by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
COLLEEN O’TOOLE was selected Wednesday, Jan. 18 to replace Amy Roddy as the Durand City Manager. The Durand City Council voted unanimously to conditionally offer O’Toole the position, with a background check and negotiations to be conducted as soon as possible.
O’Toole described herself Wednesday as a big advocate of transparency and open government. Along with pledging to have an open door policy, O’Toole is excited the city’s new website and social media platforms will allow her to directly communicate with city residents. The council was impressed that O’Toole is confident she will be able to produce a city budget within three to five months, and her experience in the technological field is a strong attribute for a council that is aiming to have more of an online presence. (Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
The Durand City Council took another step towards replacing longtime Durand City Manager Amy Roddy on Wednesday, Jan. 18 by conditionally offering the position to Colleen O’Toole, who is currently employed as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Cartofront, a Chicago-based technology company. O’Toole is the council’s fifth finalist, and she was given the opportunity to interview for the position after Morenci City Administrator/Clerk Michael Sessions opted to decline a conditional offer of employment in December.
O’Toole obtained a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) from DePaul University in 2009, and she has more than eight years of economic development, planning, and technology experience. Before accepting the position with Cartofront in 2015, O’Toole worked as the executive director for Elmspring, a real estate technology company, and she has also worked as the managing director for the Andersonville Development Corporation and as an economic development specialist for the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council.
Among her many skills, O’Toole has excelled in housing and economic development, entrepreneurship support services, land use and planning, and technology. She also noted during her interview on Wednesday that she is an avid outdoorsman, and she is looking to move away from the big city and put down roots in a smaller, more rural community. She praised Durand’s history, and she came to the interview prepared to detail her plans for the city.
The first steps O’Toole plans to take if she accepts the position, is to build relationships with the city’s residents and business owners, and she stressed the need to compile a community needs assessment by surveying as many citizens and business owners as possible. She is a strong advocate of collecting and utilizing data in planning, and she said she intends to review the city’s master plan and zoning ordinances to make them as friendly as possible to potential business owners and residents. In addition to continuing to develop the area through economic development, O’Toole hopes to attract families to help grow the city’s tax base.
The Durand City Council came into the Jan. 18 interview with two remaining finalists, village of Vernon Clerk Ellen Glass and Jim Coleman, who is the director of housing, facilities, and community development for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. The council narrowed the list to Coleman and O’Toole on Jan. 18, with O’Toole’s personality and desire for community involvement seeming to be the determining factors in the race.
“I will say this; I think Jim and Colleen possess very similar skill sets,” said Durand City Council Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Brian Boggs. “What sets them apart is the personality and soft skills, and I think that Colleen’s are more amicable to the Durand community.”
“Colleen seems to have a grasp of everything we included in our profile, and I really like that she said a couple of times that she intends to listen to the needs of the community, which is what we are looking for,” said council member Jeff Brands. “We have someone from Chicago who can bring some fresh, new ideas to the city of Durand, and will think outside the box.”
The council voted unanimously to conditionally offer the city manager position to O’Toole, and Dr. Boggs suggested the city send letters to Coleman and Glass thanking them for interviewing for the position, a move that was supported by the other council members. City of Durand Attorney Chuck McKone will be tasked with negotiating the contract, and the background check will be completed by the Michigan Municipal League.