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Lazarus offered top job in Ann Arbor

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 by Jo Clifton

The City Council of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has chosen Howard Lazarus, director of Austin’s Public Works Department, as its new city administrator. The Michigan Daily reported Lazarus’ selection as the city’s top manager last week.

Lazarus told the Austin Monitor on Monday, “I’m excited about the potential opportunity,” but he stressed that he does not yet have an official job offer. He said Ann Arbor still has to do a background check, and the parties have to agree on a contract.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, so my wife and I are excited about the potential. … I’ve grown a lot in the eight years I’ve been here and had the opportunity to be engaged in a lot of things. … I think I’ve been able to grow the Public Works director position to be fully engaged with the community, and to be supportive of other state agencies and outside entities. We’ve got a great staff here and a great work environment. It will be hard to give all that up,” he said.

Lazarus said leaving Austin would be “terribly difficult” but that taking the Ann Arbor job would offer professional growth and development. Ann Arbor is the home of the University of Michigan and has a population of about 150,000 people, including 33,000 students.

The Public Works Department designs, manages and inspects major capital public works projects, including bicycle, pedestrian, urban trail and safe school route projects. The department also maintains the city’s network of trails, roadways and bridges once they are built. Lazarus oversees an operating budget of $86.1 million and 791 full-time and part-time/seasonal employees, according to a department spokeswoman.

Lazarus noted that he was born in New York, where he and his wife raised their children. They have had an opportunity to travel because of his military service, he said. “It’s fascinating to see the diversity that exists in this country,” he said. “Ann Arbor is a great city, a university town – not as big as Austin, but I’m looking forward to the challenges.”

According to information provided by the city, Lazarus has been honored by the Central Texas branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers as the 2012 Civil Engineer of the Year and by the American Public Works Association as a 2013 Public Works Leader of the Year. Most recently, the Public Works Department earned full accreditation from the American Public Works Association.

Before coming to Austin, Lazarus – who holds certifications as a professional engineer in Texas, New Jersey, Virginia and Kentucky – worked in the private sector.

He also served as director of engineering and public works for the city of Newark, New Jersey, from 1996 to 2000 and was an associate professor of environmental engineering at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. Before that, he served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lazarus also holds certifications in the areas of public works management and municipal engineering.

According to The Michigan Daily, Ann Arbor’s interim city administrator has proposed expenditures of about $102.8 million for Fiscal Year 2017 but projects revenues of just a little more than $99.6 million, resulting in a deficit of more than $3.2 million. It seems likely that Lazarus will be considering how to deal with that problem as soon as he gets to Ann Arbor.

Photo by Kevinkuhn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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