2018 is the year of new leadership in the city of Eaton Rapids, as Paul Malewski took the mayor’s helm in January, the Eaton Rapids city council started searching for a new city manager. Working through their membership in the Michigan Municipal League, the city council searched through a pool of city manager applicants. When it came down to the final decision, the city council chose a manager from the neighboring town of Leslie. Aaron Desentz was selected, and is set to officially start Monday, March 26.
Previous city manager, John Stoppels, took his leave of the Island City after accepting another city manager position in St. Johns. Stoppels and previous mayor, Steve Platte, worked closely together, so losing two leaders within the city was untimely. The council quickly set out with a list of expectations for a new city manager, and Aaron fit the criteria.
Desentz is originally from Pinckney, Mich. in Livingston County. He attended Eastern Michigan University where he earned his undergraduate degree in criminology. He later earned a masters degree in public administration. Aaron has served as the village administrator of Shelby, Mich., and then went to Leslie to serve as city manager.
During his time as city manager of Leslie, Aaron was presented some formidable challenges. Although it hardly bordered on crisis, he worked with the city during a water main issue, during which aged city waterlines began deteriorating and many lines had to be replaced. Under Aaron’s leadership the city secured a $1 million infrastructure grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help with the cost of the waterlines. Aaron was also part of a project to update and beautify building façades in Leslie’s downtown, another city project for which Aaron helped secure a hefty grant to offset costs.
These and other projects were standout achievements for the young city manager. While he’s worked to make Leslie a better place, Aaron has long appreciated Eaton Rapids. He was charmed by the downtown, drawn by the potential of the river, and intrigued by some of the progress in the town over the last few years.
“I’ve always been interested in Eaton Rapids,” said Aaron. “I love the look of the whole town, and the feel.”
The circle of city managers is a fairly small community in the world of municipal government, according to Aaron. When he heard John Stoppels of Eaton Rapids was moving on to a different position he quickly started researching Eaton Rapids and soon applied for the position.
But Eaton Rapids small town charm wasn’t the only factor drawing Aaron to the open city manager position. Aaron and his fiancé knew the wanted to keep roots planted in the area. With Eaton Rapids right next door it was the perfect move for the couple.
Stepping into the new position, Aaron leans on his skills of communication, critical thinking, and keeping track of the numbers. City managers have to keep open a constant flow of communication with departments, the city council, and the public. As community leaders city managers can’t be experts on every issue or need, but the ability to read, learn, and internalize quickly is key to decision making, according to Aaron. Finance is another area that Aaron “boasts.”
“Know your numbers,” is a slogan Aaron uses as a standard for city managers.
Most of all Aaron hopes to keep a team mentality and practice at the center of his work in Eaton Rapids.
“A city manager is an administrative team member,” said Aaron. “This is a team effort, something that takes place in city hall and council, and with residents too.”
For more information about new Eaton Rapids city manager, Aaron Desentz, or about city departments, services, and events, readers can call (517) 663-8118, or visit cityofeatonrapids.com.