East Jordan officials pick downstate candidate to be new city administrator
Chris Yonker is East Jordan officials' pick to be the new city administrator. (August 13, 2012)
Commissioners decided unanimously at an Aug. 2 meeting to pursue the hiring of Wayland resident Chris Yonker, whose most recent employment was as Wayland's city manager from March 2009 until October 2011.
As of Friday, city clerk Cheltzi Wilson said officials still were awaiting results from Yonker's background check. If it's successful, the new administrator is expected to start work Monday, Aug. 20, she added.
"I'm excited about it, as is my wife, Diane," the 55-year-old Yonker said of his anticipated new job. "We're both from the west Michigan area and wanted to stay in west and northwest Michigan, so it's a great opportunity for us."
Yonker will replace Bob Anderson, who resigned from the city administrator's position earlier this year, but has remained on the job during the search for a new administrator. Yonker is to receive a salary of $65,000 in East Jordan, Wilson said, along with a $2,500 housing allowance and an option for performance-based bonus pay.
City commissioner Thomas Breakey said he was impressed by Yonker's familiarity with economic development and Main Street downtown revitalization programs and his experience securing grants.
"I hope he takes the bull by the horns," Breakey added. "We need somebody to come into East Jordan and do the job; follow the charter. If he does that, I don't think he's got any problems whatsoever."
Commissioner Tony Cutler also sees potential for Yonker to help promote economic development. Cutler added that East Jordan officials plan to explore a new wastewater treatment facility to better serve local industry and accommodate future growth, and said Yonker also has experience that would be relevant to that process.
"We're really focused as a community on some economic development and turning East Jordan around," Cutler said. "Chris comes with some great experience in the communities that he's been in."
East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce president and local business owner Mary Faculak, who served on an administrator search committee, also said Yonker seems to have strong economic development credentials, along with an effective managerial style and strong involvement in the communities he has been part of.
"We're looking forward to having him as part of Team EJ," she said.
Downstate media reports from last fall indicated that Yonker was terminated from the Wayland city manager's position, with the city council noting in a statement that he had not addressed a list of objectives and responsibilities that had been set in a performance review process.
Yonker said the termination resulted from "nothing illegal, immoral or unethical. It's basically politics."
"I had the support of my staff and a big portion of the community," he added.
Cutler noted that other East Jordan officials paid a site visit to Wayland seeking community members' perceptions of the administrator candidate, and heard from some whose views of the termination process were similar to Yonker's.
Name: Chris Yonker
Work experience: city manager in Wayland 2009-11, city manager in Fremont 1993-2008, capital budget officer/block grant program coordinator in Evanston, Ill., 1992-93, block grant program coordinator in Evanston 1985-92, community development planner in Evanston 1984-85, assistant executive director/grantsman for Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission in Missouri 1983-84, growth management planner/energy audit coordinator for Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission 1980-83
Education: bachelor's degree from Grand Valley State University, master of public administration degree from Roosevelt University
Personal: Yonker and his wife, Diane, have three grown children between them.
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