Buchanan police chief interviews for city manager position

Published 11:49 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Niles Daily Star

BUCHANAN — Some familiar local faces are interviewing for a city manager position in Buchanan left vacant after the June resignation of Meg Mullendore.

In the second night of interviews, city commissioners spoke Tuesday with Buchanan Police Chief and acting city manager William Marx, a St. Joseph resident; Kevin Gillette, Cassopolis village manager and a Stevensville resident; and Douglas Alexander, most recently the executive director of the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County.

Alexander, who has worked all his life in the Port Huron area, announced his resignation in May from his position with the EDA, where he had served since 1999. He worked for the City of Port Huron prior to that.

Alexander explained he resigned due to political turnover in the government and the tough economic conditions in the area.

“I’ve always wanted to be a city manager,” he said Tuesday. “I have always been interested in this side of the state.”

He said his strongest assets are his experience in economic development and grant writing. He also boasted of his handling of public complaints and his open door policy.

“They (the public) should know who the city manager is and that that person is approachable,” he said.

Alexander said he is especially proud of a mile-long park he developed to replace a former industrial site.

He first visited Buchanan four hours prior to the interview, and said, “the city has done a lot of good things so far you can build on,” elaborating that grants could be obtained to concentrate on the downtown area.

Alexander said he is flexible as far as salary is concerned, and he would be willing to relocate his family to Buchanan.

Gillette, a lifelong Berrien County resident, said his thoroughness is one of his greatest traits and economic development is one of his weakest. He says he possesses a working knowledge of budgeting and auditing.

“I think Buchanan is making some good strides,” he said.

Gillette said he applied for the Buchanan position prior to his contract negotiation in Cassopolis; however, his contract was not renewed.

Gillette also served on the Berrien County Planning Commission for 12 years and is a trustee for Lincoln Charter Township.

He said in his first 90 days as city manager, he would familiarize himself with the community, its budget and the commission.

Gillette currently earns $63,900 plus benefits, and would prefer a salary package in that range. He would not relocate because of his wife’s job.

Marx has served as police chief for five years and has been interim manager for 2 1/2 months, a dual role he said he would maintain until the end of the budget year. The double-duty would save the city as much as $100,000, he said.

“It was a little bit intimidating,” he said of taking on the manager role.

“In that career as a police chief … I’ve had that experience,” he added. “When I came down to Buchanan, I really felt I made a difference in the department. They now focus on pleasing the people they work for.”

Marx, who grew up in New Buffalo, originally wanted to become a paramedic, but was offered a position with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department soon after high school, and stayed there for 27 years. He held positions as sergeant, lieutenant and chief deputy.

He also lauded his open door policy and said, “I buy into the same philosophy I’m trying to teach.”

Marx requested that if he is offered the job, he would like a 5 percent raise, which would bring his salary to $65,000 per year. He said he would not likely consider relocation because of his emotional attachment to his longtime home and also family in St. Joseph.

On Monday night, the commission interviewed Joseph Erickson, the former county administrator for Delta County, Mich.; Rebecca Fleury, the financial services manager for the City of Kalamazoo’s Public Safety Department; and Mark Heydlauff, a recent graduate of Western Michigan University with a master’s degree in public administration who works for the City of Sturgis.

A seventh candidate, Eileen Bensen, will not be interviewed.

The Buchanan City Commission is scheduled to make a decision Monday on which candidate they would like to offer the position.