City names four finalists for city manager

ALPENA – After spending time in executive session Monday, Alpena Municipal Council announced five finalists for the city manager position that was left vacant after the termination of former manager Thad Taylor. Among the five are interim City Manager Greg Sundin who has been in the position for almost a year.

On Tuesday morning, one of the finalists withdrew his name from consideration, choosing instead to continue his employment as the manager of Center Line. The candidates credentials and experience range from current city managers, assistant managers and a director of economic and community development director.

Mayor Matt Waligora said he is pleased with the quality of the applicants and knows it is going to be tough narrowing the field down to one.

“The people on the list have a little bit of everything. Some are from bigger communities and some from smaller. Some right on the lake, some that are not,” Waligora said. “I think I can speak for the entire council when I say we are happy with the quality of the selections we made.”

Current Onaway City Manager Joseph Hefele will be interviewed for the Alpena job. He was hired in 2001 to serve as city manager in Onaway, which has a population of 4,154, about half the city of Alpena.

Samuel Janson is the assistant manager in Grand Haven. The city is located on the shore of Lake Michigan and is similar to Alpena in several aspects. Grand Haven’s population mirrors Alpena’s as it had 10,483 people compared to Alpena’s 10,412 according to the 2010 census.

Dan Swallow is the director of economic and community for Monroe, which has a population of about 23,000 and is located in Southeast Michigan. He works for the largest city of the candidates.

Sundin was called upon to take over the manager’s position in Alpena after Taylor’s controversial firing in April of last year. He has entered into multiple agreements with the city to continue the job until a full time hire was in place. Sundin is the city’s planning and development director.

While in closed session the council selected five finalists, out of more than 20 applicants for the job. Center Line City Manager John Michrina was informed about his interview in Alpena and withdrew his application.

The next step in the process is to meet face to face and have them answer questions. That is why Waligora scheduled a pair of special meetings. One is slated for April 13 at 9 a.m. at city hall and the other is April 20. Waligora said a decision on the new hire could come at the first meeting, or it could take longer.

“Each candidate will be interviewed for about 50 minutes and then the council will have a follow-up discussion,” Waligora said. “It will be at that point we will determine if and when another meeting or discussion will take place. If there is a strong candidate that just blows us away we could vote to begin negotiations, or we might want to do a second interview on (April 20). What I do know is we aren’t going to make a quick decision just to make it. We will all do our due diligence and make the best selection.”

Waligora said he didn’t want to speculate on when the new manager would begin work because all of them are currently employed and wants to be certain any arrangements made are not only for the new hire, but the community it works for now.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at