After serving the city of Wixom for 22 years, City Manager Mike Dornan has decided it’s time to turn over the reins and make his exit from the city he’s helped to transform.
Dornan tendered his notice of retirement to the Wixom City Council at its meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 25. His retirement takes effect Nov. 18.
“It’s been a wonderful run and now it’s time to think about (my) needs and it’s time for the community to think about giving back,” Dornan said. “All my associates here have given and given and helped make the community what it is. It’s time for the community to step up and vote yes for the millage. We don’t ask for much, or that often.”
Mayor Kevin Hinkley said Dornan’s departure is no great surprise.
“We’ve been discussing it for a number of weeks,” Hinkley said. “Mike’s got every right to walk out with his head held high. I don’t think people have any conception of what he’s saved the city — hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. (He has) creative ideas and he’s worked with sister cities and worked to reduce the budget. The guy has done a phenomenal job in representing us in Oakland County, the state and Washington, D.C. I know. I’ve seen it first-hand.”
The financial duress the city has recently experienced was compounded after a proposed charter millage cap increase failed to earn enough support among voters during the Aug. 7 primary election. With an altogether new millage on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, Dornan said he is hopeful the community will act in the city’s best interests.
“It’s my feeling that without a doubt the community understands the financial brunt Wixom has faced because of a poor national economy and the closure of the Ford Wixom plant,” Dornan said. “I am confident the ballot millage will pass and my hope is that my departure will help soften the financial brunt in some small fashion.”
Dornan shot back at the efforts of a grassroots group that has been vocal in opposing the millage.
“There will be serious and devastating changes if the millage doesn’t pass,” he said. “Those who oppose it know better and want to create acrimony to reinstate themselves to a stature lost to individual actions and dismantle the organization plank by plank, and that’s wrong.”
During his 37-year career in municipal government, Dornan was the acting assistant to the city manager in Farmington Hills for five years and the Walled Lake city manager for 11 years.
While Dornan was with Wixom, the city realized growth and cost savings through efforts such as finalizing a Milford sewer extension and an intergovernmental agreement for wastewater treatment plant service. The agreement included a $1.25 million “signing bonus,” which was ultimately transferred to the city’s budget stabilization fund, allowing Wixom to continue providing service without increasing taxes.
He also initiated the reorganization of every department in the city government. He also spearheaded the construction of a new Department of Public Works (DPW) and salt storage facility, and initiated city-wide safety paths and streetlight conversion to LED technology.
“I’m most proud of bringing high-quality water to Wixom, transforming the (Village Center Area), and seeing my associates grow up over the years,” Dornan said. “The city runs like a machine with half of the staff most communities our size have.”
Another achievement Dornan is proud of is the recognition the city received four times as an entrepreneurial community.
Dornan is a founding member of the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County and is its current chairman. He is also the vice chairman of the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority.
“We have 350 members and $389 million in assets, and provide liability insurance to agencies all over Michigan that the government couldn’t get anywhere else for the price,” he said.
Dornan earned recognition twice (in 1990 and 2005) from the Michigan Association of Planning as Outstanding Community Administrator of the Year for his contribution in furthering comprehensive planning in Michigan.
“I’ve had a lot of mentors along the way and learned a lot about economic development, planning and finance,” Dornan said.
After his time helming the city, it will be difficult to find someone to fill Dornan’s shoes.
“I consider Mike as one of the best city managers I’ve every dealt with, not just on council, but in all my dealings with cities,” said Councilman Rich Ziegler. “We certainly are interested in finding someone familiar with the city and able to step right in and take over. Mike is an excellent city manager and has done a great job for the city.”
Dornan is prepared and excited to begin a new chapter in his life by relaxing a bit.
“I want to do all the things I dreamed of doing. I’d like to golf, ski and travel,” he said. “While my health is still good, I want to do things we all want to do.”