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Chief the only candidate for city administrator

Published 10:45pm Monday, February 7, 2011

The Niles City Council will interview Wednesday the only internal candidate to apply for the city administrator position, which will be vacated in September due to Terry Eull’s retirement.

Niles Police Chief Ric Huff, a 25-year city employee, said Monday he’s had his eye on the position for about three years.

“It’s an opportunity to apply a lot of background training that I have into a new job with new adventures and new responsibilities,” Huff said. “My entire work career I’ve always progressively moved forward in responsibilities.”

Huff, 48, has served as chief for 10 years.

Eull, who has worked for the City of Niles and also Niles Charter Township for 34 years — 13 as administrator — said he was not surprised at Huff’s application, and added that it is not unusual for a city the size of Niles to have only one or two internal candidates.

“You need to be serious about it,” Eull said. “You go through a meat grinder. You are going to be interviewed in the public.”

According to Eull, the city consulted with the Michigan Municipal League about hiring processes. It recommended the city only interview its internal candidates first because few external applications are usually received when it is known that an internal candidate is applying.

“I think Ric would be an excellent candidate,” Eull said.

The cities of Buchanan and Three Rivers have hired police chiefs as city administrators.

“It’s not a stretch with a police chief,” Eull said.

The new Niles city administrator will begin Oct. 1. A hiring date has not been determined.

Eull said that the job description for city administrator is extremely broad. He manages six department heads, about a dozen departments and a $30 million total budget.

“You deal with a lot of issues,” Eull said. “You’re a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
Although extensive experience in any one area is not a requirement, an administrator will have to possess the skill set to tackle what are expected to be severe budget cuts from the state this year.

The governor is slated to release his budget Feb. 17, when cities will learn what they will receive in revenue sharing. Eull said he is “extremely concerned” about the $7 million general fund, which encompasses the police department, fire department, assessor, clerk and treasurer.

“We’d like to get someone on board now,” Eull said.

Calling the upcoming year “an extremely challenging year — not just for Niles,” Eull said, if the Michigan Business Tax is eliminated as proposed, Niles could lose $300,000.

Huff said he is not a newcomer to budget cuts.

“On a smaller scale, we’ve been dealing with these budget issues for a couple years now,” Huff said, giving staffing and services changes as examples. “I’m prepared to take on that challenge with the city.”

If Huff is hired as administrator, the city will also have the task of hiring a new police chief. The chief is appointed by the city administrator, with guidance from the city council.

“Selecting a police chief can be a fairly lengthy process,” Huff said, explaining that the process would likely begin immediately if he is hired.

However, the chief does not claim to have the job in the bag.

“I completely understand that this is 100 percent in the council’s hands,” Huff said. “I’m looking forward to the interview this Wednesday.”

Huff said, ideally, he would like to be hired as administrator and work the remainder of his career in that position.

“I could easily see myself working the 10, 12 years in the position,” he said. “By then, I’m 62 years old or so.”

Eull said he will be present at the interview Wednesday, although he is not involved in the interviewing or hiring processes.

Huff will be interviewed during the Niles City Council’s committee of the whole meeting at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 1345 East Main St.

The interview is open to the public, although citizens are not permitted to comment or ask questions.

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