The next city manager of Grand Rapids has been selected.
Ahead of the expected timeline, the City Commission chose today Mark Washington, the assistant city manager of Austin, Texas, for the role.
The commission had hoped to hire a city manager by early September, with possible second-round interviews on Aug. 7.
The decision followed public interviews with each of the five city manager candidates, a community forum and opportunities for city staff, community leaders and other stakeholders to become acquainted with the candidates and provide feedback.
Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly made the motion to appoint Washington, and First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor supported the motion.
“I was very impressed with all the interviews,” Kelly said. “That said, I was happy to know that Mark Washington was very familiar with GARE (Government Alliance on Race and Equity) and that he set up an equity office in Austin. Equity is one of our main focuses.
“I appreciate his sense of humor and his great combination of humility, intelligence and the ability to be present with us. It is clear he is not ego-driven.”
During his interview, Washington said he became familiar with Grand Rapids in 2016 when he visited as part of the City of Austin’s work with the Racial Equity Here initiative, of which the City of Grand Rapids is a participant.
“I understand the importance of racial equity,” Washington said.
He later said he would be honored to “not just come here for a job, but to be a part of the community. In looking at the uniqueness of this opportunity and the similarities with my experience and how I can help, I believe I am purposefully positioned for this opportunity.”
Washington has worked in local government for 22 years.
He has worked for the City of Austin since 2009, serving as assistant city manager for the past three years after serving as its human resources director.
Previously, Washington served as assistant human resources director, compensation and benefits manager and street services project manager for the City of Fort Worth, Texas.
Washington holds a bachelor of business administration in human resources management from Tarleton State University, an M.B.A. from Amberton University and a master of arts and doctorate in education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In casting her vote for Washington, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said she was impressed by the fact he “has done a lot of innovation and is results-driven. He understands the role of a leader within the city organization and the community.”
The hiring decision comes after a vote in February to re-open the national search after what had been a six-month process leading to three finalists who did not meet the needs of Grand Rapids, according to Bliss.
Springsted Waters, an executive recruitment firm, led the second city manager search.
The were four other candidates for the position: Tom Almonte, acting interim deputy city manager and managing director of public services, Grand Rapids; Peter Auger, city manager, Novi; Michael Cernech, city manager, Tamarac, Florida; and April McGrath Lynch, city manager, Ferndale.
Eric DeLong has been Grand Rapids‘ interim city manager since Greg Sundstrom retired in February. Sundstrom started serving as Grand Rapids’ city manger in 2009.