GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The city of Grand Rapids is promoting several employees into management positions this year – including choosing the mayor’s assistant the lead the city in developing a new communications strategy.
Amy Snow-Buckner, assistant to the mayor, will become the city’s new managing director of communications, city officials announced Thursday, Jan. 11.
It’s a new role in Grand Rapids city government created by City Manager Greg Sundstrom, and will mean that Snow-Buckner will now manage the city’s communications director, Steve Guitar.
In her new role, Snow-Buckner will be on a new pay scale for a salary from $99,283 to $126,638. She made a base salary of $70,680 in 2016, according to city records.
Snow-Buckner, a former Grand Rapids Press copy editor and public relations professional, will be responsible for more than just answering questions from the media. She’ll be tasked with developing a strategic communications plan for every city department.
“We really haven’t had a central command when it comes to communications,” Snow-Buckner said. “We’ll be really drilling down with the departments and finding out how they have been communicating, pulling together what residents want and finding those opportunities for improvement.”
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss faced backlash early in her tenure after she hired in Snow-Buckner as her assistant at a pay rate 59 percent higher than the former mayor’s assistant. Snow-Buckner had previously served as Bliss’ election campaign treasurer.
Communication has been a top priority for Bliss as mayor. In July the commission hired Truscott Rossman to perform a communications audit. Snow-Buckner said that work is still ongoing.
Other promotions announced Thursday include promoting Desiree Foster, a labor relations specialist, to the role of human resources director. The job had been vacant after Mari Beth Jelks was promoted to managing director of administrative services. The director of human resources makes from $94,571 to $120,591.
Jelks is planning to retire in 2018.
Eric Jordan, the city’s code compliance supervisor, has been promoted to code compliance manager.
The manager position has been vacant due to a retirement. The role is a key one – Jordan will serve as the city’s top housing code official, and will be the liaison to the housing appeals board. He’ll make decisions about enforcement actions like demolition, when to call protective or social services as well as when to take cases to court.
The position carries a salary range of $78,215 to $99,817.
The city has made promoting its own staff a priority, as it anticipates a wave of retirements within the next five years. Leadership across city departments – from the top down – is changing as a result.
Sundstrom has worked to fill out his executive office in the past year.
He’s created two new positions in the executive office, hiring Alison Sutter to lead sustainability initiatives at a salary of $86,223 and Karyn Ferrick to manage legislative affairs at a salary of $86,223. Both roles were previously carried out by Haris Alibasic, who departed the city in November 2016 for a collegiate teaching position.
In June 2017 Sundstrom hired Grand Rapids Public Library public services coordinator Asante Cain to be an assistant to the city manager to oversee special projects and initiatives with a salary of $90,125.
Sundstrom promoted the former assistant, Tom Almonte, to the post of managing director of public services.