Ann Arbor is voting to hire the first black city administrator in over 40 years

ANN ARBOR, MI – The City Council has selected Milton Dohoney to lead Ann Arbor City Hall as interim city administrator.

The council unanimously voted in a special session on Monday evening, September 27th, to offer the job to Dohoney, who has decades of experience in local government in Arizona, Ohio and Kentucky.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Mayor and Council and members of the Ann Arbor Ward,” Dohoney said in an interview following the vote. “Of course we have to negotiate a contract … but I’m very excited and look forward to getting there.”

Dohoney, one of two finalists after a national search, becomes Ann Arbor’s first black city administrator since Sylvester Murray 1973-79.

Dohoney said he knows Murray personally, who left Ann Arbor in 1979 to become City Manager in Cincinnati, where Dohoney later served as City Manager for eight years.

“After he retired, he was a college professor for several years and a mentor to some of us,” said Dohoney of Murray, who also served as the city manager of San Diego in the 1980s. “He contacted me when Cincinnati made the decision to hire me, so I met him before I was ever there, and I communicated with him during my tenure there and even after my arrival in the Phoenix Mentor.”

Dohoney added, “He’s an iconic figure in the world of city management because Sy was the first African American to be president of ICMA (the International City / County Management Association), and we haven’t had many. We only had a handful, but he was the first. “

Mayor James Stephenson (left) and Parks Superintendent George Owers (right) greet City Administrator Sylvester Murray on his first day at work in August 1973. Murray was Inksters City Manager before coming to Ann Arbor.Eck Stanger | Ann Arbor News Archives courtesy of OldNews.AADL.org

Dohoney, who served the past seven years as assistant city manager in Phoenix, said he was looking forward to learning about the Ann Arbor community. Leaving Arizona, he admits he’ll soon be trading warm for cold weather, but he’s used to it since he grew up in Kentucky and worked in Ohio.

“I kept my coats and boots when I moved to Arizona,” he says with a laugh. “I didn’t know if I would ever need it again, but I’m looking forward to working there and will pay my heating bills and make sure that I stay warm.”

Mayor Christopher Taylor and councilors were enthusiastic about Dohoney’s setting. The other finalist was Peter Burchard, who worked in the Illinois government.

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“I am grateful to both candidates, but I am particularly excited about the prospect of working and learning from Mr. Dohoney, a gentleman with great expertise and obvious ability,” said Taylor. “His reputation precedes him and his reputation gives way because he is a true and consummate professional and I am very much looking forward to having him here in Ann Arbor.”

Councilor Travis Radina, D-3rd Ward, said it was clear one candidate stood out.

“I really think that Mr. Dohoney … represents exactly what we need in our city right now and I think exactly what we are looking for in terms of an interim administrator,” he said, referring to Dohoney’s experience and background.

Radina said he liked how Dohoney committed to leading people and working with the council to implement processes “to make us more effective, efficient and collaborative.” He also likes Dohoney’s approach to diversity, equality and inclusion, which is an important part of the city’s work, he said.

“Well, I was really excited about him,” said Radina, describing Dohoney as calmly confident.

Considering that Dohoney will be the first black city administrator in about four decades, Radina said, “I hope this means a change for us.”

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“I believe the Ann Arbor Ward is very fortunate to have Mr. Dohoney,” said Councilor Kathy Griswold, D-2nd Ward. “He has strong leadership skills, and I believe he has mastered some of the leadership qualities that we struggle with in this community in terms of metrics, in terms of working together, and in terms of empowering our people.”

Councilor Ali Ramlawi, D-5th Ward, said he believed Ann Arbor had “a very strong person who is helping our community and our organization.”

The city is looking to fill its top leadership position after the city council recently decided to part with City Administrator Tom Crawford, who was accused of making offensive comments about race, sexual orientation and gender.

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The Council has started a search for an external interim administrator in the expectation that it will be a temporary position for possibly a year or more. The city will start another search for a new full-time administrator later in 2022 in early 2023 before appointing a new full-time administrator, so the new council, which will be installed in November 2022, doesn’t have to make a quick decision.

While the terms of Dohoney’s contract are still ongoing, the position was expected to receive a salary of $ 223,600, unchanged from Crawford’s job.

Dohoney has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University Southeast and a master’s degree in human resource management from the University of Louisville.

In Louisville, Dohoney spent a decade running a municipal division focused on community and environmental stewardship, two years as director of public safety and four years as deputy mayor responsible for running a 4,200-strong organization .

He also served for three and a half years as the chief administrative officer of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government in Kentucky, an organization with 3,500 employees.

As City Manager in Cincinnati, he was responsible for a budget of $ 2.5 billion and approximately 6,000 employees. As the deputy city manager in Phoenix, he was part of a leadership team responsible for a $ 4 billion budget until earlier this year and served as incident commander for COVID-19 coordination.

He was also responsible for executive recruitment, teaching leadership programs and mentoring in Phoenix and, according to his résumé, directed the development of civilian police oversight options.

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