Spokane City Manager Roger Crum doesn’t see why anyone would be surprised that he’s looking for work elsewhere.
“Have you checked the November ballot?” asked the 21-year City Hall veteran who is one of five finalists for the city administrator’s job in Ann Arbor, Mich.
If Spokane County voters give their blessing, a proposal to unify the city and county governments would leave Crum jobless in May.
“In our business, it would take me at least nine months to find a job equivalent to where I am now,” said Crum, 56. “There’s fierce competition.”
Crum might view it as an obvious move, but news that he might be leaving Spokane came as a total shock to some of his seven bosses, from Mayor Jack Geraghty’s “You’re kidding” to Councilwoman Bev Numbers’ “I’ll be darned.”
Councilman Joel Crosby offered a one-word response: “Interesting.”
Crum’s name was whittled from a field of 115 candidates vying for Ann Arbor’s top managerial spot. Similar to the city manager’s job here, the Ann Arbor city administrator answers only to the council, which consists of 11 partisan members elected from five wards.
“What we are looking for is an honest, trustworthy person with good fiscal qualifications,” said Ann Arbor City Councilwoman Elisabeth Daley.
“We need a good people person because morale is pretty low.”
The city of 110,000 - home to the University of Michigan - lost its administrator in April when he left to become city manager of the smaller Scarsdale, N.Y.”The past couple of years, there’s been lots of acrimony between the administrator and the council,” Daley said Wednesday.
Other candidates for the administrator’s job include:
William Mitchell, assistant city manager of Newport News, Va.
Neal G. Berlin, former city manager of Arvada, Colo., now a consultant for the Regional Camp Fire Girls and Boys.
Arlene D. Colvin, chief operating officer of Gary, Ind.
Peter Yelorda, assistant city manager of Kansas City, Mo.
Daley said Crum’s interview went well, although “he seemed a little nervous.”
In an article in Tuesday’s Ann Arbor News, Crum listed among his successes the area manager program in which department heads serve as community liaisons. He also talked about his work to increase residents’ participation and to put more police officers on the streets.Interviews for the Ann Arbor job are open to the public and are broadcast on cable television.
While Ann Arbor’s last administrator made $92,164 annually, the new person’s salary would be negotiated, Daley said. “We think it’s been a little inflated.”
Crum, who earns $93,600 in Spokane, said he “wasn’t anxious to take a pay cut.”
Crum didn’t tell the Spokane council about his job prospect because Ann Arbor didn’t call until Saturday evening. He left for the city Monday at 6:30 a.m.
“I didn’t get a chance to get the council up to speed,” he said.
Crum’s contract expires in September, but the council agreed earlier this year to wait until December to renegotiate - after the November consolidation vote.
Also looming is attorney Steve Eugster’s petition initiative to create a strong mayor system and do away with the city manager altogether.
Crum said the consolidation proposal is the main reason he decided to look for a new job.
In the past, some council members have expressed dissatisfaction with Crum’s leadership abilities.
Crosby admits he’s been critical of Crum, but he blames the problems more on the council’s poor leadership than the city manager’s. “He’s only as strong as the direction he gets from the council,” Crosby said.
Councilman Chris Anderson disagrees, saying he’d like to see Crum move on. “He’s a super nice man, but he’s lost credibility and the ability to serve. … There are questions about who is actually running City Hall.”
After two decades spent in Spokane raising two daughters, moving on wouldn’t be easy, Crum said.
“We like this community,” he said. “It would be a tough move.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Roger Crum Age: 56 Personal: Born and raised in Ohio. Married with two grown daughters. Current position: Spokane city manager since September 1991. Prior positions: deputy city manager, 1980 to 1991; assistant city manager, 1977 to 1980. Spokane city employee since 1974. Worked for Rockwell International in Los Angeles, 1966 to 1974. Military: Air Force captain, 1960 to 1966. Education: B.S. in mechanical engineering, Duke University, 1960. Three master’s degrees.