OVER 75 OWOSSO RESIDENTS gathered at the Steam Railroading Institute for a “meet and greet” event on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The event was hosted by the Owosso City Council to allow community members to meet the four applicants that the city is looking at for the city manager position.
The Steam Railroading Institute was utilized, in part, because it could accommodate a large turnout.
(Independent Photo/Karen Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Four applicants were identified for the Owosso City Manager position, currently held by Don Crawford who has announced his plan to retire, during an informal “meet and greet” held at the Steam Railroading Institute on S. Washington Street on Tuesday, Dec. 5. Alphabetically, the four individuals are Aaron Desentz, Dennis G. Durham, Nathan Henne and Susan Montenegro. The following evening, Wednesday, Dec. 6, the applicants were interviewed in council chambers at Owosso City Hall.
Aaron Desentz was unable to attend the “meet and greet” event due to a professional obligation with his present position as city manager in Leslie, but he was at Owosso City Hall Wednesday evening as the interview process was formally started. Desentz has been in the Leslie position since 2015. Leslie is a small city in Ingham County, located south of Lansing, with a population of just over 1,800. His current responsibilities with the city include organizing the annual budget of $2.6 million, along with general operational duties such as supervision of department managers and city employees. He appears to have some experience with grant funding and has been involved with grants awarded to the city of Leslie for $2.7 million since 2015. Prior to Leslie, Desentz was the village administrator in Shelby, south of Pentwater, on the western side of Michigan.
Dennis Durham was most recently the city manager in Parchment, located in Kalamazoo County. His position with that city began in 2007 where he managed an annual budget of $2.6 million and worked toward soliciting necessary grant funding for city projects. Durham is also owner/general partner of CivicQuest LLC, a business described in his résumé as “specializing in government performance improvement.” Durham resigned from Parchment in early March, prior to a third-party audit, also in March, of city finances that showed city credit cards were used by city employees for personal expenses. It needs to be noted that no money was found missing during this audit and criminal charges were not filed.
Nathan Henne was originally from the Owosso area, but has most recently been working as the city manager of Springfield since 2013. Springfield, with a population of around 5,200, is located in the Battle Creek area. Henne has five years experience in grant writing/review and was responsible for the writing of a $135,000 grant in Springfield for the demolition of a derelict hospital, amongst other grant writing endeavors. A $1.2 million Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) grant that Henne worked on with city engineers was awarded to Springfield under DEQ guidelines (Department of Environmental Quality).
Susan Montenegro is presently the Owosso Assistant City Manager and has held that title since 2013. Montenegro has been involved in multiple assets of the day-to-day operations within the city, including grant writing, planning, zoning, and a multitude of related duties. She is the zoning administrator for Owosso and is directly involved with DDA/Main Street, Owosso Parks and Rec., planning commission and many layers of council/government. Montenegro has been behind the Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC/MEDC) concept to both attract and retain businesses in the downtown sector.
The council approached each applicant with the same 12 questions during the interview process. The questions involved providing a summary of educational/work backgrounds, identifying personal strengths/weaknesses in their positions, discussing their experiences in economic development, how they would plan to interact with city staff members and evaluating individual department heads, how they cope with stress and more.
After a brief discussion after the Wednesday evening interviews related to possibly utilizing an interim/probationary period or process, council member Burton Fox spoke about “the missed opportunity” in not allowing for follow-up questions, which had been prohibited due to legal concerns.
It was ultimately decided that council would email their score sheets (based on the 12 questions) to the human resource director, Jessica Unangst, to look for consistencies in the scoring system before proceeding into a possible second interview scenario.