Wanted in Ann Arbor: A City Administrator With ‘10-15 Years Experience in Child Care’

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Connecting state and local government leaders

That job qualification might seem odd, but is an important reality in some local governments.

City leaders in Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently said goodbye to City Administrator Steve Powers, who is headed to Oregon to be the new city manager in the city of Salem.  

Ann Arbor’s mayor and members of the City Council’s Administration Committee are conducting a national search for Powers’ replacement, who could make up to $175,000 a year.

In a guest article published on MLive.com, Mayor Christopher Taylor detailed some of the characteristics he’s looking for in the next city administrator, who, under Ann Arbor’s council-manager form of government, runs the day-to-day municipal operations and implements policy crafted and enacted by the mayor and City Council:

My ideal candidate will be energetic, optimistic, and understand Ann Arbor's expectation that City Hall take meaningful, sustainable action to improve basic services and enhance quality of life for residents today and residents tomorrow.

Those qualities are all fine and dandy. But the ideal candidate might also need at least a decade’s worth of experience in child care. Why?

On Monday, a parody job description was posted on Craigslist, which underscores some delicate interpersonal realities that many city administrators and city managers face when working with elected officials, who, let’s face it, can act like tempestuous children from time to time.

Under job responsibilities, the Craigslist posting notes a requirement to “[l]et Council Members feel they're in control, but not so much that they wreck stuff.”

Under qualifications:

  • 10-15 years experience in child care setting, with increasing responsibilities
  • Ability to feign genuine interest in oddball ideas of Council Members
  • Conversant in full range of ways Ann Arbor residents feel superior to others

If Powers had any frustrations working with Ann Arbor’s elected officials, he certainly didn’t voice them during his final City Council meeting.

"I will miss working with you on the challenges and opportunities that the city and the organization face," Powers said, according to MLive.com.

Since the Craigslist posting will likely disappear, we’ve preserved it below ...

Ann Arbor City Administrator

Job Responsibilities

Feed Council Members information on a bi-weekly schedule, sometimes more frequently.
Remind Council Members of basic stuff like how object permanence is an actual thing.
Respond appropriately when Council Members insist "I can do it all by my self."
Respond appropriately when Council Members say "I don't know how, you do it."
Let Council Members feel they're in control, but not so much that they wreck stuff.

Qualifications

10-15 years experience in child care setting, with increasing responsibilities
Ability to feign genuine interest in oddball ideas of Council Members
Conversant in full range of ways Ann Arbor residents feel superior to others
Ability look at a roomful of white people and remark on amazing diversity of perspectives

Application

Attached to your resume, please respond with an essay on the topic of: Is Public Engagement for the Birds, or for the Deer or for the Dog Parks? Into the natural flow of your essay, please integrate an answer to the question: If you were a dog, what kind of tree would you choose to pee on?

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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