Grand Traverse County Administrator Tom Menzel announced his resignation last month.
When Menzel was hired in 2015, he had a reputation for righting the financial ship at the National Cherry Festival and Bay Area Transportation Authority. Grand Traverse County commissioners hoped he would do the same for the county.
He immediately started making moves, but some of them – like asking county employees to pay more for their health and retirement benefits – have met with resistance.
Menzel says the county still has a long way to go toward financial health, and there are many more things he’d like to accomplish before he officially steps down, but for him personally, now is the right time to announce his retirement.
“One reason is that I’m 72 years old,” says Menzel.
Menzel says he also wants to give county commissioners plenty of time to find a good replacement, but he intends to stick around through the end of 2017. One reason is the county’s high level of unfunded pension liability, which sits at more than $50 million.
“One thing we’ve done is we’ve gotten it on the radar of the state as a serious problem for a lot of other entities beside ourselves,” says Menzel.
One possible solution to paying off all that debt is a millage, says Menzel. It’s an idea he’s floated with commissioners and one he’d like to see tackled later this year, although he thinks it might be a tough sell to county voters.
“At least it would give the people an option, and if they said ‘no’ then you’re going to have to cut services, because you have to meet these obligations,” he says. “It’s required by the state constitution.”
Tom Menzel spoke with “All Things Considered” host Aaron Selbig about his further plans for to address the county’s financial health, and about his plans for retirement.