Adding to the pile of resignations at City Hall, East Lansing’s Acting Director of Public Works Nicole McPherson has let the city know she’s leaving.
McPherson has been serving as the head of DPW since DPW Director Scott House began a two-year leave in 2021. House is an officer in the U.S. Army National Guard and was deployed to the Washington, D.C. area. He is not expected to return to his job in East Lansing before July.
The timing of McPherson’s departure has not yet been announced.
An engineer by training and profession, McPherson has managed numerous projects and problems in East Lansing since she took on the top leadership role in her department, not least of which was the major flooding problems in residential neighborhoods in 2020 and 2021. More recently, McPherson has been responding to questions from citizens concerned about the installation of small cell towers.
“This is a significant loss for our community,” Transportation Commission Chair Julie Rojewski told ELi on Tuesday. “Nicole was a service- and community-oriented professional with technical and historical knowledge that allowed her to be particularly effective. She has invested in her staff, who are great! But the gap in her departure will be impossible to fill.”
“She has been the best person to work for,” said Joy Ketchum, an administrative secretary in DPW, on Tuesday afternoon. “I am devastated that she is leaving.”
As has become a regular occurrence, this morning, ELi received the news about this latest resignation as a tip from someone working in the city. We were able to verify the information late tonight. We reached out to the McPherson and Interim City Manager Randy Talifarro for comment earlier today but have not heard back.
ELi reported today that, as the city faces instability from so many resignations by heads of departments, Councilmember George Brookover is now pushing the idea of having councilmembers sit in on the hiring of top staff. Brookover has put the matter on Council’s agenda for tomorrow night (March 14).
Last week we reported that Peter Menser, the Interim Director of Planning, has also quit. Menser’s departure adds to the recent pattern in the City of East Lansing of having two layers of top administrators quit in single departments. Besides this happening in the Planning Department with Tom Fehrenbach’s and now Menser’s departures, and also happening in the Human Resources department with the departure of Shelli Neumann and Ben Dawson, it also happened in the City Clerk’s office, where both Clerk Jennifer Shuster and Deputy Clerk Kathryn Garner quit at about the same time.
ELi reported that, at Council last week, Mayor Ron Bacon and Interim City Manager Randy Talifarro both addressed the wave of resignations.
“I don’t get a lot of anxiety when small things happen in the grand scheme of things,” Bacon said, “because East Lansing tends to stick up for itself.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Talifarro thanked the departing employees for their hard work and acknowledged the challenges posed by their leaving.
“I am confident that services will continue to be provided at a high level to our community,” Talifarro said last week. “I want to reassure our residents of this fact.”
Besides the discussion of bringing Council members into certain job interviews, tomorrow’s Council agenda also includes a decision on the Valley Court Park renovations and discussion of the regulation of small cell tower installations. In addition, Council will be discussing whether to raise the special downtown tax that supports the work of the Downtown Management Board.
Note: This article was updated on March 14, 2023, to add Rojewski’s and Ketchum’s comments.