‘I was impressed with his attention to detail and getting the job done.’
— Mayor Joseph Kuspa, on new City Administrator Brandon Fournier
By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — He may be new to city government, but dealing with impending budget deficits in the coming year is about to give Brandon Fournier a lot of experience in a hurry.
And despite being about a third the age of his predecessor, the new city administrator believes he’s up to the challenge, as does the man who appointed him, Mayor Joseph Kuspa.
Fournier, 26, who was named to the job in December, comes from Comerica Bank, where he was a banking center officer. He is married and lives in Livonia. Dec. 18 was his first day, and he worked for a week alongside outgoing City Administrator Levon King, 74, who is retiring.
Fournier holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University, where he was an economics major; he also is working on a degree at the Wayne State University Law School. He calls his predecessor “very knowledgeable” and said his first weeks have involved “a lot of education and getting a better appreciation of day-to-day operations.”
“I did not identify an individual first,” Kuspa said of his first and likely most critical appointment for a city facing a $400,000 budget shortfall this year and a $1.2 million deficit in 2010 because of decreased state revenues. “I identified a skill set.”
Included among that set are drive, ability and follow-up, the mayor said, all of which will be needed as he and Fournier plan to present a budget at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that reflects the appropriate reductions.
Kuspa operates a business in the area of Detroit’s Eastern Market and said he came to know Fournier when the latter was a manager at a nearby Comerica branch.
“I was impressed with his attention to detail and getting the job done for me,” Kuspa said. “I always kind of kept an eye on where he might be as he went through management at Comerica, where he became somewhat of a troubleshooter for them for branches that were not run as efficiently as they could be.
“How he progressed through the system is testimony to the fact that he’s the kind of person I wanted for the job.”
“Primarily I’m here to serve the mayor and the citizens of Southgate,” Fournier said, adding that his relatively young age for a city government official gives him “a unique perspective on some of things that the city may or may not be facing.”
Part of that perspective comes from Fournier’s volunteer experience as business development officer for the Detroit East Economic Restructuring Committee/Southeast Gratiot Ave. Business District, as well as his membership on the Board of Directors for the Eight Mile Boulevard Association.
Those affiliations, along with experience working with businesses in whatever community Fournier served with Comerica, Kuspa said, were factors in the selection.
“I was looking for somebody that was able to foster solid relationships with the business community,” Kuspa said, adding that while Michigan’s current economic conditions make it difficult for any community to attract new businesses, he would like to focus for now on keeping Southgate’s existing businesses in town. Kuspa believes Fournier’s experience will help to achieve that as the city forms an advisory council to its Downtown Development Authority in the coming months.
“Experience is great,” Kuspa said, “but his generation is going to be the problem solvers as we go through this. He brings that to the table in a positive, proactive and professional way.”
The mayor knows firsthand what it’s like to enter public life at young age. He was 19 when he was first elected to the Southgate Community School District Board of Education. “I understand that responsibilty can come at a young age, and some people are prepared for it,” Kuspa said. “I think Brandon definitely is.”
“We’re living in difficult economic times,” said Fournier, who according to published reports will be paid an annual salary of $92,800. “There’s no way (around) that. But I enjoy the passion of citizens who get involved in the community, and I look forward to working with them and being included in moving Southgate into the future.”