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Pleasant Ridge Welcomes Breuckman with Both Scrutiny and Hope

Pleasant Ridge Welcomes James Breuckman with Scrutiny and HopeJim Shaffer KELLER ad black

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 28, 2014)

James Breuckman got a taste of Pleasant Ridge politics Tuesday night as he sat through a special City Commission meeting with just one thing on the agenda: him.

Breuckman was one of five finalists for the City Manager position, and after a very public process he was offered a contract with the city. Currently the Planning Manager in Rochester Hills, and previously a seed017_darlene_bignotticonsultant for multiple communities across Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Breuckman brings a history of municipal expertise to the table. His hiring is also expected to save the City thousands in fees that are currently outsourced to consultants for planning services. He has accepted the contract, which has a base salary of $84,000 a year with a $6,000 stipend for transportation.

The interview process was an intense one for the 2,500 person upscale suburb, with residents taking part – and sharing concerns – every step of the way. Online discussions got heated, with what seems to be an on-going conflict between supporters of the current elected officials, and supporters of previous elected officials.

“I’ve been a little upset reading stuff on Facebook,” said resident John Ulinski.  “I think as a community we can do much better than we do now…  The gentleman is sitting right here.”  Reid_Sally_115

Breuckman is not a stranger to Pleasant Ridge politics however.  He and his family have been living in Pleasant Ridge even while working in Rochester Hills.

Frank Rubino, who unsuccessfully ran for Mayor last year, was among over 75 residents who signed a petition questioning Breuckman’s qualifications and the process by which he was picked for the job. The petition was submitted at the previous Commission meeting, essentialand went along with online criticism. Rubino also spoke Tuesday, reiterating his concerns. “We are all Pleasant Ridgers, we are all paying for this,” he said.

Rubino suggested that the salary was too high, and that “he should be started at a lower rate and moved up after six months.” He also asked about specifics of the contract such as sick day provisions and termination terms, and why Breuckman did not have City Manager experience.

Another resident said he found comments about “not keeping the status quo” to be “insulting,” and suggested that current Commissioners stop using that term in their discussions.

Joyce Parker of the Michigan Municipal League, who had been working with Pleasant Ridge to facilitate the search, was present to share the steps taken before Breuckman was selected.seed015_kathryn_balcer

Parker explained that in January she met with the City Commission to brainstorm what they were looking for in a candidate. Within two weeks they created and approved a position profile and a community profile, and advertised the position through the Michigan Municipal League and other avenues. After receiving a number of resumes, Parker vetted them, developing a list of semifinalists. Then five finalists and two alternates were chosen and invited to a community meet and greet and public interviews. References were also contacted.

“No matter how hard I try, I can’t make all residents happy all the time,” said Commissioner Jay Foreman. ctechadHe explained his vote by saying Breuckman was the “one [candidate] who got a score of 10 out of 10 from all references, including his current boss who doesn’t want to lose him.” He said that there had been “numerous times for public comment,” that Breuckman’s salary was in the advertised range for the job posting, and that the process had been handled properly and in a public way.

Resident Tom Treuter, who attended all the meetings during the search process, spoke in support of welcoming Breuckman. “He has more talent, experience and enthusiasm as we could have hoped for,” he said. “[Breuckman] has to live here every day. He and his administration have to live with the decisions they make. Now that’s motivation!”sidebar012balloonrates

Jane Makulski, who is also the Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, called on everyone to get along. “He’s our neighbor. He lives in our community,” she said. “We’ve gone through a lot of change in this community… we need to leave our anger, disappointment and even gloating… We need to work together.”

“If we have a complaint about an issue, not a personality, then we can come in to the City Manager’s office, or bring it up here” she added. “Being angry or hoping someone fails does not make the city happy,” she added.

Commissioners welcomed Breuckman, and thanked Scott Pietrzak for serving as the Acting City Manager during the transition process. Pietrzak, who has worked for Pleasant Ridge in several seed026_annemarieyerkscapacities over the years, had also applied for the City Manager position. Pietrzak is well-liked in the community and known for working hard, and some residents expressed disappointment that he was not selected for the position. Pietrzak continues his employment as Recreation Director for the City. “Scott rose to the occasion and has done a wonderful job,” said Mayor Kurt Metzger.

Breuckman starts his job on June 10 and will be sworn in at that evening’s City Commission meeting.

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