Saline City Council Interviews Candidates for the City Manager's Job
Saline City Council interview four finalists for the city manager's job Monday night.
The finalists are David Uhl, Village of Dundee manager; Michael Hart, City of Fenton assistant manager; Colleen O'Toole, City of Durand manager; and Todd Mutchler, Northville Township manager.
Members of city council asked 17 questions of each of the candidates.
Citizens are invited to watch the interview and submit feedback via Surveymonkey.
Council is expected to consider the candidates at its meeting next Monday.
Uhl has been the manager of the Village of Dundee since 2015. His wife, Joanna, is the supervisor of Dundee Township. Uhl spent 34 years working with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office before creating a police department in Dundee. In 2016 he ran for Monroe County Sheriff as a Republican candidate, challenging the incumbent.
"I do not sit behind my desk. If you want to see me in Dundee, come out to a construction site, or Cabela's or one of the hotels. I go around and talk to the businesses," Uhl said, adding that he makes his cell phone number available to all the business owners and residents in town.
"If there's a problem, I go to their house," Uhl said.
He said he was proud of securing the Army National Guard headquarters for the Village of Dundee. It's going to bring 600-800 families to Dundee each weekend and help businesses and hotels. He said he was also proud of securing a line for the Dundee Chrysler plant, adding 700 employees to the community.
Hart has been assistant manager of Fenton since 2017. He's also been the director of the Downtown Development Authority there. He was also Davison City Manager and Watervliet.
Hart is a native of West Bloomfield who worked in real estate and economic development before joining government work. He's a graduate of California State University.
"I'm very fortunate to work for a very high performing and exceptional municipality, like Saline. Some of the ways (we build trust with the community) are by being transparent, accessible," Hart said.
He said he has an open-door policy in Fenton, that he often visits businesses on Main Street and that he makes his cell phone number available to people.
"You have to be consistent and available and over time to build that trust," Hart said.
Hart was asked about things he was proud of during his career. Hart referred to his days as Davison city manager during the recession. He said that during his tenure, the city audits were sterling, the fund balance was healthy, water and sewer operations were turned around. The city was honored for having "the best tasting water" in Michigan.
He said the key to the success was building a strong team.
Durand, who grew up in the Cleveland area, was hired as Durand city manager in 2017. Before that she worked as chief operating officer for Chicago-based technology company Cartofront. She'd also worked in development as managing director for the Andersonville Development Corporation and as an economic development specialist for the Greater Livingston Economic Development Council. She has a master's degree in public administration from DePaul University.
O'Toole said as Durand city manager, she helped the city become more transparent.
"There was bad blood between staff, council and residents. From day one, what has always been a hallmark of my career has been transparency and honesty," O'Toole said. "Things will go wrong, invariably. But accepting responsibility and being honest about what happened and what you learned from it, that's where you build trust."
O'Toole said she'd approach matters in the same manner in Saline.
"I would not be afraid of working on issues and admitting where we are falling short, communicating our progress as we manage those goals and overcome those challenges," O'Toole said.
Asked about her proudest professional accomplishment, O'Toole referred to starting in a basement, by herself, with nothing but a bare-bones budget, with instructions to launch the Elmspring Accelerator, a seed-stage technology accelerator that supports start-up companies. She watched that grow into a business model that funded dozens of start-ups and three major corporations.
Mutchler was hired as Northville Township manager in December of 2019. Prior to that, he worked as the township's deputy director of police services and director of public safety. He has more than 30 years of municipal experience and was also public safety director for Canton Township. He earned a master's degree in interdisciplinary technology and a degree in criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University.
Asked about building trust between council, staff and residents, Mutchler said transparency is paramount.
"We must be sure the citizens are aware of what the government is doing, so they can be informed and make informed decisions," Mutchler said.
When managed public safety, the department initiated Nixle alerts and a social media presence. As township manager, he provided a weekly report to the board so they understood what was happening in the various departments.
"As elected officials, you all need to be informed. The only way you're going to make good decisions is if information is being shared and presented. Through that, trust is built," Mutchler said. "It's also about the courage and tenacity to address things that aren't always so present."
Asked about things he was most proud of in his career, he spoke of being appointed public safety director in Canton and being accepted to the FBI National Academy.