Stanton hires new city manager; mayor resigns, blames new mayor

By Meghan Nelson • Last Updated 11:45 am on Thursday, February 16, 2017

New Stanton Mayor Ken Burris, at left, welcomes new City Manager Elizabeth Pynaert after city commissioners unanimously voted to hire Pynaert full-time during Tuesday night’s Stanton City Commission meeting. — Daily News/Meghan Nelson

STANTON — In the last five months, this city lost its manager, searched for a manager with Lakeview, cut ties with Lakeview, appointed an acting city manager and began advertising for a permanent manager.

The “convoluted process,” as Stanton City Commissioner Karl Yoder called it, came to a close Tuesday night when the Stanton City Commission unanimously voted to offer acting City Manager Elizabeth Pynaert the full-time city manager job with a one-year contract.

The decision came after a lengthy discussion by city commissioners, city business owners and new Mayor Ken Burris, who was sworn in after Larry Petersen submitted a letter of resignation as mayor. Petersen had only been mayor since last November.

City Clerk/Treasurer Lori Braman read Petersen’s resignation letter during Tuesday’s meeting, saying he had handed her letter about an hour before the meeting. The Daily News requested a copy of the resignation letter to clarify what was written, but Pynaert declined, asking The Daily News to file a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Stanton City Clerk/Treasurer Lori Braman, at left, reads the oath of office to new Mayor Ken Burris, who took over as mayor after former Larry Petersen resigned at the beginning of Tuesday night’s Stanton City Commission meeting.

The Daily News contacted Petersen on Wednesday to askabout his resignation.

“The biggest problem is I have been slandered by Ken Burris long enough,” Petersen told The Daily News. “Burris talked me into running for mayor because there was no one else, and I’ve been treated like this long enough. I’m sorry I had to do it.”

When contacted by The Daily News, Burris said, “I’ve never said anything that wasn’t the truth.” He declined to elaborate.


Hiring a new manager

Commissioners then discussed the process of hiring a city manager. Jake Eckholm stepped down as Stanton’s manager last September to take another job. The City Commission hired Pynaert as acting city manager last December while the city advertised for the job.

Commissioners had the resumes of everyone who applied for the job, but they did not review any of those resumes during Tuesday’s meeting. The Daily News asked how much money Stanton spent advertising the city manager position, but that information was not immediately available Wednesday.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Burris noted one of the candidates is from North Carolina, which he said he “didn’t want to get involved with.”

“This thing has been going on too long, and I want to get on with it,” Burris said.

Stanton City Manager Elizabeth Pynaert works on her computer during her first day as city manager Wednesday while City Clerk/Treasurer Lori Braman watches.

Commissioner John Seaman said the city should only consider candidates who met the advertisement’s three to five years of experience request. Commissioner Jane Basom pointed out even Pynaert didn’t have that amount of experience.

“As I looked at these applications (before the meeting), there are some that are absolutely unacceptable either because of past experiences or because the resume seemed not accurate or there’s inexperience,” Yoder said

Burris opened the discussion up for public comment, and local business owners offered their opinions.

“I think it’s ridiculous what you’re doing to (Elizabeth),” said Jeff Lowell of Black Bird Asphalt Sealcoating and Striping. “She’s doing a great job. She finally has help now. From what I’ve seen from here, she is more than qualified.”

Commissioner Charles Miel pointed out that as community liaison, it was Pynaert’s job to engage with the community and businesses.

“She’s the first person who’s had that job,” Miel said. “The way we’ve done this process has not been good for the city. I’m not saying she might not be the one, but we didn’t get a chance to talk to the other candidates. There are other people out there I’d like to talk to them before making a decision.”

Despite some uncertainty, commissioners unanimously voted to hire Pynaert as the new city manager. Her salary is still being negotiated. City Commissioner Krista Johnson was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.


Resume confirmation

Pynaert declined to provide The Daily News with her own resume listing her educational and work background, telling The Daily News to file a FOIA request.

According to Pynaert’s LinkedIn profile, she graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management. She also has a degree in business administration from Ivy Tech Community College from 2006 and was certified as a nursing assistant at that same college in 2003.

According to Pynaert’s LinkedIn profile, she worked as a certified nursing assistant at St. Anne Home & Retirement Community for three years from 2003-2006; as a sales associate for JCPenney for three months in 2007-2008; worked in marketing/clerical for RV & Truck Clear Coating Inc. for three months in 2009; worked as a sales associate for Macy’s for one year from 2009-2010; worked as a marketing plan team member for Fort Wayne Sister City International for five months in 2012; worked in marketing for Hoosier Windows & Siding in Fort Wayne, Ind., for seven months in 2013; and worked as inventory manager at Ace Hardwoods in Howe, Ind., for one year and eight months from 2012-2014.

Pynaert was hired by Eckholm as executive assistant/community liaison for the city of Stanton in August 2015.

The Daily News requested resumes of the other candidates for city manager, but Pynaert said she did not have access to that information and she believed Burris had the resumes. When asked The Daily News to provide the resumes, Burris said he would think about it.

A brief history of Stanton city managers

Bill Cargo was Stanton’s first administrator until August 1992, when he resigned to take an administrator’s job in Grand Haven Charter Township. He also worked as Edmore’s administrator as a shared services agreement with Stanton.

Franz Mogdis was city administrator from late 1992 to 1997 when he resigned to become executive director of the Montcalm Alliance. The city administrator position was left vacant after Mogdis’ resignation.

James Freed was Lakeview and Stanton’s shared manager from June 2008 to May 2014. He resigned to take a manager’s position in Port Huron.

Jake Eckholm was Lakeview and Stanton’s shared manager from August 2014 to September 2016. He resigned to take a manager’s position in Muskegon Heights.

Elizabeth Pynaert was hired as Stanton’s newest city manager on Tuesday. She previously worked as the city’s executive assistant and community liaison.

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