Kent expected to OK contract with manager

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Law Director James Silver said he is drafting a proposed contract for council's approval Wednesday. The contract is expected to become public record today.

Steinbrecher submitted a letter of resignation to Kim Tunnicliff, mayor of Albion, Mich., where he is now city manager, on Thursday morning, hours after council authorized Silver to negotiate to bring Steinbrecher on board. HIs last day as city manager in Albion will be Oct. 31.

Steinbrecher said the terms of the contract are acceptable to him and he believes they are acceptable to council also, but stressed that Kent council has not voted to approve the contract yet. His contract in Albion requires him to give 30 days notice to the city before leaving, he said.

He said he plans to visit Kent several times in the next month in an effort to find housing for his family, and may be at Wednesday's council meeting.

Before Wednesday's meeting, Steinbrecher said, he was told an offer could be forthcoming.

"There was an indication an offer would be made, but the offer was not made until last night," he said.

Silver said council advertised a salary range between $65,000 and $75,000. The salary offered to Steinbrecher was within that range, he said.

"It's not the same contract as we had with the previous city manager," he said. "There are some similarities and there are some differences."

A salary history Steinbrecher included with his resume shows he is making $62,750 in Albion, about $10,000 more than when he was hired in October 1994. When he came to Albion from New London, Wisc., where he had been city manager for six years, Albion agreed to pay him about $2,000 more than he made in New London.

Priscilla Blanchard, Kent's former city manager, was scheduled to earn $70,063 this year, the final year of her three-year contract. Council gave her a settlement of $91,000 in exchange for her resignation in March.

A few close colleagues knew of Steinbrecher's possible move to Kent before council officially extended the offer. Peggy Sindt, executive director and CEO of the Albion Economic Development Corporation, was one of them.

"He's been pretty candid about it," she said. "We did our best to talk him out of it."

Tunnicliff and Sindt had nothing but praise for Steinbrecher, who they said would be missed in Albion.

"We're going to miss him a lot, but we know a city manager tends to come in, do his work and move on," Tunnicliff said. "We're in a very good position to recruit a replacement largely because of the building blocks Lew has put in place."

In his three years in Albion, Steinbrecher has worked to establish a new water system to replace an old system where the drinking wells were contaminated. Because of the city's financial condition and bond rating, the city was able to save money on that bond issue, Tunnicliff said.

A streetscape improvement was also done under Steinbrecher's watch, he added.

When he first came to Albion, he replaced both the finance director and the police chief, two appointments Tunnicliff has said would have been controversial "if anyone other than Lew had handled it." He now has a staff he works well with, Tunnicliff added.

"He's able to spread credit when it's due," he said. "He's open, respectful and expects that to be returned, which it should be. He's a top-flight individual."

Steinbrecher did not apply for the job in Kent but instead was recruited by Thomas Dority of the Mercer Group, which conducted the search. Tunnicliff said he was not surprised a search firm would seek Steinbrecher out.

"He's overwhelmingly professional and a straight-up individual with a lot of integrity," he said. "He's assessable, he's not a show boater and he's very competent."

Sindt described Steinbrecher as an "awfully good guy" and a "consensus builder."

"He's very smart and considerate about people," she said. "He takes people into consideration, which is something some people don't do. He's done some really good things for the community. We're going to miss him."

Sindt's corporation is a non-profit group that works to bring industrial and commercial development to Albion and works with existing businesses to convince them to stay in town. Since Steinbrecher has been in town, she said, two new companies have moved in and several firms have expanded.

"Lew has been instrumental in working with city council and explaining the importance of working with these companies as they grow," she said.

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