Milford Village Manager settling into new role
After nearly a year in his new position as Village Manager for the Village of Milford, Christian Wuerth is settling into his role.
The Spinal Column caught up Wuerth to find out more about him and his day-to-day duties.
Hello, where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
“I grew up in Wayne County; I’m originally from Redford. I went to Wayne State University and graduated with a major in Public Affairs and then did a little bit of grad work at Wayne State and then Central (Michigan University.)”
What has been your career path?
“Prior to coming to Milford I worked with the City of Birmingham in human resources in the manager’s office for about 10 years. I was then selected to be the manager of the Village of Milford back in early March.”
Has your role as Village Manager been everything you dreamed it would be?
“Yeah, it’s been fun. I knew a little about the community previously – my wife teaches in the middle school. So she’s been in the community for a while so in a lot of regards it’s been a lot of what we expected. This was a town we had come out to for dinner and to go to the parks and that sort of stuff. We’ve been living in the community since July and everybody has been really nice. The staff at the Village has been outstanding and I’ve enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about the community and getting into some of the projects that are going on.”
What is a simple explanation of how the Village government works with the Village Council and manager?
“The Village operates under what is known as the council manager form of government. Council is elected by voters of the Village and deals with the broad policy and legislative issues. They adopt the ordinances, set the guidelines, set the priorities and they hire a manager – in this case, me – to carry out those projects or in many cases enforce the ordinances that are adopted.”
“I’m on an open-ended contract. I’m an “at will” employee and I serve at the pleasure of the Village Council.”
So you’re the guy with the big stick?
“We prefer the carrot. In most issues our goal with things is the compliance factor. For example, with new construction or renovation our building officials are the one tasked with following up on that. We try to take the approach of not necessarily being heavy handed with things up front. We view a lot of those opportunities as an educational one. We educate them on what the expectations are. We’d much rather take that route than writing a ticket or following up with other actions. A lot of times it’s our neighbors and friends that we’re dealing with.”
Being in your role as manager for only eight months or so, do you have a normal day?
“It’s one of the things I like about local government – there are no typical days. There are always those things that come up in a typical day that require a course of action or our attention. Whether it is somebody calling in to complain about something that’s not in compliance with an ordinance or it’s a developer coming in with a potential project. And it’s dealing with the employees on different levels whether it’s an individual or one of the four unions. There is no typical day. It’s always different. We always have our longer-term projects and then there are the dayto day. A long term may be the reinvestment in our waste water facilities and we may have something come up that needs to be dealt with. We always have to keep our eye on the bigger picture but then deal with the details as they come up throughout the day.”
And your office puts together the budget that you present to the Village Council?
“Yes, every year starting in January we’ll start looking at what the projected costs are for every department. Then, in April, we present our revenue forecast and expenditure forecast to the Council. Prior to that all the department heads make recommendations to me and I review those figures with the finance department and treasurer and we’ll adjust those department requests and that’s what gets forwarded to Council for review. We’ll have our conversations with Council and they’ll take a look at what their priorities are and where the budget aligns with that, make recommendations and we’ll make adjustments from there. Then in typically early May they adopt a budget.”
“Last year’s budget was in process when I started. One of the first things I did was sit down and look at revenue projections and make adjustments to make sure our revenues were in line with our expenditures. They took it easy on me my first year and didn’t ask for a whole lot in terms of projects. In the coming years one of the things we’ll be looking at is starting to get a better grasp on what our long-term expenditures are going to be in terms of capital projects. We have a road millage in place that raises about $750,000 a year on roads. We supplement that with money from the state and our general fund … but we’re also trying to get a handle on long term expenditures like vehicles, buildings and sewer systems and start to map out those a little bit better long term so we can start saving up for our bigger projects that are coming down the pipeline.”
Do you have a philosophy of your own of how to run your office and how to be the Village Manager?
“One of the things about government is that it’s a people business. Whether it’s working with our staff or working with residents or businesses or prospective businesses – a lot of what we do is dealing with people. So my philosophy is treating everybody fairly and giving everybody the opportunity to explain where they are coming from and determining what is the best way to move forward.”
What’s been your favorite part of the job?
“The people. The staff has been fantastic and everybody I’ve met in the community have been very welcoming. The people in Milford and the Village are very passionate and care very deeply about the community.”
For more information on the Village of Milford visit their website at www.villageofmilford.org.