GR commissioners approve contract of new city manager

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids city commissioners have approved the contract for newly hired city manager Mark Washington.

Washington’s contract includes a start date of Oct. 1 and an annual salary of $250,000. That’s a 34 percent jump from now-retired City Manager’s Greg Sundstom’s last annual salary of $186,296. 

Washington will receive other benefits, including a $40,000 allowance to move his family to Grand Rapids from Austin, Texas, where he currently works as an assistant city manager. It’s a benefit the city hasn’t had to deal with for 30 years because the position has been filled by a local candidate.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said including relocation costs is a trend in cities across the country and cited a contract with Ann Arbor’s new city administrator that included a stipend.

When asked why taxpayers will be paying so much more for the new manager, Bliss said that “just looking at the competitiveness of the market, we needed to be more competitive.”

“Some of the feedback we received was that we weren’t able to attract some of the higher-caliber candidates we were looking for because the pay range wasn’t competitive,” she continued.

Bliss was referring to the reasons that led to a failed attempt earlier this year to find a replacement for Sundstrom. City commissioners voted to restart the recruitment process in February after the first round of finalists failed to impress them.  

Washington’s new contract is also for three years, rather than a one-year agreement, which was the standard for a Grand Rapids city manager. City officials cited the need for more time to “work with City staff and our partners to dig into complex issues such as racial disparities, housing affordability and community and police relations.”

The city commission voted to hire Washington July 31. He has a total of 22 years of government work in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas.

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