City Council approves Tom Crawford as city administrator in special session

Monday, September 14, 2020 - 10:31pm

Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-0 to instate Tom Crawford as the next city administrator Monday evening.

Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-0 to instate Tom Crawford as the next city administrator Monday evening. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Barbara Collins

City Council voted 10-0 to officially give Interim City Administrator Tom Crawford the full-time position as city administrator at a special session meeting Monday night.

Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, said she supported instating Crawford as permanent city administrator. She said Crawford has clearly demonstrated his effectiveness in doing the job during his time as interim city administrator.

“Councilmembers universally respect Tom and rank him very highly,” Lumm said. “Not one councilmember — zero — indicated that they would not recommend Tom. That, I believe, speaks volumes about Tom’s professionalism, his capabilities, his skillset and the fact that he treats everyone with respect and his ability to stay above the political fray.”

Agreeing with Lumm, Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, said she thought it was extremely important to move forward with somebody like Crawford, who she said will be straightforward, honest and above board in the position.

 “I know personally how important it is to have somebody in this position who is a collaborator, and treats everyone with respect, equally,” Nelson said.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor also expressed support for Crawford, saying Crawford will achieve great things for Ann Arbor.

“I’m going to be voting for Tom Crawford to be our next city administrator today,” Taylor said. “I know that he is going to perform in this role with skill and with honor and with incredible dedication.”

In addition to Crawford, Cara Pavlicek, village manager of Oak Park, Illinois, was a finalist for the position. Council originally considered four candidates for the city administrator position. Joyce Parker, deputy state treasurer for the state of Michigan, and Eric Wobster, city manager of Sandusky, Ohio were among the two considered in addition to Pavlicek and Crawford.

The approval comes after the council voted to terminate previous City Administrator Howard Lazarus without cause in February. The resolution to terminate Lazarus, sponsored by Lumm and Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, came after Lazarus seeked a city manager position in Gainesville, Florida in September 2019 with an application which talked about issues Lazarus had with councilmembers. Lazarus had been Ann Arbor’s city administrator since 2016.

Lazarus’s termination received backlash from some members on council and the local community. As such, Taylor acknowledged this dissent and said Crawford will face challenges when he takes on this role.

“I think it’s important that we engage in some truths and that is that Mr. Crawford is going to be taking this position subject to challenges that he had no part in making,” Taylor said. “The fact that his predecessor’s tenure ended under circumstances that dispirited members of our staff and members of our community, and as the innocent beneficiary of that termination and the resulting selection process, Mr. Crawford is going to assume leadership with a need to build relationships, build confidence and build momentum.”

Taylor’s comment sparked controversy among the council. Griswold said Taylor’s comments are merely opinions and should be left in the past.

“I am really saddened that the mayor has used this opportunity to perpetuate what I consider opinions and not truths,” Griswold said. “It’s time to move on, and it’s time for good Democrats to be honest and to focus on what’s really important and that is happening on the national level.”

Daily News Editor Barbara Collins can be reached at bcolli@umich.edu. Daily Staff Reporter Kristina Zheng can be reached at krizheng@umich.edu