Marentette Named City Manager
By Beth Milligan | Sept. 12, 2023
Traverse City commissioners voted unanimously Monday to select City Clerk Benjamin Marentette to be the next city manager.
Marentette rose to the top of the list of five finalists interviewed by the commission last week. One of those candidates – Milford Village Manager Christian Wuerth – withdrew from consideration following Thursday’s interviews, citing a desire to remain in Milford. Commissioners also interviewed Grand Traverse County Deputy Administrator Chris Forsyth, Missaukee County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Vogel, and former City Administrator Jessica Kinser of Marshalltown, Iowa.
Marentette quickly emerged as the lead candidate in city commission deliberations in a special meeting held Monday to either select a hire or decide next steps. Forsyth and Vogel were also named among the top three choices, with Forysth emerging as a strong second contender. “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, Marentette exhibited specific attributes commissioners felt were important to lead the city in its next phase – including his communication skills, his commitment to nurturing and developing staff, and his cited desire to develop an actionable strategic plan with a public-facing dashboard to track the city’s progress.
“I think he understands the challenges we’re facing,” said Commissioner Linda Koebert. Referencing a panel of city department heads who also had an opportunity to interview candidates and provide feedback to commissioners – identifying Marentette as their top choice – Stanley said that input from staff was an important factor in swinging her support toward Marentette. Members of the public who attended a meet-and-greet with candidates Thursday also signaled a preference for Marentette, according to feedback.
Commissioner Tim Werner said Marentette’s people skills are “off the charts,” realizing as he deliberated after interviews that that was one of the top attributes Werner was seeking in the next city manager. Whoever is hired will oversee filling several key city vacancies, including the police chief, city engineer, city treasurer/finance director, and assistant city manager. Werner said Marentette would be “creating a new culture” with those hires and voiced confidence in his ability to mentor and coach staff. Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe wished the city could find roles for all three finalists within the organization, but believed that “communication is going to be key for the city” in the coming years – with Marentette emerging as the candidate ideally suited for “engaging with the public.” Mayor Richard Lewis also cited Marentette as his top choice, saying he had known Marentette since he was 19 and had watched him dedicate his life to personal and professional development.
After a majority of commissioners identified Marentette as their top choice in an open round-robin discussion of finalists, Koebert made a motion to offer Marentette the position – which was unanimously approved by the board. Marentette 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 compensation rate listed for the position is between $160,000 and $190,000. The exact timeline for Marentette’s transition from city clerk to city manager is also still to be negotiated, taking into consideration factors like the upcoming November election (normally overseen by Marentette as city clerk) and the timing of departure of Interim City Manager Nate Geinzer.
Marentette says “there will be a lot of thought” put into that transition and finding his replacement as city clerk, one of two roles – along with city treasurer – that can only be hired or fired with city commission approval. “The city clerk needs to be someone who champions democracy in every sense of the word: access to government, elections, a sincere approach to bringing people into discussions,” he says. “Those are the types of things we’re going to look for in the next city clerk. I’ve loved serving in that role, and if my contract for city manager is approved, it’ll be someone else’s day to take the reins and champion those things.”
Marentette is a graduate of Spring Arbor University and has a Master of Business Administration from Lawrence Technological University. He also has a Public Leadership Credential from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a member of the Election Policy Working Group, a trustee and treasurer for Rotary Charities of Traverse City, and an advisor on the national election administration 2023 with the Pew Charitable Trusts Election Trust Initiative.
Marentette previously served as Traverse City’s deputy city clerk and as the Recreational Authority executive director for Traverse City and Garfield Township before becoming city clerk, a role he’s held since 2011. He says that serving as city manager is a long-held dream “that appears to be coming true,” adding that it “feels like the right time to be able to step into this role.”
“I am so humbled that the city commission unanimously chose me as the finalist…and am so excited to be able to contribute at a much greater level to the city,” Marentette says.Comment