Commissioners to Offer City Manager Position to Vogel
By Beth Milligan | Sept. 26, 2023
Traverse City commissioners voted unanimously Monday to offer the position of city manager to Missaukee County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Vogel. Vogel was among three finalists for the role and remained interested in the position after City Clerk Benjamin Marentette – who was offered the role first – turned it down. The other finalist, Grand Traverse County Deputy Administrator Chris Forsyth, withdrew from consideration hours before Monday’s commission meeting.
Commissioners initially said in deliberations earlier this month after interviewing five candidates that Marentette, Forsyth, and Vogel were their top choices for the role. “I wish I could pick and choose attributes from all three of them,” said Commissioner Mitch Treadwell, echoing an oft-shared sentiment among commissioners who believed all three finalists were well-qualified for the position. “Any of them would do a phenomenal job in this role,” agreed Commissioner Mi Stanley.
However, commissioners voted unanimously to offer the position to Marentette, citing his communication skills, commitment to nurturing and developing staff, and desire to develop an actionable strategic plan as traits that gave him an edge. Marentette said that serving as city manager was a long-held dream come true and that he was “excited to be able to contribute at a much greater level to the city.” But a week later, as commissioners were nearing a vote to approve Marentette’s contract, the city clerk announced he wanted to stay in his current position and was declining the offer to serve as city manager.
“I recognize this will cause a delay in the city commission choosing the next city manager, which I regret, and I will do all I can to support the professional that the city commission selects,” he said. “I want to thank the city commission, this community and staff, and others for their support.” Marentette emphasized there were no other factors affecting his decision other than that his “heart is in the democracy-centric role of serving as city clerk” and he wished to remain in that role. Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe told The Ticker that salary and contract negotiations had gone smoothly, with an agreement prepared and ready for commission approval when Marentette decided to withdraw.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Richard Lewis commended Marentette for a “very courageous decision,” saying it was better for Marentette to recognize now that the role wasn’t right for him rather than six months down the road. “That’s no fun for the individual, nor is it good for the community,” Lewis said. Consultant Amy Cell, who was hired to lead the city through the hiring search process, contacted Forsyth and Vogel to see if they were still interested in the job following Marentette’s withdrawal. Vogel said she was, but Forsyth emailed Cell Monday morning that “after much thought, I have decided to withdraw my application for the city manager position.”
Lewis outlined several options commissioners could consider next, including offering Vogel the job, bringing Vogel back for a second interview, or putting a decision on hold until after the November election. That would allow the new commission – at least two new members will join the board in November, as Lewis and Commissioner Linda Koebert are not seeking reelection – to interview Vogel themselves and decide how to proceed, bring in more candidates for consideration, or restart the entire search process.
Multiple commissioners said they believed Vogel was an excellent candidate and were comfortable deciding now to offer her the position. “I want to reiterate that...the top three finalists in my mind were within millimeters of each other,” said Stanley. “I would be confident that (Vogel) can do the job well,” agreed Treadwell. Lewis said he could “flip a coin and take any of them” given the qualifications all three finalists possessed for the role.
Commissioners voted unanimously to offer the position to Vogel. Vogel has served as the administrator and chief financial officer for Missaukee County since 2021 and previously served as the deputy supervisor for Clinton Township. She is a graduate of Albion College and has a Master of Arts from Loyola University and a Master of Business Administration from Baker College. She and the city will now need to negotiate a contract – a process led by the city attorney and the mayor and/or mayor pro tem – with the agreement then brought back to commissioners for approval, making the hire official. The salary range listed for the position is between $160,000 and $190,000.
Part of the negotiation will include establishing a timeline for when Vogel would start her new job in Traverse City, assuming an agreement is reached. Vogel told Cell she would likely need to give Missaukee County six to eight weeks’ notice, putting her on track to potentially start after Thanksgiving. Shamroe noted the last month of the year is typically consumed with holiday activities and suggested setting a clean start date for Vogel at the beginning of January.
Commissioners agreed to let Vogel give direction on what timing works best for her, as well as on what a transition plan might look like with Interim City Manager Nate Geinzer. Geinzer said he was “here to be a resource” to the city during the handoff of roles, adding that the most important thing is giving staff and the community stability after more than “six months of uncertainty.” Geinzer said he would do whatever’s necessary to make sure it’s a “smooth and successful transition.”
Lewis added that regardless of what the transition plan or timing looks like, it will still require an adjustment period for the new city manager. “No matter when you start, you’re going to be drinking from a fire hose,” he said. “It’s just part of the business.”Comment