This article was updated at 1:24 p.m. for factual corrections.
Albion’s Scott Kipp, a resident since 2000, is no stranger to responsibility. Kipp has been juggling two jobs since he took on the position of director of Albion Public Safety, which covers both the police and the fire departments.
On April 2, he started his first day as Albion’s new interim city manager. He was appointed on March 27.
After the official resignation of Sheryl Mitchell, Kipp applied and was appointed Albion’s interim city manager until a permanent replacement is hired by Albion City Council. On top of his job with the public safety department, his new job responsibilities include, as Kipp puts it, “anything that goes on in the city right now.”
This includes heading city projects, maintaining Mitchell’s work and getting reports from all city department heads. A city manager acts as a liaison with on-street projects with outside entities like Albion College.
The Council legislates; the manager is the chief executive of the city.
In a city like Albion, a city manager’s responsibilities are similar to that of a mayor’s in towns where the mayor has executive control. In Albion, the mayor is responsible for voting on City Council issues and breaking a tying vote, as well as some administrative duties.
Kipp has had experience as an interim city manager before. In 2014, before Mitchell was hired, he was Albion’s interim city manager from April to September. He’d been chief of Public Safety for two years and was working as director of Public Safety and director of Public Services as well.
Kipp believes that being the director of Public Safety has prepared him for this interim position in a unique way: by giving him the chance to practice dealing with interdepartmental discipline and citizen complaints.
“It was a really big learning curve for me at the time, but I had a chance to learn all of those operations really quickly,” said Kipp. “I’m much more confident in my abilities now than I was in 2014.”
Kipp applied for the position this year because of his experience.
“I knew I did it before and had confidence about doing it. It helps with the transition and makes it a little less scary for the employees.”
Sitting down with the 12 department heads of Albion, Kipp worked out how his time would be divided between public safety and city management. He will be working 12-hour days with 80 percent of his time devoted to city management and 20 percent devoted to public safety with plans on ensuring that public safety will still have his attention.
As for the responsibility of having three jobs, Kipp believes he is up to the challenge.
“It’s kind of a balancing act, but Public Safety’s set up a little differently than a lot of the other departments. I still do the day-to-day stuff, but I concentrate more on what’s going on with the city manager’s office than I do with Public Safety now.”
With Public Safety having one of the largest staffs in the city, Kipp is able to delegate any issues in the Public Safety department that might arise while working with the city. As interim city manager, Kipp plans to put some things on hold until the permanent manager is hired.
“With a new manager coming in, the city might take a different direction in where we’re going with things, so it’s not a big deal to put things on hold for now.”
Kipp says that his interest in public service started a long time ago.
“I’ve always been interested in law enforcement and firefighting,” he said. “I enjoy doing both of those jobs. I like helping people. The interest in the overall operations of the city has come with my promotions and learning. I’ve always made it a point to learn what my boss does, and once I became chief I started paying more attention to City Hall and what was going on. When Sheryl Mitchell came, she allowed me to be part of those operations.”
While Kipp is uncertain when the new city manager will be hired, he says the process could be several months. City Council currently meets twice a month, unless they have special meetings. The last City Council meeting was to determine whether or not Council could get permission to hire a new city manager. Once they have permission, Council has to post the position for 30 to 60 days and go through applications.
“You’re probably looking at the first meeting in May for even being able to search for the city manager. This is probably going to go close to September, and that kind of takes away my whole summer vacation,” he joked.
However, Kipp is excited about where the city is going.
“We’re trying to maintain the status quo of where we were headed, where Mitchell had us going,” he said.
However, with the amount of grants Albion recently received from the governor through Project Rising Tide, projects will still be moving forward to keep important projects from being neglected.
Albion has recently received a number of grants which have allowed Albion to work on projects the town needs that city taxes would not have been able to cover.
Albion’s current big project is the restoration of the city water tower. The city has been awarded a $500,000 grant from Governor Snyder for the project, which should be completed in August. The water tower will be drained, stripped of lead and repainted.
Kipp believes that the biggest issue facing Albion currently is how to allocate funds.
“There’s a lot going on in the downtown area, but a lot of the neighborhoods aren’t really seeing things being done for them, and the question is really coming in of, “ What’s happening there?” We have street projects that really need to be done in those areas, and the city needs to decide where our limited funds get spent.”
Sheryl Mitchell resigned the day the Governor Snyder’s grant came in.
“I had a great working relationship with Dr. Mitchell from the day she started working here. She’s probably one of the best bosses I’ve ever had so I was disappointed seeing her leave. She did tremendous things for our community.”
Photo via Pleiad archives.