Traverse City News and Events

DDA Names Interim CEO, Hires Firm to Lead Search Process

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 19, 2024

Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) COO Harry Burkolder will become the new interim head of the organization effective March 6. DDA board members voted unanimously Friday to appoint Burkholder interim CEO once Jean Derenzy – who is not seeking renewal of her contract for the role – departs March 5. Board members also narrowed a field of 10 proposals from firms to lead the search process for a new CEO down to two finalists before selecting Double Haul Solutions, led by former Interim City Manager Nate Geinzer.

DDA Board Chair Gabe Schneider said he thought it was “important from a consistency standpoint” to have someone in the top position between Derenzy’s departure and the hiring of a permanent CEO, a process that could take three to four months minimum. Schneider said Burkholder (pictured, left) offered “strong consistency” as someone who’s been with the DDA for several years. Burkholder was hired in 2019 to fill a newly created COO position approved by the DDA and city commission in the city’s 2019-20 budget.

Prior to accepting the position, Burkholder was with the Land Information Access Association (LIAA) for 15 years, serving as its executive director for the last four years. As COO, Burkholder was hired to play a key role in the daily operations of the DDA, providing data, research, and budgeting support to projects and assisting Derenzy in implementing the DDA's strategic plan. Burkholder is the staff liaison to the Traverse City Arts Commission and has been involved with helping develop the Lower Boardman River Unified Plan and Moving Downtown Forward (TIF 97) plan, among other projects.

DDA board member Scott Hardy said Burkholder has “proven himself to be very capable” and an “extremely hard worker,” adding that he trusted Burkholder “implicitly.” After receiving unanimous board support, Burkholder said he was “ready to step in” and appreciated the “vote of confidence to move forward.” He added that DDA staff face many looming large projects in the coming weeks, from finalizing the Moving Downtown Forward plan ahead of a spring DDA and city commission vote to preparing the 2024-25 budget and capital improvement plan. Burkholder said the DDA has a “great staff” but may look to fill some additional roles within the organization to assist with that workload.

Multiple DDA board members took the opportunity at Friday’s meeting – Derenzy’s last – to thank her for her service. Board member Katy Bertodatto said the next CEO will have “big shoes to fill,” adding that Derenzy has put in countless “unpaid hours” to the community and set downtown on a “phenomenal path.” Mayor Amy Shamroe said Derenzy has “often taken the brunt of the hits for being visionary and leading with new ideas.” Shamroe added that it’s “easy to forget that some of these great things we really enjoy about our community were hard-fought...so I want to thank Jean for that.” Derenzy said it had been a “complete joy working for the DDA,” adding she felt confident there were good staff in place to continue the organization’s work. “I appreciate the confidence this board has given me for six years, and I appreciate the support,” Derenzy said.

In addition to naming Burkholder interim CEO, the DDA’s governance committee – with support from the full board – selected a firm Friday to lead the search process for a new permanent CEO. After receiving proposals from 10 firms, the committee narrowed it down to two finalists with help from City HR Director Kristine Bosley. Both firms have experience working in Traverse City. The first, Amy Cell Talent, recently lead the search process to hire new City Manager Liz Vogel. Amy Cell Talent was also recently hired to find a new fire chief for the Grand Traverse Metro Emergency Services Authority.

The other finalist was Double Haul Solutions, a consulting firm led by former Interim City Manager Nate Geinzer. Double Haul Solutions provided a quote of $13,995, while Amy Cell Talent was $19,500. Committee members anticipated needing some additional quoted services from Double Haul Solutions that would likely put the bids in the same final cost range, not to exceed $20,000. Bosley said that while Double Haul Solutions is newer to the recruitment industry, Geinzer was “intimately” familiar with DDA and city operations and helped fill the roles of city engineer and city finance director while serving as interim city manager. “I don’t think you could go wrong with either choice,” Bosley said.

The governance committee ultimately selected Double Haul Solutions to lead the search process. “I was really happy with Amy Cell’s handling of the city manager search, but I think Nate’s position of serving as interim city manager gives him a uniquely intimate knowledge of the position of DDA CEO in Traverse City,” Shamroe said after the meeting. “For me, that gave the slight edge to Double Haul.” Geinzer estimated in his proposal that it will take approximately 12 to 16 weeks to complete the DDA CEO search. At least one applicant has already stepped forward: Burkholder tells The Ticker he intends to apply for the permanent CEO role.

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