Chelsea City Manager John Hanifan Announces Retirement

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John Hanifan speaks to the City Council on July 6, 2021. Credit: City of Chelsea video.

By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

At the January 18, 2022, City Council meeting, Chelsea’s City Manager of almost 15 years, John Hanifan, announced his retirement from his position with the City on January 31.

Mr. Hanifan gave a brief statement, saying, “With a heavy heart, I’m announcing my retirement effective Monday, January 31. I’ve appreciated my almost 15 years here. I’ve felt like we’ve accomplished a lot as a community. I want to thank all the staff that I’ve worked for, council members past, and some present that we’ve had the pleasure to work together. So now, my hope is that the Council and the community can move forward in a positive direction. I have some reservations. It’s frankly one of the reasons that I’m choosing to retire. But all that said, thank you, everybody in the community, and best of luck to all of you.”

The announcement comes as a surprise. Last summer, at its July 6, 2021 meeting, the Chelsea City Council approved an extension of Mr. Hanifan’s contract into 2025. The Council also increased his severance package from nine months to one month for every year of service, which equaled 14 months. The original request was to increase severance to 24 months.

At the time, Mr. Hanifan noted that it was a “buyer’s market” for City Managers. Then Chelsea Mayor, Melissa Johnson, commented that it would take two positions to do the work of Mr. Hanifan. She also noted many open positions for city managers.

In the January 18 meeting, there was some confusion among the Council regarding last summer’s amendment to Mr. Hanifan’s severance. Councilmember Mehuron moved to refer the issue of his severance to the City Attorney for clarification.

Mayor Pacheco asked, “Mr. Hanifan, just to be clear, are you making a request for severance?”

“No, I’m not,” he replied.

Councilmember Mehuron kept her motion in place, and the Council approved it by a 5-2 vote.

Chelsea Police Chief had high praise for Mr. Hanifan. “I got here about 15 and some change ago. He came about seven months later. I’ll just tell you, the City was a damn mess. The place was a disaster. We had things going on here that were questionable, at the very least. That man helped me out, made some major changes to how we conduct our business, discipline issues, policies, and procedures, building facilities whether it’s the wastewater plant, the police department, where there are no funds available.”

Chief Toth described in approximate numbers the economic turnaround Mr. Hanifan’s leadership created for Chelsea. Chief Toth highly commended all of Mr. Hanifan's work in his 15 years here.

“He helped me out immensely on major issues with personnel that happened here that a lot of people don’t even think about, complicated incidents,” concluded Chief Toth. “And I’m going to miss him.”

Councilmember Ruddock said later during council comments, “Obviously, between now and the thirty-first of January, we have some work to do. Probably, we’re going to find a temporary City Manager so that we can continue to do business. Otherwise, we have no way of doing business. We’ll have to see what our Charter has to say. Perhaps Mr. Hanifan can help me with that.”

He replied, “Within 90 days, you need to either appoint a new City Manager or appoint an Interim City Manager.”

As far as Mr. Hanifan’s plans, MLive reported that he has accepted a City Manager position with the City of Williamston.

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