By DAVID GREEN
When Morenci’s veteran city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder retires at the end of the year, her replacement should be ready to take over.
Morenci city council members voted 5-1 Monday to hire Michael Sessions. Mayor Keith Pennington, himself a candidate for the position, abstained from voting, and Tracy Schell, a candidate who recently rescinded her application, voted against hiring Sessions.
Jeff Bell, chair of council’s Legal and Finance committee, reported that 41 résumés were received for the job and six candidates were interviewed. Bell was joined on the interviewing team by Renée Schroeder, Larry Weeks, Brenda Spiess, Rosemary Dickerson and Jennifer Blaker.
Sessions will bring experience that Bell said would be of great value to the community.
Sessions currently works for a firm in Royal Oak related to the health care industry. He previously served as the Main Street manager and the Downtown Development Authority director for Blissfield.
Starting when he was an 18-year-old high school student, Sessions served a four-year term as the mayor of Hillsdale. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College and is working on a master’s degree in public administration.
“Michael brings a perspective to the position coming from outside the community,” Bell said. “He will be able to draw upon his experiences to have a real impact on the city’s economic development.”
His enthusiasm for the position was evident during the interview process, Bell said.
He is scheduled to begin working with Schroeder on Nov. 18 and his annual salary will be $46,750.
Before the vote, Schell, acting as mayor pro tempore, urged council members to take more time to think about hiring Sessions due to inexperience and to “some indiscretions that he made while he was mayor.”
No interest was expressed in tabling the motion and council voted 5-1 to hire Sessions.
Sessions spoke openly during his interview about a legal issue in which he was charged in 2007 with malicious annoyance by writing—an issue involving a high school friend who had become his campaign manager. Sessions said the matter stemmed from a continuing series of pranks between himself and his friend. He performed community service work and paid to replace the person’s hard drive and the charge was dismissed.
During a committee meeting before the regular council meeting, Mayor Pennington questioned Sessions repeatedly about the issue and Sessions said the incident taught him humility, personal responsibility and to have accountability for himself.
“As a 19-year-old, it was tough and it was adversity I had to deal with,” he said, and the incident provided good learning experiences. “I think my record has spoken well for myself since then.”
Sessions said that incident along with the publicity of becoming an 18-year-old mayor—which led to television interviews on shows including the Late Show with David Letterman—have never adversely affected his work at Blissfield or in his current job.
Pennington told Sessions that his résumé for the job was weak and that he would have trouble supporting his nomination for the job.
After council’s vote, Pennington assured Sessions that he had his full support and he would assist the new administrator in any way to help him succeed in the position.