By Jim Newell
Lake Orion Review Editor
The new Lake Orion village manager is a name that will probably be familiar to many residents: that’s because he works only a few miles up M-24 as the current Oxford village manager.
The Lake Orion Village Council voted 6-0 at its meeting on Monday to formerly “extend an offer of employment” to Joseph Young, who will be leaving the Oxford post at the end of the month. Councilmember Shauna Brown was absent from the meeting.
Lake Orion will now begin the negotiation process with Young, whose employment with the village is contingent on successful salary and benefits negotiations and a background and credit check.
Lake Orion has approximately 3,000 residents and 13 full-time village employees, and the village manager’s position pays between $55,000 to $70,000, plus benefits, annually, according to the job description advertisement the village placed with the Michigan Municipal League.
Young, 70, would replace former village Manager Darwin McClary, who left Feb. 24 to take the city manager’s position in Ypsilanti.
Police Chief Jerry Narsh and Clerk Susan Galeczka have been sharing responsibilities as co-interim village managers.
Council members had nothing but praise after offering Young the manager’s position.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Young, and hopefully this will work out for us,” said Councilmember David Churchill.
“He’s a great candidate and I think he will work out well for us,” said Councilmember John Ranville.
“We’ve got a lot going on and the council felt we need to maintain good leadership,” council President Ken Van Portfliet said. “Based upon the scoring from our interviews, he was the highest vote-getter. I think we have a real opportunity with him. There are a number of things that fit. He has the knowledge and background that we need going forward.”
At a special Oxford Village Council meeting on Feb. 23 that lasted approximately six minutes, the council voted 3-2 to terminate Young’s employment agreement, effective March 31, reported The Oxford Leader. The Lake Orion Review and The Oxford Leader are both published by Sherman Publications, Inc.
Young had served as the Oxford manager since 2004, and at the time of the firing the Oxford council members gave no reason for terminating his employment with the village.
Prior to Oxford, Young had served in various municipal roles for Pontiac, Kalamazoo, Southfield, Hamtramck and Hastings. Young also was city manager of Hazel Park for five years, he said.
During the interview process, Young said he could begin working at Lake Orion as soon as April 3.
Young said after the council offered him the position that he did not want to comment while contract negotiations were pending, but gave The Review this statement:
“I thank the Village Council for the opportunity to serve the Village of Lake Orion as their manager. I am looking forward to finalizing the hiring process and contract negotiation and to start working on the goals, objectives and projects for the Village of Lake Orion.”
The Selection Process
Lake Orion began advertising for a new village manager shortly after McClary gave his mandatory 30-day notice in January.
Lake Orion received nine resumes for the manager’s position. A sub-committee then narrowed that number down to four candidates to interview. One of the candidates withdrew his name from consideration before the interviews began.
Besides Young, the council also interviewed Steven Brown, former city manager of Mt. Clemens, and Jim Creech, the current Franklin village manager and former Oakland Township superintendent.
As part of the motion to offer the manager’s position to Young, the council included an additional resolution that if Lake Orion could not reach an agreement with Young, then the village would make the same offer to Steven Brown.
During interviews, the council asked each candidate the same 17 questions, ranging from career highlight, if they had downtown redevelopment success, their strengths and weaknesses as a village/city manager, their style of management, their experience in community development and redevelopment and fiscal and personnel management experience.
The council also asked each candidate if they had experience in assisting a community in becoming a city.
Council members scored each candidate’s answers on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest score.
Young received and average score of 4.43 across the 17 questions. Brown came is second with an average score of 3.41, while Creech’s average score was 2.98.
Young’s interview with the council was on March 9, just four days before council offered him the position as manager.
Because of Oxford’s proximity to Lake Orion, the Lake Orion council members said they were familiar with Young. Churchill, for instance, is an officer with the Village of Oxford Police Department.
“We appreciate you being one of our candidates. We know you, we’ve worked with you,” Van Portfliet said at the interview.
Young described his management style as “participative, not dictative.” He said he prefers to “lead by example” and wants his employees to take risks and act, not be passive.
As his strengths, Young said he had leadership, financial and audit experience which could benefit the village, and “Certainly my people skills, working with people at all levels.”
“I’m a helpful person, no matter who you are, especially in government,” Young told the council.
After working for more than 12 years in Oxford, Young said he has strong intergovernmental relationships with all the government entities in the area, including NOTA (North Oakland Transportation Authority), the Polly Ann Trail Commission, Oxford Twp., regularly attends community leadership meetings and is “very involved in the community.”
He added that he has contract negotiation experience, including negotiating AFCSME contracts just six months ago; he’s supervised water and sewer departments and secured grants; and has worked on getting tax abatements for local businesses.
Young said he was not particularly strong in social media, adding it “can be negative” but knows its importance in today’s world. “I would like to improve my skills in that area. Monitoring it is very critical – making sure information is timely and up-to-date.”
As for his age, Young says it’s just a number. “I intend to work until the Lord says, ‘It’s time to go, Joe.’ Helping and serving others, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.”
The Lake Orion council also asked Young if he had ever been dismissed from a position.
Young admitted that, in addition to Oxford, he had been dismissed from three other positions, once in Hazel Park and twice in Pontiac.
He said that when he was fired from Oxford the council had “no discussion with me.”
“The three of them apparently don’t like my style of management. I’m not dictatorial,” Young said. “As a manager, you take the fall…the buck stops here.”
Young said he would miss Oxford and the staff, who were “like family” to him.