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Ypsilanti City Council Recap: Jan. 23, 2024

The Ypsilanti City Council held their latest meeting on Jan. 23.

Roll was called to begin the meeting, followed by the pledge of allegiance. Mayor Nicole Brown then entertained a motion to approve the agenda for the meeting. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Wilcoxen responded with a move to amend the agenda. Speaking out, he voiced interest in moving the voting for the Ward 2 vacancy to before the vote for City Manager.

"It would also be unfair to leave Ward 2 under-represented in a decision of this magnitude. This is probably one of the most important decisions we make..." Wilcoxen said.

With no support to his motion, the City Council voted to approve the agenda.

The Finance Department and Ypsilanti Police Department then gave presentations to City Council regarding their goals for the new year.

Afterwards, Sharonda Simmons led the final of her goal sessions through Zoom. City Council members reflected on their past goals of 2023, and they also discussed potential 2024 goals that had been submitted prior by Council members.

During the session, City Council members broke off into groups of two to help hone in on the particular goals they would like to have for the upcoming year. The notes taken by members will be sent to Simmons, and City Council will vote on official 2024 goals during their first meeting in February.

After the goal session concluded, Brown opened up the meeting for public comment. Following public comment portion, the City Council moved forward with resolutions, which began with the vote to fill the city manager position.

The two candidates for the position were Vester Davis Jr. and Andrew Hellenga.

Hellenga has been acting as the interim city manager prior to this vote, and he has been acting as the interim city clerk following Aaron Smith's resignation on Jan. 19.

Council Member Me'Chelle King brought forth a motion to extend the position of city manager to Davis Jr., Council Member Simmons showed support for the motion.

"I feel like I'm at a place right now where I think both of our candidates are strong in different ways, some in the same ways..." Council Member Simmons said. "I found some of [Davis Jr.'s] answers and responses in terms of some of the specifics that he shared to be compelling and... I saw connections to things that we need here in Ypsi."

King then spoke on why she moved to appoint Davis Jr.

"I think he has experience and the energy we need to move Ypsilanti forward," King said.

Wilcoxen shared his reflection on Davis Jr.'s interview and responses.

"It just struck me that there was very little context for the city of Ypsilanti in his responses," Wilcoxen said.

Council Member Evan Sweet proceeded to mention the other candidate, Hellenga.

"Our current internal candidate, I think, does have more strengths and more assets that play into the needs of the City as an organization and what is to come in the future," Sweet said.

The motion failed with the votes of one yes, five no's, and one vacant.

Council Member Roland Tooson then moved to extend the job offer to Hellenga. The motion was supported by Sweet.

"I think this is an opportunity for growth and continued development with someone who has shown their commitment, and through the last half of a year or a little bit more now, we've gone through a lot and has really hunkered down, and has shown their ability to withstand praise as well as ridicule," Brown said. "I think that that is the direction and that's the type of person that I would like to see leading our community at this time."

The motion passed with five voting yes, one voting no, and one vacant.

During the discussion surrounding both candidates, City Council also agreed to integrate required professional development courses into the job contract for city manager. The contract will be negotiated between City Attorney John Barr and Hellenga before being brought to City Council for approval.

City Council then moved on to filling the Ward 2 vacancy on Council, with the two candidates being Jason Keech and Patrick McLean.

Council Member Simmons moved to appoint McLean for the position. The motion was supported by Wilcoxen.

"I look at Patrick's extensive experience in city government, multiple larger cities, a finance background... I think that was the driving force. Just the depth of the experience and the broadness of that knowledge..." Wilcoxen said.

Sweet further spoke on McLean's experience.

"I do agree that Mr. McLean's interview and depth of knowledge and background on city government lends himself to the frontrunner in this process to join this group and to best serve the residents of this city and to take in consideration of factors that we may not otherwise consider at certain points and aspects," Council Member Sweet said.

The motion passed with six members voting yes and one vacant.

McLean proceeded to take his oath of office before joining the rest of the Council for the remainder of the meeting.

The next resolution was an adjustment to Hellenga's hourly salary. The resolution states that there would be an increase of $16.166, to a total of $70 per hour, while acting as both city manager and interim city clerk.

The motion passed unanimously.

City Council also moved to post the City Clerk position application with a pay range of $70-$85 per hour.

This motion passed unanimously, and the edited job description will be forwarded to City Council prior to its posting.

Other resolutions were discussed and voted on, including the approval of agenda minutes and the dismissal of Commissioner Devin Shelton from the Sustainability Commission due to meeting absences.

Agenda minutes were approved, and the dismissal motion passed unanimously.

A motion also passed unanimously to appoint Michael McAtee to the Parks and Arts Commission and to appoint Katherine Layton to the Humans Relations Commission. Their term expirations were also changed to July 1, 2027.

The City Council then moved on to liaison reports, council proposed business, and then to public comment prior to closing the meeting.

For future Ypsilanti City Council coverage, follow The Eastern Echo.