The search for a new city manager in Alpena reached its end after a nine hour special meeting on Saturday in which four finalists had an hour and a half to answer questions from the Alpena Municipal Council. When the smoke cleared Alpena's Greg Sundin was offered the full-time position, pending an agreement on a contract.
Sundin has acting as interim manager for almost a year and has settled into the job. His interview was impressive enough to convince the council the job should be his. Mayor Matt Waligora said he kept an open mind leading up to the interviews and when the process was complete the choice to him was obvious.
"Greg met everything that I was looking for. He has the ability, some experience and was honest," Waligora said. "He fits Alpena and Alpena fits him. I have no doubt that Greg will do a great job moving forward."
Councilman Sam Eiler said Greg has always done a good job as the city's planning and development director and also in his brief time in management. He said Sundin interviewed well and is confident the council found the right fit.
"His interview was virtually flawless. He was humble, honest and he talked about how we will lean on others for help and I thought that was important," Eiler said. "I have no doubt Greg can do this job."
Susan Nielsen said the choice was easy for her. She has worked with Sundin on the planning commission for 16 years and the board is often advised by Sundin. She said the strength of his interview only validated her position.
"I see Greg as a wonderful leader and I have seen him exhibit leadership and vision" Nielsen said. "I wanted a leader with a beginning and the end in mind today. What are we going to look like in 10 years? What will it take to get there? I wanted a person who will work as hard as they can and as long as they need toward that vision. I know Greg is that man."
Councilman Shawn Sexton said there were several candidates that peaked his interest, but there were some small concerns with each. He said Sundin's track record and personality traits sealed the deal for him.
"We had a few candidates of interest, but ultimately they were too high risk, high reward," Sexton said. "With Greg, we knew what we were getting. He's hardworking, ethical, honest and transparent. Ultimately he proved himself as an excellent planner and he deserves the chance to be an excellent manager."
Councilman Mike Nowak said the candidates were all impressive in their own right and all could probably do the job. He said Sundin's interview, local experience and passion for Alpena helped make him the best choice.
"He has proved he is a capable leader in my mind," Nowak said. "He has integrity and honesty and was right on point during his interview. He didn't just want to be a fill-in anymore. He now has a passion for the leadership role. I think of all the candidates he blew the field away."
The search was made necessary when former city manager Thad Taylor was fired without cause about a year ago. Which led to the recall of former councilmen Mike Nunneley and Dave Karshnick. Waligora escaped recall. The city's consultant advised the council to wait until after the recall and special election to advertise for the position after the new council was in place. There were more than 20 applicants for the position and two finalists that withdrew from consideration. In the end Dan Swallow, Joe Hefele, Larry Shaffer and Sundin remained. Nielsen said they thought all of the candidates performed well in the interview and hope they thrive moving forward.
"The four candidates were wonderful. There wasn't a bad one in the lot," Nielsen said. "I think Alpena should pat itself on the back for being able to attract such fine candidates. I think that says a lot about Alpena as a whole."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.