A special meeting was held Monday night where Sturgis City Commissioners conducted the first round of interviews for its vacant city manager position. Two candidates withdrew their consideration for the job prior to the meeting, leaving interim City Manager Andrew Kuk as the lone remaining applicant to interview.
Mayor Jeff Mullins began the meeting by addressing fellow commissioners before Kuk entered the chambers. “I think we are all familiar at this time with Andrew,” he said. “I felt it was still a valuable process to go through the interview with him at this point in time for transparency purposes and things of that nature.” Mullins explained the interview process to commissioners, saying they could ask Kuk questions from the list before them.
Fourth Precinct Commissioner Frank Perez asked, “Is it healthy to only have one candidate?” Mullins said Perez stated prior to the meeting he wanted to reengage with a firm to aid in the search for additional applicants, and Mullins did not agree saying the commission originally had “plenty” of candidates apply at the beginning of the search, and he did not believe it would make any difference to go back to the drawing board.
Perez asked commissioners, “How are you going to evaluate Andrew when there’s no other candidates to evaluate?” Mullins responded by saying, in his opinion, the City of Sturgis has had 15 years to evaluate Kuk as a candidate for city manager, and he’s proven himself over that period of time. Fourth Precinct Commissioner and former mayor Robert Hile agreed with Mullins saying, “I would echo that as I was mayor, too. He proved himself every time something was asked of him and he did it.” Mullins said it was possible the commission would still learn more about Kuk during the interview process, and brought the interim city manager in chambers to begin.
Over the course of an hour commissioners took turns asking Kuk various questions with Mullins taking the lead. “You are the lone standing candidate we have right now in our city manager search pool. Why are you applying for the position of city manager in the City of Sturgis?” Kuk said he has spent a lot of time in the Sturgis community having served nearly 15 years first as an intern, and then as a full-time staff member. He said he has seen many changes and progress over the years, and hoped as future city manager to provide service for change.
Vice Mayor Aaron Miller asked Kuk to describe his ability to relate to employees, city commissioners, advisory committees, and the general public. Kuk said he focuses on commonality in order to connect with others. “I hope they would see me as someone who is open, someone who is willing to talk to anybody and work with anybody, someone who is there to help support and work with them rather than just direct them.”
Hile had questions regarding Kuk’s first steps upon assuming responsibilities in the position of city manager. Kuk spoke about the benefit of serving as interim city manager for the past two months, saying it gave him a chance to be aware of current situations in the city. He said he would not make any changes quickly in order to allow staff to process the transition of roles. “I think change will come, and I think it will come gradually. I think the other thing that is going to be important for me to do is just put myself out in the community more as the city manager.”
As the interview process was ending, Perez had additional questions. “You don’t anticipate that if the position was offered here to accept it, and then move on in a couple of years once you have that city manager title?” Kuk’s response was that he does not envision himself leaving for a different job. “If I’m selected I plan to give this job my utmost attention.” Mullins told Kuk he believed he would make an excellent choice for the City of Sturgis if he does, in fact, become the next city manager.
With the question portion of the interview over, Kuk had the opportunity to pose his own questions. “I would be interested to hear from the commission what your vision for the future is,” he said. “What do you see as your individual visions moving forward for the city and things you want to see the next city manager addressing?” Mullins said he hoped to see a continuation of the work former City Manager Mike Hughes had been providing as far as vision, planning, and outlook. He said he appreciated a leader who would not be afraid to make bold moves in order to make change happen. “I’m not against change, I never have been, and I like what Mike did in the last few years on the way out. I believe you’re in that same category as he was, and I certainly look forward to seeing what you have in store,” Mullins said.
Perez answered Kuk’s question by saying, “I’d love to see, down the road, a work force that is transparent with its population.” He said he also would like to see more culturally diverse events at the Sturges-Young Center for the Arts, bilingual individuals working for the Sturgis Police and Fire Departments, and more hispanic business owners in the downtown area. After each had shared their visions for the future of Sturgis, Kuk shook hands with commissioners, thanked them for their time, and exited the interview.
Following brief discussions, Mayor Mullins announced he would like to proceed by voting at the next city commission meeting to extend an official offer to Kuk. If they do indeed vote in favor of offering the job to Kuk, there will be a closed session the following meeting on March 22 to discuss contract details.
Sturgis City Commission meets twice a month in the Wiesloch Raum in City Hall at 130 N. Ottawa St.
Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.