By Tom Tolen /

The Brighton City Council has chosen an executive search company to find the best candidates for the soon-to-be-vacated city manager’s position.

Current City Manager Nate Geinzer has given the city notice that he will be leaving the post at the end of May. However, he has not yet announced his future plans.

After lengthy discussion, council settled on Walsh Municipal Services of Okemos, a firm headed by headed by Frank Walsh. The other two search firms, whose representatives were also interviewed prior to the regular meeting, were Amy Cell Talent of Ypsilanti and the Michigan Municipal League of Ann Arbor. The vote to hire Walsh was 5-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Bohn voting no.

Both Bohn and Renee Pettengill said they preferred Amy Cell Talent, but in the end Pettengill voted with the majority. Councilmember Jon Emaus said he favored Walsh because he had recorded 30 successful searches that resulted in city managers in just two years’ time. Emaus also said that Walsh was, in his words, “the cheapest, had the best warranty, and the best time line.”

Walsh’s fee for performing the service will be $14,200 while Amy Sell Talent’s fee is $18,000. Council also had some discussion on whether the city will have to hire an interim or acting city manager, since there is a short time frame before Geinzer’s last day on May 31st. An interim manager could come from within the current staff, particularly one of the department directors, whereas an acting city manager would be hired from the outside.

It was pointed out by former mayor Jim Muzzin, who spoke as Brighton Area Fire Authority chairman, that when former City Manager Dana Foster resigned, Tom Wightman, who was police chief at the time, briefly handled the city manager’s duties and did a commendable job. By the same token, council members said things are very different now than they were several years ago.

The city charter requires that a person be hired within 90 days of the city manager’s departure, which Bohn and Emaus said is an extremely short time frame. The thought was expressed that bringing someone in for a couple of months, only to let the person go when a permanent manager is hired, would be pointless. Council decided to appoint a subcommittee to explore options for an interim manager, with Renee Pettengill, Paul Gipson and Susan Gardner being named to the subcommittee.

In his letter, Walsh outlined an aggressive time frame. He said he would initially hold “stakeholder” meetings and develop a community profile, then post the position on municipal sites and social media, set June 13th for council members to review the candidates June 14th to choose the finalists, with council voting on the contract by July 7th or earlier (The time frame for hiring a new city manager is listed below).

In his letter indicating he was stepping down, Geinzer said, in his words, "It has become increasingly clear that my professional priorities on approach to government service no longer align with those of City Council.” Geinzer has been the city manager in Brighton for the past six years.