Ishpeming city manager a top candidate for Traverse City job

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) – City commissioners narrowed their candidate list for city manager to 11 people with government experience ranging from the City of Detroit to the Upper Peninsula community of Ishpeming.

The commission went through all 55 applications on Monday looking for someone to replace Ben Bifoss, who will retire June 28. Anyone with less than the support of three commissioners was dropped, and more than half had no support. Some commissioners expressed concern previously about the quality of the applicant pool, but six of the finalists came from the last batch of applications.

“The best ones waited until the end to apply,” Commissioner Mike Gillman said.

Commissioners had little to say about those they chose, but discarded candidates with short stays at jobs, time gaps in their resume, or experience in towns much smaller than Traverse City.

Jered Ottenwess, city manager for the City of Ishpeming, wrote in his application that the city would certainly have applications with a more diverse background and experience than he possessed.

All but two of the candidates have worked as city managers, some in communities six times the size of Traverse City. Some have more than 25 years of experience in city government.

“I think they were pretty good, and there were five or six that really jumped out at us,” said Mayor Michael Estes.

Ottenwess, from a town less than half the size of Traverse City, was among the applications that “jumped out” with almost unanimous support to move onto the next stage.

The two women, eight men, and one anonymous candidate will be invited to interview with the city commission if they pass background and reference checks. The candidate that requested confidentiality won – have his or her name released until he or she accepts an invitation to interview.

The other finalists included: Vance Ishler, county administrator of Allegany County, Md.; Lisa Sonego, director of human resources, Kentwood, Mich.; Faith Miller, city manager Deltona, Fla.; Dan Wietecha, city manager Evansville, Wis.; Laurence R. Shaffer, former city manager of Jackson, Mich.; Arthur Sciorra, director of an agriculture research institute in New York and a former city manager; Robert A. Anderson, director of planning and development for the City of Detroit; William J. Cooper, former city manager for the cities of Hamtramck and Mount Clemens, and Richard A. Douglas, town manager for Selma, N.C.

Interviews are tentatively set for May 11.