Despite strong support from commissioners, some residents raised objections
Mount Pleasant City Commission named Nancy Ridley as its new city manager.
The decision was announced during a special meeting called by the commission Wednesday evening. The decision was reached after a unanimous vote, with Vice Mayor Jim Holton abstaining because he was not present at the commissioners other two special meetings earlier in the week.
Each of the commissioners took turns discussing what they liked and didn’t like about the candidates during their interviews, expounding on their choice and why.
“We had three very good candidates, but one was head and shoulders above the rest, and that candidate is Nancy Ridley,” said Commissioner Tony Kulick.
Kulick spoke first in the line of commissioners. As each commissioner had his or her turn to speak, they echoed each others sentiments.
Commissioners citied Ridley’s knowledge of the city, willingness to take on many hard tasks at once and moreover, her willingness to learn as much as she can about a subject before she can make a decision.
Ridley was named as interim city manager in January after long-time city manager Kathie Grinzinger retired from her post. Ridley worked as the city’s director of finance for sixteen years, and was chosen by Grinzinger to act as assistant city manager during her time in office.
Ridley did both the CFO’s job and the interim gig simultaneously while commissioners commenced a national search for external candidates. Ridley put her hat in the ring for the position early on.
While each commissioner shared similar views on Ridley’s strengths, they also echoed each others concerns about appointing her to the position.
“Anyone who has worked with Nancy Ridley knows that she’s a smart director of finance and a smart employee,” said Commissioner Kathleen Ling. “But I’m looking at the bigger picture. The advantage of maybe choosing an external candidate is getting someone with a fresh point of view and a fresh pair of eyes.”
Ling ultimately chose Ridley.
In his portion, Kulick added that residents and some city staff felt Ridley might not be creative enough to lead the city in an innovative direction.
Before the meeting began, commissioners opened the floor to public comment. Some residents attended the other two sessions, which allowed introductions for the candidates and public interviews.
Mike Lents, of Mount Pleasant and husband of Planning Commissioner Allison Quast, urged the city commission to take a risk on one of the external candidates, citing that choosing Ridley would be a vote against change.
“Most young professionals live here because they grew up here, my wife is an example,” Lents said. “That needs to change, and tonight we have an opportunity to align the values of our city with those of young families and young professionals who want vibrant downtowns.
“Regardless of who we pick, the city will be fine, but I want it to be great. And that requires some type of risk.”
Lara Raisanen, vice chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and her husband Samuel raised similar concerns. Samuel Raisanen is an economics professor at Central Michigan University.
“All three candidates for city manager are competent, qualified and would do a good job,” she said. “I like Nancy Ridley personally. If I knew her better, I know I would call her friend. Nancy is the safe choice. She is continuing Mount Pleasant on a trajectory that they city is already on.”
Mayor Sharon Tilmann defended the commission’s decision and Ridley as a candidate.
“I was born in Mount Pleasant and I love this community,” Tilmann said. “One of the things I love is the vibrancy of this community and its willingness to move forward and change. We embrace change and the new. We are the leaders.
“I have worked closely with Nancy since I become mayor, and if I bring an idea forward to Nancy that’s out of the box, she’ll always listen.”
Kulick said that while Ridley may not be the most creative individual Mount Pleasant has to offer, she makes up for her lack of innovation by being “the most thorough.”
Commissioner Jon Joslin seconded Kulick’s notion, but also countered by saying that CFO’s can be extremely creative in different ways, even if not artistically.
After the vote, commissioners discussed and made a motion to charge a search committee for a new CFO, pending a potential staff reorganization plan put forth by Ridley. Tilmann was appointed to head up the search committee.
Ridley said in her interview that if chosen, she would need to time to develop the plan or to decide if a reorganization is needed.
Unlike the city manager search, which was done using consulting firm Colin Baenziger & Associates, the CFO search will be handled internally.
Joslin said that if by some chance Ridley didn’t work out within the first year, Baenziger’s firm could either return some of its compensation to the city or start the search process over again.
Check back with cm-life.com for more stories on city commission’s pending CFO search.