parks. She also oversees the public art program.
"Sue handled a lot for the city and I think the discussion will revolve around whether that's a job one person can handle or should it be split up," Hieftje said, noting back in the 1990s about five people would have done the work McCormick handled.
A native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a graduate of Michigan State University, McCormick joined the city of Ann Arbor as water utilities director in January of 2001.
Before that, she spent 22 years with the Lansing Board of Water and Light, serving as environmental chemist, environmental laboratory manager, manager of water and steam planning, water technical support manager and business development manager.
McCormick also is an active member of the American Water Works Association, an international organization representing more than 58,000 drinking water professionals. She and her husband have three sons and one daughter-in-law who all reside in the Lansing area.
"Sue certainly was a reservoir of institutional knowledge and one of the best people I've ever worked with, but I think there are very good people under her, so it'll be fairly seamless," Hieftje said of the transition. "I think everything is left in good hands."
In addition to McCormick's departure, the city is bracing for the potential retirement of a large number of city employees, including several police officers.
Newly negotiated employee contracts take effect Jan. 1, and retirement benefits for those who retire after that point will be less than if they retire by the end of the year.
Hieftje said employees are required to give 30 days notice of their intent to retire, so the city will have a better idea after Dec. 1 of how many employees it expects to lose. He predicted there could be as many as a dozen police officers retiring, and he said the city already is sifting through a pool of 350 applications for police officer positions to replace them.
"There's just a huge pool of experienced, high-quality officers out there looking for work and we should be able to take advantage of that," Hieftje said.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.
Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.
BornNRaised...I was referencing your comments, not the article. No where in the article do the terms "huge concessions" or "distrust and anger" appear. They come directly from YOUR comments. I was not trying to belittle you, but anyone who is in or had worked with unions knows that laid off employees come back before anyone is hired.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.
@Gladtolivenorth... Those things the look like " are called quotes. That means the statement between the quotes was not MINE, but rather directly from the Mayor. So before you try to belittle me with your comments, I suggest you go back and read the last part of the above story. That statement came from him, not me.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.
wow. i almost missed this good news. "She oversees the entire water and sewer utilities system" ah.... the water people. where have i heard about them? oh... 1. they gave money to the art in front of city hall. so money from them went to art and not water related stuff. (which tells me that their priorities were on art, and not on other things) 2. there was mold in the basement of city hall. for a long time no one fixed it. that was a water related issue. 3. we had a spill in ann arbor that the water people were unable to solve. 4. this is one of the most powerful jobs in ann arbor. she had more power than many folks. 5. in the past year, i have heard stories of chromium, dioxane, etc... and questions about that. to be frank -- because of their inability to solve #3 (and other reasons).... i'm happy to see a new replacement come in. but, i'll be nice and wish her the best in the future....
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.
Oh, how could I forget #6. Issue #6: The new Fuller Parking Lot -- construction is nearing completion on the water/sewer portion of that. How could I forget this in my list? There is a term... NIMBY. McCormick, best wishes in Detroit.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.
Of course the laid off employees will be brought back first...that is Union contract 101...maybe BornNRaised should check their facts first, but it is much easier to promote "distrust and anger". Also, I don't recall reading about the "huge concessions" that the police made....paying something at all for your medical benefits doesn't seem like a "huge concession"...get real.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:35 a.m.
Just think next year the city will layoff the officers they just hired
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.
Ha.....thats pretty funny. but probably true.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:52 a.m.
In my opinion, Sue McCormick has been an effective administrator. She has never been a policymaker. The distinction is between a machine that operates as designed and the person who is pushing the buttons. (This is not meant to say that she is machine-like or robotic.) Roger Fraser set policy in his administrative style and many of his directions were resented by a substantial fraction of Ann Arbor citizens. Sue McCormick simply performed the tasks she was given to do. I've watched Sue at a number of meetings and presentations She asked some good questions when that was her role. In explaining plans and financial projections to council, she was often devastatingly frank, if you could pick up the meaning of what she was saying from her rather perfunctory bureaucratic delivery. Just the facts, ma'am, and sometimes that's just what we need to hear. I think her best place is as a technocrat, and that sounds like where she is headed.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.
"He predicted there could be as many as a dozen police officers retiring, and he said the city already is sifting through a pool of 350 applications for police officer positions to replace them. "There's just a huge pool of experienced, high-quality officers out there looking for work and we should be able to take advantage of that," Hieftje said." Wow... how about hiring back those that you laid off? Good thing the officers took the huge concessions you were looking for, only for you to, once again, stab the city workers in the back. Hey Powers, you keeping up with these stories? Next time you ask the employees why there's such a high level of distrust and anger, read that quote again.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.
i like Powers... he seems like a nice guy.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.
I believe they have to hire back those laid off first.....can anyone confirm that?
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.
Can we merge the 'bubble' with another 'bubble' and just have 4 bubble heads now?
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.
"Hieftje said McCormick is one of five service area leaders or so-called "bubble heads" in the city's administration." Bubble head is a term that's usually used interchangeably with "air head". Not a complimentary term. So is Hieftje not familiar with the meaning or is he trying to tell us something?
