Commercial Record

DeFranco named fulltime township manager


The Saugatuck Township Board, looking for both competence and consistency, hired Daniel DeFranco April 13 as full-time manager for a 3-year contract paying $75,000 per annum.

DeFranco, a township resident whose résumé includes a Ph.D. in philosophy and tending bar at Phil’s Bar & Grille, stepped up as temporary operations coordinator two days after the Jan. 12 departure of one-year manager Joe Frey.

He was not new to township government, having served as a planning commission member, chair of that body’s Rural Character and Development Special Committee, township representative on the Tri-Community Recycling Committee and an elections volunteer.

“I have experienced firsthand Daniel’s professionalism, work ethic, intelligence and fantastic interpersonal skills,” said clerk Abby Bigford on DeFranco’s Jan. 14 hiring to the newly-created temporary post. Parties then agreed to a month-to-month contract paying as much as $49,000 yearly.

He has done nothing since then to dissuade board members. They hired DeFranco temporary full-time manager March 30 for $70,000 salary.

The permanent job posting called for a candidate “who exhibits exceptional customer service skills, has relevant township service, is experienced in complex IT issues, understands how to maximize social media, is able to maintain a website, has strong public finance and budgeting experience, and demonstrates a deep commitment to public service.”

Treasurer Jon Helmrich said April 13 a township search committee had reviewed nine applicants based on those criteria, interviewed three and reached a unanimous conclusion.

“Daniel has agreed to be here at least three years,” Helmrich said. “That mattered too.” DeFranco, whose doctorate in philosophy is from Tulane University in New Orleans, has been a lecturer on the subject there, at Lake Forest College in Illinois and Grand Valley State University. He was also a visiting student of philosophy at Oxford University in England. “Having volunteered in various community efforts,” he said in his résumé submitted to the township, “I am looking to transition into a more involved role in local government, a role in which I can employ my diverse skill set, learn from experienced public officials, and grow professionally.”

Frey, hired on an interim basis Jan. 13, 2021 and made fulltime manager March 30 that year for a $70,000 salary, departed, board members said, by mutual agreement. There was no futher reason shaed.

He the township’s fourth manager since a November 2018 recall election brought in four new board members, prompting the resignation of then manager Aaron Sheridan.

Natalie Dean replaced him as manager and was also zoning administrator for three months from January through April 2019 before resigning due to disagreements between the board on agendas for the township.

Griffin Graham served as township manager from July 2019 until resigning January last year to become assistant city manager in South Haven.

“We will welcome stability in this important job,” Helmrich said.

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