Buchanan commissioners narrow search for City Manager

Published 12:56 pm Monday, April 24, 2023

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BUCHANAN — A familiar name is among the three finalists for the Buchanan city manager job. Former Niles City Councilman Robert Durm will be one of three interviewed by the Buchanan City Commission at a special meeting on Wednesday, May 3. 

Buchanan City Clerk Kalla Langston reported that City Commissioners will interview Durm at 2 p.m. on May 3, South Bend area store manager Bryan Hall at 3 p.m. that day and Millersburg, Indiana superintendent Benjamin Eldridge at 4 p.m. The interviews will take place at the Buchanan City Hall, 302 N. Red Bud Trail and are open to the public. 

City Commissioners held a special meeting last Monday, April 17 to review the 39 applications received and to narrow the field down to those they wished to interview. 

Langston said it’s not clear when commissioners will make a final decision on who they want to be the next city manager. She doesn’t expect a decision to be made next Wednesday. 

Durm described himself as “resourceful community leader and professional” with “25 years’ experience managing and completing complex projects” in his letter of interest for the job. 

“I have always had a love of government and public service,” he wrote on a candidate questionnaire. “It is my passion. When I drive through communities I can’t help but notice what communities do with their resources. It’s in my DNA.” 

“I think Buchanan has done a phenomenal job taking advantage of the resources the town has to offer. I would love to take part in continuing the success that the city has proven. It would be exciting to work with leaders in the community to see the Buchanan Vision come to fruition.” 

He served for over 24 years on the Niles City Council until 2018 and is currently the assistant director of transportation for the South Bend Community School Corporation. He is also the director of the Cass County Transportation Authority. His skill set includes experience working with people, strategic planning and budgets. 

Hall has been a Walgreens store manager in South Bend since 1998 and is a native of Columbia City, Ind. He wrote that he is familiar with the Buchanan area and enjoys “the small town atmosphere of visiting the Red Bud City.” He described Walgreens as a neighborhood business that is customer based on many levels. 

He said he thinks he would be a good fit for the job as he has a proven record of team building, overseeing multiple projects and listening to the needs of the community he serves. He said his skills also include multitasking and organization, payroll management to budget and sales development. 

“The opportunity to start a career in public service is exciting to me,” he wrote in his candidate questionnaire. “I grew up in a small town and would like to be a part of a city that was voted ‘The Nicest Place in America’. I have always enjoyed the small town atmosphere, making connections with the people around me and being a problem solver.” 

“I my current role at Walgreens, I work with the public every day and have achieved excellent customer service scores year after year,” he wrote. “I have years of experience working with a budget and overseeing various projects to meet deadlines. I am good at handling stressful situations and having a positive outcome even if a tough decision has to be made.” 

Eldridge is a professional water and wastewater operator with over 20 years of experience in local government management and operations and community development. His community development experience includes forming a 501c3 organization that served as a Main Street organization. 

“I strive to maintain open communications within the departments and collaborate with external departments and agencies,” he wrote in his letter of interest. “I am organized in nature, adaptable and have a personable attitude which makes me the right candidate for this position. I take ownership of tasks quickly and am adept at problem solving and strategic thinking.” 

“I have worked extensively and collaborated with Millersburg residents and other local municipalities to help warrant a positive outcome for the community and their residents. I have strong attention to detail 

that ensures that I get my work done in a timely, efficient and organized manner.” 

“I applied for this position because I am seeking a more challenging opportunity in my field,” he wrote in his candidate questionnaire. “Your job posting was especially exciting to me because Buchanan is an active community, well known for its many amenities and growth opportunities. I would be thrilled to work for the City of Buchanan.”     

The search is being conducted by Frank Walsh, president of the Walsh Municipal Services recruiting firm. The commission hired the firm in late February. Walsh is a former St. Joseph city manager, is familiar with the Buchanan area and also assisted in a previous Buchanan city manager search. 

The city manager position became vacant in mid-February when the commission and then manager Heather Grace reached an agreement for her departure from the city. She had been city manager since August, 2020, coming to Buchanan from West Branch, Michigan. 

City manager duties have been in the hands of Tim Lynch since March 1. Commissioners selected him to be the interim city manager in late February. Lynch is recently retired from his position as the manager at the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Wastewater Treatment Plant.