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:10 p.m.
By any definition, Bubblehead, or head of a bubble, is a department head. It had to have another name because of the Fraser "reorganization" couldn't have "departments" because that was the "old" terminology of organizing. The city spent a ton of money on the reorganization that really didn't change much of anything, now that economic reality has set in.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.
I worked with Sue McCormick and she was one of the most respected and dedicated employees the City had--the Detroit Water and Sewage Department is lucky to have her. Good luck Sue!
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.
What could you possibly know? The geniuses have already spoken! Anyone could do a better job for half the money!! Khurum, I totally agree with you! Ann Arbor's loss is Detroit's gain. Keeping the infrastructure up to date is even more important than fire and police! Thank you Sue!
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.
it better be one person job and for the same amount of money. if not you should tap the art fund. we are watching our city dollars.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.
Let's raise the position's pay by $50,000 and hire a headhunter firm to find her replacement!
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.
Lots of potential applicants here at .com! Most would be willing to do the work for 1/2 the pay, for the good of their community.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.
What's going on in Ann Arbor? It seems like no one wants to work for the city anymore. Could it be because of the way they treat their employees?
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.
Obviously you are being sarcastic.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.
Perhaps it is the outlandish current retirement benefits that will be reduces at the end of the year. People who retire now will keep those benefots and still work at another career.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.
Let the house cleaning begin. Frazier, Rupondalo, McCormick........................keep the ball rolling.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.
Maybe her replacement will be smart enough to stop adding fluoride to our drinking water. Fluoride is nothing more than toxic industrial waste. According to the EPA, fluoride is too toxic to dispose of it in rivers and lakes, but, but they are putting it in our drinking water. Does that make any sense? The Union of EPA Scientists have testified in Congress advising our politicians not to fluoridate our drinking water because it causing bone cancer, thyroid problems, flurosis, reduction in IQ, and many other health problems. Recently Montreal and numerous other cities, based on sound scientific evidence, have decided to stop fluoridating their drinking water. Why can't Ann Arbor study the issue and make the right choice? We are literally paying (with limited funds) to poison our residents. Really smart. 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation <a href="http://www.fluoridealert.org/50-reasons.htm" rel='nofollow'>http://www.fluoridealert.org/50-reasons.htm</a>
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:45 a.m.
No evidence fluoride reduces cavities. Europe does not fluoridate yet have just as good teeth. Even if fluoride is good for your teeth, why do we have to drink it? It is already in the toothpaste. That is really smart. Drink fluoride to reduce caviies and increase the chance of getting cancer. Genius! No wonder cancer rates are skyrocketing. By the way, the ADA lowered the recommended fluoride levels from 1.2 ppm to .7 ppm a few months ago because at 1.2 ppm, it was destoying children's teeth. What do you think it was doing to their bones and organs?
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.
in order to be taken seriously G. O. you should site your references. The ADA on their website says 50% fewer cavities per child when there is fluoride in the drinking water and now the recommendation is .7ppm. Ann Arbor doesn't need to study the issue to know. It is now mandatory for all municipal drinking water in California to add fluoride to the drinking water. Many sources on the web are very unreliable if you haven't heard. That article was written by a quack quack duck!
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.
Hey Orwell, If you are so against flouride, you can easily remove it from your water <a href="http://www.pure-earth.com/fluoride-water-filters.htm" rel='nofollow'>http://www.pure-earth.com/fluoride-water-filters.htm</a> The rest of us prefer it in our water.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.
No, I am not a dentist. You do not have to be one to realize that ingesting toxic waste is not good for you. You just need some common sense and probably just a junior high school education.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.
G. Orwell, are you by any chance a dentist?
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.
@ Elaine, "All these items were shot down a half century ago when flouride became the norm for drinking water." They also told you smoking was good for you. The fact that fluoride is a toxic industrial waste, confirmed by the ADA, should be enough to tell you that it is a hoax. Fluoride provides no benefit to your teeth and it is a poison. Just look on the back of your fluoridated toothpaste. It says to call poison control if you swallow a pea size amount. Yet, they are feeding this poison to us every day. Is that enough of a clue for you? Or, do I have to explain further. You should know that about 90% of European nations do not fluoridate and they have teeth that are just as healthy. I wonder why.
Elaine F. Owsley
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.
This opinion must have been written in clay with a stick. How behind - like 50 years - can a person get.? All these items were shot down a half century ago when flouride became the norm for drinking water.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.
Do we really have to replace all the people that retire or leave? A smaller, more people friendly government is my choice.
Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.
I think a one for one replacement would be the correct choice. No need to create additional management positions.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.
I disagree. It should be split. This is way too much power for one person. This job is one of the most powerful jobs. Forget becoming mayor or on the council... this job has power. "She oversees the entire water and sewer utilities system, which has included overseeing the complete rebuild of half the city's wastewater treatment plant — an ongoing effort that is considered by city officials to be the largest capital project in the city's history. She also oversees the city's entire physical infrastructure, including roads and maintenance of city facilities and parks. She also oversees the public art program "