By Rosemary K. Otzman
Arthur Mullen, who has been serving as the interim Planning and Economic Development Director for Van Buren Township, was promoted to full-time director at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the VBT Board of Trustees.
The job description and at-will personal services agreement for Mullen was added to Tuesday’s agenda on Monday afternoon, after his selection was discussed at the board’s work-study session.
Mullen has been serving in the position since Terry Carroll was fired from that position Feb. 8.
Supervisor Linda Combs selected Mullen for the interim position after she said he was highly recommended by VBT’s former planning assistant Amy Jordan Miller, who presently works for the Michigan Planning Association.
The board wanted to know more about Mullen and so although Combs wanted him voted in on Feb. 19, the item was removed from the agenda. He was approved April 2.
Amendments to the budget approved $77,500 as the annual salary for Mullen as interim director and $92,300 for the new director when hired. Mullen’s Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO coverage has a 90-day delay and will be effective Sept. 4. No further changes to the budget are expected.
Mullen, who lives in Grosse Pointe, is on the board of the Michigan Downtown Association and is certified with the American Institute of Certified Planners.
He was laid off from an executive director’s position at the Mount Clements DDA last May for economic reasons. The DDA had less money coming in and no projects to give him to manage, an official said.
According to an interview published on Mullen when he was with the Mount Clemens DDA, Mullen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. He then earned a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation at Columbia University.
His first full-time job was in the Planning and Development Department of the City of Detroit. Then he worked for four years with the MotorCities National Heritage Area as a program manager, before becoming director of the Mount Clemens DDA.
Supervisor Combs, who was not present at Monday’s work-study session because of illness, put together a five-person committee to select the top candidate for the VBT position.
There were 46 applicants for the job and the candidates were trimmed down to five, who were interviewed in an all-day session on May 17. The committee was made up of Treasurer Sharry Budd, Clerk Leon Wright, Planning Commission Chairman Carol Thompson, and Phil McKenna of McKenna Associates. Supervisor Combs’ executive assistant Karin LaMothe also sat in on the sessions.
The committee gave scores to each candidate and when the scores were totaled the winner was Mullen.
When questioned at the work-study session about the procedure, LaMothe told the board, pretty much from memory, that those interviewed, besides Mullen, were “Mr. Gray from Jackson, Mr. Marsh from Pontiac, Mr. Hicks, and Mr. Dahlgren, who is in the restaurant business.”
(On Tuesday LaMothe released the candidates as being: Jeffrey Gray, City of Mount Pleasant; Richard Marsh, City of Pontiac; Barry Hicks, City of Jackson; and John Dahlgren, private industry.)
The board members had no list of names and no resumes to look over, which was a point of discussion at the work-study session.
While board members who weren’t on the selection committee agreed Mullen was doing a good job and has handled some difficult projects well, they didn’t like being kept out of the process.
“In the future I would appreciate having something to look at,” said Trustee Brenda McClanahan, adding the names LaMothe called out meant nothing to her.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said he would like to see at least the resumes of the finalists, so he could get a better handle on who was applying.
Clerk Wright agreed, saying as a board they needed to set a standard on how they hire their directors. He asked why they needed to go through the process if they are going to go in the direction the supervisor wanted.
“I’d like to be a part of the process,” agreed Trustee Reggie Miller. “There has to be a consistent process every time. Yes, we need to be involved.”
Clerk Wright said he was sure Mullen will do a good job.
Trustee McClanahan said the board members at least needed the other resumes, since the board has the final say in approving the top candidate.
Trustee Jahr agreed, adding he wished the supervisor was present to be involved in the discussion.
Jahr said when they were choosing a public safety director in the last administration the board went over resumes, but the result was pre-determined.
Miller said she would have liked to see how the committee came to its decision.
“I want to do my due diligence,” McClanahan said. “It’s important to the process. It’s not a lot to ask.”
Wright said it has nothing to do with trusting the selection panel, but it has to do with an open process that everyone can be involved in.
“I would have liked to know what about Candidate B?” Jahr said, noting that the one they’re dealing with is a known entity and he was ready to move forward with the selection.
By Rosemary K. Otzman