FROM THE NEWS-HERALD: Mayor's appointments include some familiar names

TAYLOR — The city’s new mayor is assembling his staff and it includes some familiar names.

Three weeks into his new administration Mayor Rick Sollars has brought back Amanda Banas, former director of executive affairs, and Dave Mackie, former Department of Public Works director. He also has hired Karl Ziomek, former managing editor of the Southgate-based News-Herald Newspapers, as director of communications and marketing.

Banas will resume her previous post and Mackie replaces Rocky Alazazi, executive director of the DPW. Mackie’s title will be executive director of the Department of Public Services. Ziomek’s title is new.

Mackie, 44, who previously was the DPW director, was laid off in February 2012, and Banas, 37, was laid off in April 2013 in cost-cutting moves by former Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand as the city faced a deficit-elimination plan imposed by the state.

Sollars defeated Lamarand in an election last month for a four-year term as mayor. Lamarand had been seeking a second term as the city’s top elected official.

Sollars said it was his decision not to renew Alazazi’s contract, which recently expired. He said Alazazi offered to help in the transition with Mackie taking over.

Personal service contracts will be brought before the City Council at a Dec. 17 meeting for approval for Banas, Mackie and Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dobek, whose contract will be renewed.

Sollars said the salaries will be in the $85,000 range for each, which, he said, are comparable to what Alazazi was paid.

He said the shift of Mackie for Alazazi is a one-for-one swap in the budget, while Banas is affordable due to the city’s improved financial situation.

“Before I made the decision, I met with Plante Moran and what we learned was that (former Mayor) Jeff (Lamarand) understated the revenue from tax collection and we are in a better situation with the deficit,” Sollars said.

“We are possibly going to be $1 million or a little over that, better than we anticipated.”

The move to bring Banas back was not universally celebrated by some Sollars’ supporters, he said, with the idea that she was a “Lamarand person.”

Sollars said his decision-making with staffing won’t be based on pleasing those “caught up in politics.”

“ I am looking at who could provide the most service at a reasonable price,” he said. “There are an enormous amount of moving parts regarding litigation. She is qualified, capable and has the experience. She has three years of experience in the city of Taylor and she can help out right now.

“There is minimal institutional knowledge in City Hall right now (due to the former mayor’s layoffs). From a negotiations’ standpoint, she is a good negotiator. I don’t care who she is connected with or is friends with.”

As director of executive affairs, Banas had managed 12 departments, was the head negotiator and was responsible for nine collective bargaining agreements, according to a city press release. It also said Banas assisted in creating the city’s deficit-elimination plan and was in charge of administering an $8.1 million federal grant with the Fire Department.

Before her experience in Taylor, Banas served as an associate attorney with Mizerowski & Associates in Plymouth, working cases of employment, contract, civil defense and family law. She also worked on contract negotiations and reviewed case law and court opinions regarding claims, litigation, settlements and appeals, after having worked at three other law firms dating back to 2003.

She is a member of the Michigan Bar Association and is associated with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, and the U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan.

Sollars said the city is facing litigation cases from the previous administration and Banas’ legal background will be a strength.

In a release, she said her role in city affairs will be more defined.

“I’m looking forward to being more involved with projects in the city,” Banas said. “I feel that my role is more clearly defined now. I’m very excited about the opportunity to return to the city.”

Mackie, a Taylor Center High School graduate, spent five years in the Air Force as a computer technician. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma.

After serving for more than 20 years in the public sector as a consultant, city administrator, in community development and as a public service director, Mackie returned to Taylor to become DPW head before being laid off.

“David’s appointment is very similar to the others that we have announced,” Sollars said. “The No. 1 criteria involved qualifications. We want people in positions who can really do good work. We want capable people. David fits that mold.”

Ziomek, 57, will be earning about $40,000, with most of his salary paid through the administrative side of the Tax Increment Finance Authority, Sollars said.

Among his duties, Ziomek will be working on economic development marketing, rebranding the city and imaging, and revamping the website, as well as maintaining a communications role, the mayor added.

Ziomek said that in the communications and marketing position he will focus on the city’s website, newsletter and social media page. He also will help launch marketing efforts to aid Taylor, including the mayor’s “Shop Taylor” program, which will be designed to bring together residents and businesses.

Ziomek left The News-Herald in August 2011 after 22 years as its managing editor. Since then, he has worked as a freelance writer and communications consultant in the public and private sectors.

He is the Taylor School District’s official blogger, a communications role that he said is part time and will not interfere with his new post with the city.

A veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper industry, Ziomek also served as executive editor of the Heritage Newspapers’ chain, which includes The News-Herald.

Ziomek is vice chairman of the board of directors of the Taylor Reading Corps, where he began to work with Sollars. He later worked on Sollars’ mayoral campaign. Sollars said Ziomek brings a wealth of experience regarding the city and he has enjoyed working with him on other projects.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with Rick and I believe in his vision,” Ziomek said. “I think the City Hall employees, newly elected officials and the rest of the organizations in the city want to work together to improve the community. That’s our mission.”

To view The News-Herald's online presentation of this story, click here.