City Manager Interviews: Bruner fields tough questions about previous manager positions

As City Commission moved into its second round of city manager interviews, the group of Mount Pleasant's highest elected officials set its sights Tuesday on finalist Robert Bruner.

The interview was part of a three-day slate of special meetings set aside to decide on the city's new leader. Using the same set of questions throughout the interview process, commissioners had moments to interject with follow-up questions.

Bruner spoke about lessons learned while working in various cities and environments unlike Mount Pleasant.

He stated that if he is chosen as the next leader of the city commissioners will get fresh ideas but also the knowledge from those other positions.

"I've had mentors from all over and my leadership style is made up of pieces of their leadership styles," Bruner said. "One thing that sticks out to me is when I was assistant city manager in Ypsilanti, and the manager and I were on a walk. I remember him reaching down to pick up a piece of trash and thought 'wow, the city manager isn't above something as small as picking up a piece of trash.'"

Bruner has held multiple city manager positions across the state, and leaned on his experience working with a diverse set of municipalities of different size and priorities.

However, some commissioners questioned his ability to dedicate himself to the city. Citing Bruner's resume, Commissioner Jon Joslin pointed out that the finalist has never stayed in his previous jobs for more than four years.

Joslin wondered if Bruner's use of terminology such as "detached" and "frequent candidate" throughout his interview were any indication of his intentions with the position.

Joslin also questioned whether or not Bruner would use the job as another stepping stone in his career.

Bruner countered by saying he would have been in the positions longer if other opportunities hadn't presented themselves. Bruner added as a young public servant, he was trying to forge his career with each step.

Other commissioners found objection with some of his wording, such as Mayor Sharon Tilmann.

Tilmann pushed Bruner to answer a question about age discrimination and acceptance in the workplace after Bruner made a comment about retiring populations.

In his interview, Bruner said that recruitment and hiring is often hard because of the sheer numbers of retirees from long-held positions and the lack of able bodies to fill that vacuum.

"We have 45 million (people born in generation x) to take the place of 75 million baby boomers who are finally retiring," he said.

When pressed by Tillmann, Bruner said he mentioned used the word "finally" in jest.

At the end of the final interview sessions, Susanne Gandy, executive director of human resources for Mount Pleasant, gave a summary of city staff feedback on the candidates and who they believed would be the best fit.

The summary mentioned only two out of the three candidates – Bruner was not named in the summary report.

Check back with for updates on city commission's final city manager decision.