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Traverse City gets a New City Manager

Meet Your New City Manager

June 1, 2015
Meet Your New City Manager

Marty Colburn is set to become City Manager for the City of Traverse City, leaving behind the same job in Mason, Mich. We caught up with him by phone about his impressions of the city, thoughts about the job, and how hard it's been finding a house here.

Ticker: First of all, congratulations. What are the next steps in leaving your current job and starting here?
Right now there's a lot on my mind in terms of transitioning…number of activities here [in Mason] to properly turn over, like signature authorities to whomever the interim will be. And of course I’m still on a learning curve about Traverse City, so I’m spending time researching and speaking to people.

I’ll be having a discussion with the city council here Monday. I have a 60-day clause in my current contract, but I’ll be requesting an amendment to leave early.

Ticker: And I understand you’re experiencing our real estate boom as you look for a place to live in Traverse City?
Yes, I’ve been looking both online and speaking to people. I’m driving up this evening to look around and follow up on a few places. Yeah, it’s the great time of year for real estate, but in terms of finding a place to live, it’s been challenging so far.

Ticker: Tell us about your family.
My wife and I just had our 25th anniversary. We don’t have children, but we do have pets. My wife is thrilled with our move. It’s a brand new chapter for us.

Ticker: And what’s your history or experience with Traverse City?
I’ve been up there a number of times visiting for long weekend vacations and enjoying the up north and its natural beauty. But of course what I’m coming up for is what I do and what I know best: To provide services and support to the community there.

Ticker: Recognizing you’re not even on the job yet, what’s at the top of your agenda?
One item is to get familiarized with the staff and operations. It’s also construction season, so I need to understand the intracacies of all the things now underway. I think another priority is to understand the operations of what I’ll call the ‘sister’ units like Light & Power and the DDA and how we work together on different services.

Ticker: Any insights into your work style?
I want to meet with all the department heads and the commissioners and then also other key service providers such as director of Light & Power, the DDA, the chamber, the convention & visitors bureau and ramp-up on the projects we work together on. But I also like to reach out and go to meetings to make myself available to people around the community so they can recognize my face.

Ticker: What will the people of Mason say about you after sixteen years on the job there?
Well we’ve juggled a lot of projects and worked hard and long. I think I’ve been available, and I’ve been able to work well with a number of different organizations. I’d say I’ve worked very well with the business community particularly; they need to interface with government in numerous fashions, and I’ve been very supportive of the business community particularly in our historic downtown. We had several aging buildings, and we were able to get reinvestments to save those buildings and create more usable space for commercial, residential, and retail.

Ticker: Any idea at this early stage what might be one of the more challenging parts of this new job?
Well, finances often are a big part of some of the most adversarial issues, not only where to find the dollars to make projects work, but also how to best spend them. That’s often where diverse opinions will range, and part of my job is to pull together the staff and resources to make things happen.

Ticker: The previous city manager felt his role was more in support of the commission’s goals and interests as opposed to being out in front of things. How do you see your role?
I’ll be able to say more as I better understand the culture of the organization but to be candid, I think it is the role of the city manager -- once he’s identified the issues – to point them out to the commission and community with possible solutions, and have an active discussion to work through the priorities.

Posted: Monday, June 01, 2015 4:40 PM by Jon Becker


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