Buchanan hires recruiter, names interim city manager

Published 9:46 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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BUCHANAN — An interim city manager has been named following the resignation of Buchanan City Manager Heather Grace and a search firm tasked with hiring her replacement was also chosen during Monday’s City Commissioners meeting at City Hall.

City Commissioners unanimously selected Tim Lynch to serve as interim city manager. Lynch, who recently retired from his manager position at the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Wastewater Treatment Plant, will begin work as interim city manager Wednesday, March 1. He will make just under $43 an hour working between 32 and 40 hours per week and must receive approval from Mayor Sean Denison and Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Weedon if needed to work overtime.
“(Mr. Lynch) has high credibility, very strong standards and great references,” said Commissioner Patrick Swem. “He filled a big gap for us; we lost some institutional knowledge in areas that he had expertise… He has a long track record in the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor community and well-respected overall. He will help keep the ship straight while we begin our search.” 

Frank Walsh, President of recruiting firm Walsh Municipal Services, spoke highly of Lynch.

“He is an excellent choice for interim manager,” he said. “I worked with Tim for 15 years when he was heading the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor plant.”

Search firm hired

Commissioners also agreed to a $12,900 contract with Walsh Municipal Services to aid in the city’s search for a new administrator.

Founded in St. Joseph in 1997 and currently based in Okemos, WMS primarily focuses on recruiting and finding municipal managers for Michigan municipalities. Last year, WMS conducted 24 recruitments. WMS was responsible for the recruitment of former Buchanan city manager Mike Hughes, who held the position for 2.5 years before taking the same position at Sturgis in 2005.

As the president of WMS, Walsh has more than 35 years of municipal management experience. Walsh said that he is familiar with the Buchanan community, having officiated several Buchanan High School basketball games over the years. WMS was chosen over groups such as the Michigan Municipal League and Baker Tilly, with WMS presenting the lowest bid.

“I’ve been doing it for 30-some years, it’s not as difficult as what people make it to be,” he said. “You want to focus on candidates who, number one, know how to treat people. You have to be able to be personable to do well at this position. Number two, you have to have some leadership skills and know how to complete a project. If you know how to do those things, you can be a great city manager.”

After creating a community profile consisting of the city’s needs, WMS will handle much of the grunt work for the search, including a four-week recruiting period before vetting candidates and having the commissioners select the top five or six candidates they would like to interview. Walsh believes that the 45 to 60-mile radius around Buchanan will be a heavy recruiting area due to costs associated with moving long distances and purchasing a home.

“The economy has changed everything,” he said. “I’m struggling to get candidates to move five counties away. Right now a person who’s going to come to Buchanan is probably up and coming in the field. They have a mortgage; they’re paying 2.2 percent on their mortgage, They’re going to move here for $15,000 more. Big raise, right? Now they’re paying 7.5 percent interest because they just bought a house and they’re paying $600-700 more for their monthly payment and there goes the raise. It’s really difficult; It changed recruitment and recruiters have to pay attention to that.”

After hearing Walsh’s presentation, Weeden came away believing that WSM was the right fit for the job.

“I was very impressed with him and I think that we need, in this moment of difficulty, someone who is very candid with us about what we can and can’t do while we move in the right direction,” he said. “He obviously exudes leadership qualities that we want to see in our candidates and I believe that he’s going to find somebody of that nature.”

“He gets us, he knows us,” added Mayor Denison. “It’s evident looking at the factors that he put together.  I like the fact that he’s easy to talk to and is very straightforward. He’s been successful doing what he does.”