Farewell Ferndale – A View by Bob Bruner

“Farewell Ferndale”

(Robert Bruner, Ferndale City Manager, 2/3/2011)

I am leaving Ferndale on February 11, the day before my fourth employment
anniversary, to become Birmingham’s City Manager.  Our house is for sale and
we plan to move to Birmingham after it sells.  However, leaving Ferndale
will be bittersweet because it is my adopted hometown and my personal and
professional lives here have become so intertwined.

Like every officer of the City, I took an oath to faithfully perform the
duties of my office to the best of my ability.  The duties of my office
forced me to make difficult professional decisions I did not personally
enjoy making.  For example, I did not enjoy making the recommendations
required to balance the budget last year, but I am proud of the budget
process we implemented.  It started earlier and was longer than ever before,
including nearly a dozen special Council meetings.  However, the process
helped the City deal with the deficit head-on rather than letting it linger.

I am also proud of the steps we took to reduce personnel costs and
restructure the City government during my tenure.  We froze or reduced
employee pay and increased healthcare and prescription drug insurance
copayments and deductibles for several employee groups.  I did not do this
alone.  Nearly 90% of the City’s full-time employees are unionized and more
than half (most Police and Fire Department employees) are subject to
compulsory arbitration so reducing personnel costs requires union
cooperation.

We reduced City Hall staff by 42% by consolidating City Hall’s six points of
public contact into one, cross-training staff, and contracting-out services.
Staff reductions will save the City $160,000 annually and the renovations
cost less than $450,000 so the staff reductions will pay for the renovations
in less than three years.  Such drastic staff reductions would not have been
feasible without renovations so the one-time renovation cost will allow the
City to save more money in perpetuity.

Finally, I am honored both the Council and the voters had enough confidence
in me to place the Chief of Police, Chief of the Fire Department, City
Attorney, and City Clerk under the Manager’s supervision for the first time
in the City’s history.  The Council did so by approving Ordinance 1094 on
June 14, 2010 and the voters affirmed the change my amending the City
Charter on November 2, 2010.  Similar ballot proposals had failed in the
past and I doubt this Charter amendment would have passed if I had not
earned the community’s trust.

Although my tenure was short, I believe we did all we could to address the
City’s financial challenges and I am leaving Ferndale in better condition
than I found it.  However, the Headlee Override election on May 3 will have
a greater affect on the City than anything we did during my tenure.
Although I intend to vote in favor of the Headlee Override, I will not
attempt to persuade you to do the same.  Instead, I urge you to educate
yourself and make an informed decision.  Your decision will have
consequences.

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