October 21, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
49°F

Brunswick: Months-long search for a city manager finally over

BRUNSWICK — Ten months, three search rounds and more than 100 candidates later, Brunswick has a new city manager.

At-Large Councilman Pat McNamara announced late Wednesday that City Council chose Jim Lukas, city manager of Franklin, a city of 12,000 people southwest of Dayton, for 14 years, as Brunswick’s next leader.

“We’re very excited and can’t wait to get him working,” McNamara said.

Lukas’ annual salary will be $108,500, McNamara said. Former city manager Bob Zienkowski would have earned about $101,000 in 2010.

“Council has breathed a collective sigh of relief,” McNamara said.

He said the finalization of the search means the real work can start.

“You can tell he wants to come in and whip the horses,” McNamara said of Lukas.

He said Council members unanimously supported Lukas and were impressed with his “genuine love of community.”

City officials had been searching for a new leader since Zienkowski announced in March he was leaving for a job in Radnor, Pa.

Police Chief Carl DeForest has been serving as interim city manager since May.

Lukas will begin his duties in Brunswick mid-February, McNamara said. Council must read the legislation hiring him three times beforehand.

Lukas, who is a Cleveland State University graduate originally from Garfield Heights, said he is familiar with Medina County.

He said Thursday his connections with the area “played a role” in his decision to accept the position, but ultimately “I wasn’t just going to come back to Northeast Ohio for any job. It really needed to be the right fit.”

Lukas said he visited the area several times since he applied for the city manager job.

“About a week before the interview, I came up to the community and just drove around and went into some stores and talked to some people about the community,” he said. “Just that was a positive experience.”

The 42-year-old Lukas said he was drawn to how the administration and Council members spoke about residents.

“It seemed like the one constant theme was how wonderful the residents of the community are,” Lukas said. “That really obviously means a lot to me, that the leadership of Brunswick feels that way about their residents.”

He said he will have an open-door policy for residents, city workers and administrators.

“Residents have questions, they have concerns, and if they can’t talk to me, that’s an issue, in my perspective,” Lukas said.

He said he developed a passion for local government while working for Cleveland City Council during his time at Cleveland State.

Lukas said he has examined the city’s budget closely and is aware of open positions in the administration that need to be filled. He said he is looking forward to getting to know the city and those positions better before making any big administrative decisions.

Lukas, who has been married six years, has a law degree and a master’s degree in public administration.

DeForest said Thursday he sees Lukas as someone who will be engaged in the community.

“I am encouraged by his enthusiasm and his experience, and I am looking forward to him taking over because I think he’ll do a good job,” DeForest said. “I wish him the best of luck.”

Ward 3 Councilman Joe Delsanter said he is also excited to see the process come to a close.

“It certainly will help to bring stability for a lot of anxious people within the administration,” Delsanter said. He added DeForest has worked “proficiently” in the interim position.

Delsanter said he looks forward to economic development being a priority for Lukas and Council.

“Obviously, we want to address managing the current conditions of the budget, focusing on the economic development opportunities,” Delsanter said. “We think that with the right hands channeling the helm of that initiative, the successes can come as the economy begins to right itself.”

McNamara said the public will have a chance to meet Lukas at a City Hall event, although an exact date has not yet been set.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.