Sturgis City Commissioners Wednesday voted 7—1 in favor of offering its city manager position to Interim City Manager Andrew Kuk, with Commissioner Frank Perez representing the lone dissenting vote. Kuk has been filling in for former City Manager Mike Hughes, who resigned in January to take another position in a different field.
Mayor Jeff Mullins opened discussions on whether to extend an official job offer to Kuk by recounting the February 27 interview process. He said there were originally two candidates the morning of the city manager interviews, but Dave Johnston advised the commission he was removing himself as an applicant, as he was in negotiations for another job elsewhere. The commission decided to move forward that evening and interview the only candidate remaining: Andrew Kuk. Mullins said there was a consensus at the end of the meeting that the commission would not require a second round of interviews, as they felt they were able to ask and receive all the information necessary in order to make a decision.
Mullins shared his views on Kuk as future city manager. “The way he presents himself, I would be very proud to have him as our next city manager,” he said. “I think that we’ve been lucky to have him along with Mike for the last decade and a half working here for the city, and his knowledge is deep. His care toward this city is deep, as well.” Mullins described Kuk as dignified, caring, empathetic, hardworking, and someone who displays a high level of professionalism. He ended by saying, “I’m totally in favor of offering Mr Kuk the the job of our next city manager.”
Vice Mayor Aaron Miller spoke next, saying Kuk’s dedication and demeanor while working for the City of Sturgis has been stellar. “Just recently there has been an issue with the COA and traffic, and on Saturday this man was found out there directing traffic, even though that’s not in his job description. That’s the type of city manager I believe he’ll be,” Miller said. He then made a motion to extend a conditional offer of employment to Kuk.
Second Precinct Commissioner Travis Klinger said he hoped the interview process felt justified and well-rounded to his fellow commissioners. “I appreciate all the years you’ve already given us, Andrew, and I’m excited to see what comes from beyond here,” Klinger said. “I’m just really hoping that — all puns intended — lightning strikes twice for us and we can get 17 years out of somebody as good as Mike gave us.”
Second Precinct Commissioner Brandon Kinsey was absent from Wednesday night’s meeting, but had previously submitted a written letter voicing his opinion, which Mayor Mullins read out loud. “We as a commission have done well in the process of seeking out our new city manager. The whole time we felt like we had an ace in our pocket with Andrew Kuk,” Kinsey wrote. “To have someone who was most the most experienced but also has lived in our beloved community the whole time is remarkable. Not only that, I believe Andrew did an amazing job during his interview. To have someone who has proven their commitment to our community, but also has passion and vision I would definitely be willing (to vote) in favor of Andrew Kuk (being) our next city manager.”
Fourth Precinct Commissioner Frank Perez spoke next, and delivered his dissenting opinion. “What I’m about to say is no reflection of my relationship with you or how we’re going to work together moving forward,” Perez began as he addressed Kuk. “It’s a no from me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to work with you. It’s not meaning I’m not willing to roll up my sleeves with you, I just think we could’ve done a better process.” Perez then wished Kuk the best, saying he hopes his no vote does not take away from the fact he believes the interim city manager is a “tremendous guy.”
With a motion from Vice Mayor Miller and support in place the commission voted 7—1 in favor of offering the city manager job to Kuk. “Thank you so much for the commission for your consideration. I really appreciate it, I appreciate the opportunity, and it is my intent to accept,” Kuk said.
Former City Manager Hughes and City Attorney TJ Reed will begin the process of drafting an official contract, which will be brought to the March 22 city commission meeting for closed session discussions.
Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.