New city manager starts today


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Sitting in his tidy new office wearing a black tie speckled with tiny gold tigerhawks, Tom Markus said he has wanted to be a city manager since he was in high school.

His father and uncle worked at a Minnesota power company and traveled to meet with the managers of various cities. They encouraged him to consider the profession, and when his friend's father became the city manager his hometown of Waseca, he had his mind made up.

"It's my 38th year in the business," the 59-year-old said. "And I don't see any let up or getting interested in slowing down one bit."

Today, Markus officially takes his position as Iowa City's new city manager. His initial plans include meeting city officials, riding along with a police patrol, and understanding the city.

After receiving a bachelor's in business finance and urban studies from Minnesota State University-Mankato and a master's in public administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Markus worked in five different cities before spending the last 22 years as the city manager of Birmingham, Mich.

"It's a rewarding profession in terms of working with people and making the community a better place to live," Markus said.

The Iowa City City Council unanimously selected him from a pool of 17 candidates on Sept. 29 to replace former City Manager Michael Lombardo, whom they fired more than a year ago. Assistant City Manager Dale Helling has served as interim manager the past year.

Markus moved to Iowa City with his wife, Debbie, on Sunday evening. They are staying at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St., through December, and then, they will move into a condo. His first priority is meeting as many people as he can.

At Monday night's City Council meeting, Markus handed out business cards and shook hands with city officials and local legislators.

It's how he'll likely spend today as well.

"It's been easy to get out and talk to people and start to understand some of the issues in the community," Markus said.

And he won't just do it from behind a desk. In addition to riding along with police, he plans to spend time with the Fire and Civil-Works Departments. He'll also begin working on the next meeting's agenda.

Helling, who will return to his position as assistant city manager today, said despite Markus beginning at an "exceptionally busy" time, the transition is going smoothly.

Markus left his long-held post in Michigan on a positive note, said Gordon Rinschler, the mayor of Birmingham.

"He was leaving because he wanted a new challenge," he said. "Tom left the city in very good shape."

Since the announcement of Markus' new job, Birmingham officials have had 70 applicants for the position.

"It's hard to replace somebody who's been here for 22 years," Rinschler said.

Markus said he feels qualified to manage Iowa City because of his experience with financial issues, economic development, and urban communities.

"I want to talk to the stake-holders in our community …" he said. "Find out really where they find the strengths and weaknesses in the community."

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