Grand Traverse County commissioners will interview three candidates for the position of county administrator after a search firm assisted the board with narrowing a field of 45 applications down to a handful of finalists.
Commissioners met Wednesday with Vice President Jaymes Vettraino of search firm GovHR USA to discuss the finalists and identify candidates they wanted to invite for in-person interviews. Vettraino told the board a total of 45 applications were submitted from 14 states for the county’s top position, which will be vacated by retiring County Administrator Tom Menzel at the end of 2017.
After reviewing each application, GovHR USA pared the candidates down to 35 who met minimum qualification requirements and then conducted further assessments – including Skype interviews, social media and light background checks, and reference calls – to present five recommended finalists to the board.
Commissioners referred to candidates by number instead of name while discussing them during Wednesday’s meeting. But full biographical and resume details on each candidate were shared with the board, and were also obtained by The Ticker through a Freedom of Information Act request. Commissioners acknowledged Googling candidates’ resumes to find out their identities and referred to background details on candidates during their discussion. Both Vettraino and Chair Carol Crawford noted candidates would no longer have an expectation of privacy heading into the public interview stage. “They know they’re out here at this level,” Crawford said.
After voting on their top candidates using an informal straw poll, commissioners decided to invite three finalists for public interviews. Those candidates include:
Joe Pandy (Indiana) – Pandy has been the general manager of Peru Utilities – a $34 million/year municipally-owned utility in Peru, Indiana – since May 2016. Prior to working at Peru Utilities, Pandy managed two rural electric cooperatives in Colorado and Texas and two other municipal utilities in Lansing, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio. He has a B.S. Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering degree from Illinois Institute of Technology and M.B.A. from Ohio University, as well as a minor degree in Natural Gas Technology from the Gas Technology Institute in Chicago.
Pandy wrote in his application that his sons attend Gaylord St. Mary High School and that the “Grand Traverse County location is highly desirable for me and my family, as we frequently spend time in the Traverse City area.” He noted that in addition to his municipal and utility leadership experience, he has “proven experience in economic development projects, having been vice-chair of the Greater Lansing Economic Development Commission (EDC) and Tax Increment Financing Authority and chaired the Chambers of Commerce in three communities.”
Colonel Thomas Perison (Michigan) – Currently a contract project co-lead at the Michigan Defense Center/Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Perison served as the garrison commander at Camp Grayling Joint Military Training Center from 2014 to 2016. He also served as the chief of training and education at Army National Guard Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and was a military assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon. He was deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and has a Master of Science (Strategic Studies) from the U.S. Army War College and a Master of Science (Engineering Management) from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Perison wrote that his expertise includes “installation/city and project management, organizational leadership, economic development, strategic planning and community engagement.” He said he has led “large, geographically dispersed organizations exceeding 600 people” and managed budgets of $2.2 billion. “The Camp Grayling, Michigan military base functions closely align with that of a county administrator,” Perison wrote. “I believe I can add value to Grand Traverse County and excel as its next administrator.”
Erik Tungate (Michigan) – Tungate has served as the city manager of Oak Park, Michigan since 2012. Prior to that, role, he served as acting city manager of Hamtramck, development officer for Wayne County and a senior project manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He has a Bachelor of General Business from Western Michigan University and a M.B.A. from Wayne State University.
Tungate wrote that in the course of his career, he has “been responsible for overseeing and initiating complex management assignments and numerous economic development projects at the state, county and local level of government.” In Oak Park, Tungate is responsible for a $20 million budget, 191 full-time employees and 236 total employees, “including the state of Michigan’s first fully functioning public safety department.” He pointed to “strong financial management skills proven by creating economic restructuring plans for two separate municipalities in the metropolitan Detroit area, dealing with complex financial issues,” saying he believed his skills “would be an asset to the people of Grand Traverse County.”
Vettraino said he would contact the three candidates this week to notify them of their interview invitations and coordinate with commissioners on an interview schedule, tentatively set for late July. Commissioners should plan on 45-60 minutes with each candidate during the interview process, Vettraino said. Commissioners agreed to ask a combination of a small number of prepared questions candidates would know in advance and off-the-cuff questions from the board during each interview. GovHR USA will provide formal background checks on all candidates and assist commissioners with an employment offer to the final candidate.
Up to two more candidates could also be added to the interview process at a later date. Commissioners Tom Mair and Cheryl Gore Follette each mentioned candidates whose resumes had been eliminated early on, but whom they believed should be interviewed. Rather than discuss the reasons for the candidates’ elimination publicly, commissioners agreed to have Crawford consult with Vettraino on his vetting process and make a determination as to whether to invite the candidates. The identities of those candidates would become public if they were to be invited for interviews.