After nine years working for the city of Ann Arbor, City Administrator Roger Fraser will be making the move from Tree Town to the state’s capitol.
Fraser, who announced his resignation last week, is leaving his position to work under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in Lansing as the deputy state treasurer for the Bureau of Local Government Services beginning May 9.
Fraser said in an interview yesterday that he is excited to work with Snyder, whom he has collaborated with previously at SPARK — a non-profit organization based in Ann Arbor that promotes business growth. Fraser served on SPARK’s executive board and administrative committee while Snyder was CEO of the business incubator.
“Rick was instrumental in putting that together,” Fraser said of the organization.
Fraser said he was approached by Snyder’s staff after he told them he wanted to help the governor pursue his reforms for the state. Snyder’s campaign platform included plans to reinvigorate Michigan’s economy through boosting technological capital and to change the state’s tax systems.
“When he got elected, he had an agenda of change that I think is long overdue in our state,” Fraser said. “I indicated that I was willing and would help them in that exercise.”
Fraser said his current job as city administrator — which will end on April 29 — consists of day-to-day operational responsibilities similar to those of a chief operating officer. Having worked in local governments across the country for more than 47 years, Fraser said he has enjoyed his position because it allows him to impact the lives of Ann Arbor residents.
“We’re given the opportunity to affect people’s lives on a daily basis in a positive way,” Fraser said. “We have the ability here to make things better for the folks that live in our community.”
Reflecting on his time in office, Fraser said he is proud he helped improve the way the city manages its budget, especially since the Ann Arbor City Council was worried about its finances when he first took the job.
However, Fraser said the city may still have a few fiscal obstacles to overcome.
“We still have some financial struggles ahead of us,” he said. “Some of the decisions that are being made at the state level are going to impact cities in a very difficult way financially, in addition to the difficulties we’re experiencing as a consequence of other decreasing revenues.”
Fraser added that his outlook for Ann Arbor’s future is an optimistic one. He said he is excited the city will formally open its newly built Justice Center — which now houses offices and courtrooms of the city’s 15th District Court — on 301 E. Huron St. in the spring.
Despite his successful track record as a city official, Fraser’s nine years working in Ann Arbor included some disagreements with council members.
City Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said her relationship with Fraser was cordial, but they didn’t always share the same views on policies. She added that her relationship with Fraser has been limited since most of their interactions occur during City Council meetings.
“We haven’t always agreed,” Briere said. “Mostly, we’ve interacted enough to disagree.”
She added that she isn’t surprised Fraser is leaving for Lansing. She said Fraser told her “he has reached a point where he’s ready to try new things that are of a different intensity.”
City Council member Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) said he’s appreciated the work Fraser has done.
“It has been a great pleasure working with Roger Fraser,” Taylor said. “His tenure at the city has been marked by long-term planning and resourcefulness in the face of tremendous adversity.”
In regard to Fraser’s successor, Briere said Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje is considering asking a current staff member to act as interim city administrator — a standard practice in this type of situation.
Hieftje could not be reached for comment as of last night.
Fraser said he doesn’t have an “automatic successor” and that council can appoint anyone to the position, adding that he expects the announcement will be made within the next few weeks.
“I expect that it will be somebody out of my executive team,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate on who that would be.”