City Commission to reassemble to decide next steps in city manager search


The sun sets on City Hall in this 2019 file photo from downtown Mount Pleasant.

A summer-long search effort for the next Mount Pleasant city manager seems to be nearing its end as city leaders evaluate final candidates. 

The city commission will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26 after one of the final two candidates slated for interviews dropped out of the search.

The city announced in June it would recruit Okemos-based executive search firm Walsh Municipal Services to aid in the process. Out of 63 applications received over the summer, the city commission eventually narrowed it down to four finalists. 

Each of these candidates were publicly interviewed over the weekend in the Commission Chambers at City Hall. 

The four candidates are: 

  • Justin Lakamper, Chief Administrative Officer, Village of Edmore, Michigan
  • John Hanifan, City Manager, City of Chelsea, Michigan
  • Susan Montenegro, City Manager, City of Leslie, Michigan
  • Aaron Desentz, City Manager, Eaton Rapids, Michigan

After taking the weekend to mull over the interviews, the commission regrouped for its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, Aug. 23 to discuss the results. The discussion quickly turned into a lengthy and heated argument over the top contenders. 

When all was said and done, commissioners approved a proposal by Commissioner Petro Tolas asking Hanifan and Desentz to return to Mount Pleasant for second interviews.

In a Tuesday interview with Central Michigan Life, however, current City Manager Nancy Ridley disclosed the latest change of plans. 

“When our recruiter contacted (Desentz and Hanifan), Mr. Hanifan respectfully declined the offer and has now withdrawn,” Ridley said. “So, the remaining candidate is Mr. Desentz.” 

Since the commission voted only to invite the candidates back for second interviews, Ridley said the commission will need to reconvene in a public format to decide the next steps. 

“I’d like to keep the process moving,” Ridley said. “It was my hope there would be a smooth transition between the time I left and the time someone started."

The two choices before them are to either reevaluate Lakamper and Montenegro which means moving forward with more interviews or extend an offer to Desentz right away. 

Ridley announced her retirement from the municipal government at the commission's April 26 meeting. The news came after nearly 24 years of service in the local government and seven years in her current position. 

“Part of me is excited to move on and do something different,” Ridley said. “But part of me is also sad because I won’t be here or be able to work with the staff or influence what’s happening in the city. It’s a bittersweet feeling.”

Ridley said her official last day will be in October.