NATHAN HENNE (above) sat before Owosso City Council in a special meeting/interview on Saturday, Jan. 20. The interview lasted for well over three hours with council being thorough with their questions. Henne, the last city manager candidate of the first four candidates, demonstrated considerable knowledge of issues currently involving the city.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Nathan Henne, the remaining city manager candidate from the four initial candidates that started the process in late November, sat before city council members in a special meeting held in chambers on Saturday, Jan. 20. Each attending council member presented a series of questions related to the parameters of the position, currently held by longtime city manager Don Crawford. One theme that Henne verbally demonstrated several times during the interview was his belief in “neighbors always helping neighbors.” Henne, raised in Owosso, has been the city manager of Springfield since 2013. Prior to that he worked with the city of Mason in Ingham County, and was also the town manager in Lake City, CO.
Council member Rob Teich asked Henne why he would be interested in leaving Springfield? Henne explained that he was “ready for that next challenge.” Springfield has a population of about 5,200 individuals compared to Owosso that currently has around 15,000 people, making Owosso close to three times as large.
Henne went on to answer questions on how he would handle delegation if hired, what his major accomplishments were in Springfield, what mistakes he had made in his positions, budget and planning questions, infrastructure, establishing relationships with local schools and other governmental agencies, and more. When discussing issues he recognized Owosso was currently dealing with, Henne shared that he believed the first challenge was to remain “financially viable,” considering that Owosso does not have an income tax and is reliant on property taxes.
Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika brought up the 2018-19 budget due in May. Henne acknowledged that the “budget was the most important thing a council accomplishes. Period.”
Mayor Chris Eveleth asked how Henne would respond to preexisting relationships he has in the Owosso area. Henne clarified that he would always follow regulations regarding those relationships, and would not let friendships deter him from his job.
Council member Burton Fox further expressed his concern regarding Henne’s ties with his former hometown saying “it is a rough row to hoe.” According to Fox, research indicates that many individuals in such situations only last in a position for one year to 18 months. Fox wanted confirmation on how long Henne might be willing to commit. Henne replied that he planned to be in Owosso for as long as he was useful in his job. “I’m up to the challenge to say ‘no’ to my friends. I’m willing to lose friends and will be having a private meeting with family members.”
The next regular meeting is set for Monday, Feb. 5, giving council members time to deliberate over Henne’s interview. In a previous meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, Fox had stated that this was “one of the biggest decisions this council will ever make … we need to make sure we get the right one,” referencing the city manager position. At that same meeting, council members had seemed receptive to the possibility of having the Michigan Municipal League (MML) help in regards to filling the city manager position, if Henne happened to not work out.