July 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Miconesia: City Government: South Bend Tribune: Micronesia RPCV Craig Sumerix named Buchanan city manager

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Micronesia: Peace Corps Micronesia : The Peace Corps in Micronesia: July 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Miconesia: City Government: South Bend Tribune: Micronesia RPCV Craig Sumerix named Buchanan city manager

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Micronesia RPCV Craig Sumerix named Buchanan city manager

Micronesia RPCV Craig Sumerix named Buchanan city manager

Sumerix left the classroom in Buchanan to teach abroad in Japan in 1992. Two years later, he became a teacher trainer in the Peace Corps at the Federated States of Micronesia, near Guam

Micronesia RPCV Craig Sumerix named Buchanan city manager

Former teacher steps in as interim Buchanan manager

Tribune Staff Writer

Caption: Buchanan native Craig Sumerix was recently named interim city manager. Tribune Photo/JANAR STEWART

BUCHANAN -- Of his five siblings, Buchanan native Craig Sumerix was thought to be the last in his family to stick around the Redbud City.

Anchored by an apartment he calls home on Main Street, Sumerix has worked both in and outside Berrien County -- except for teaching stints in Japan and in the Peace Corps -- for the past two decades.

"I keep coming back," the 41-year-old said about the recent turn of events that summoned him back to the city of 4,681 residents for a job.

It wasn't any old job, either.

The call seeking Sumerix's help came from Buchanan Mayor Earl "Joe" Scanlon, who asked the former Buchanan school teacher and former downtown development authority chairman to serve as interim city manager.

Two-year city manager Michael Hughes surprised Buchanan officials last month when he accepted the city manager's job in Sturgis, where he had previously worked as an assistant city manager.

Hughes leaves Buchanan on Wednesday. In bidding him farewell, the city is planning an open house that day at City Hall.

"He leaves behind a positive legacy for Buchanan," Scanlon said.

Scanlon pointed out that Hughes hired two top-notch

people in key leadership posts, Police Chief Bill Marx and Director of Public Services Rick Smigielski.

"We don't harbor any hard feelings," Scanlon said. "We can't hold it against him for seeking a good opportunity."

The city commission has shown loyalty and support for Hughes, who is 31.

A year after he was hired, commissioners boosted his salary 10 percent to $60,500 last year. In April, while Sturgis officials were looking for a new city manager, Buchanan officials boosted Hughes' salary 6 percent to about $63,000 a year and gave him a car stipend of up to $20,000 to buy a new vehicle for work and his personal use.

"They called him," Scanlon said, adding that Sturgis' interest was in part due to the "good things" Hughes was doing in Buchanan, such as completing the downtown streetscape improvement program, securing grants and beginning work on a farmers market.

With a $30,000 pay increase to $94,000 for the Sturgis post, Hughes couldn't refuse the offer, Scanlon said.

For Sumerix, the interim city manager offer was something he couldn't refuse.

"I was at the right place at the right time," he said.

Sumerix had been an admission counselor at Indiana Institute of Technology when a management change shuffled him out of a job in December.

Sumerix was working two part-time jobs when he got the call from Scanlon.

With a master's degree in teaching from Michigan State University, Sumerix taught algebra and science at Buchanan High School.

"He was well thought of in the Buchanan school community," Scanlon said.

Sumerix left the classroom in Buchanan to teach abroad in Japan in 1992. Two years later, he became a teacher trainer in the Peace Corps at the Federated States of Micronesia, near Guam.

With a mix of traditional values, youthful energy and roots in Buchanan, Sumerix was the top choice of city commissioners when they began looking for an interim city manager last month.

"It was the general consensus that we wanted to keep someone who was neutral, firm but fair in the position," Scanlon said.

"One of the biggest things is that he is a hometown guy who cares about the community."

Job duties

A big part of Sumerix's responsibilities is to ensure new programs continue on course until a permanent manager is hired later this fall.

"None can afford to take a three-month hiatus," Sumerix said about projects under way, including building a farmers market and walking trail.

On Monday city commissioners plan to review a blueprint for the farmers market, which includes creating 10 stalls for vendors.

"We want it to be built this fall," Sumerix said.

Will he be around when the farmers market is built?

"We'll see," Sumerix said.

The city is accepting applications for city manager until Aug. 19.

"I'll take a look at it in early August," Sumerix said about possibly tossing his resume into the pool of permanent city manager candidates.

"It's not something I've ruled out in four days," Sumerix said with a bit of a laugh, referring to his start this past week.

In six weeks, Sumerix said, he'll have a clearer idea of whether he is the right fit for the community.

For now, his focus is trained on executing projects and steering the city on its path of progress.

With initiatives to attract restaurants and businesses to Buchanan, the city is on the cusp of positive change, Sumerix said.

"The atmosphere is optimistic," he said.

So is Sumerix.

"It's an excellent time to be involved in the city," he said.

Staff writer Carol Draeger:


(269) 687-7005

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