MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — City Manager Paul Brake has made the final cut in the interview process for the position of city manager in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Brakes, and two other candidates, are being invited back to Royal Oak for a second round of interviews on March 12.

Five candidates, including Brake, went before the Royal Oak City Commission last Saturday for public interviews in which candidates were asked 15 standardized questions. Monday night, the city commission narrowed the candidates down to the final three.

Questions from Royal Oak City Commissioners covered a wide range of topics including fiscal responsibility, handling controversial issues and interacting with the media.

“What has drawn me and what has motivated me professional is to look at the latest trends. What are ways of moving the economy forward, to look at new and innovative ideas? I see this as an ideal place and really fits in well with my career plans,” Brake told the Royal Oak City Commission during his interview.

Commissioners also inquired how Brake would build trust and respect in the community.

“First off, being open and available and working with community members,” Brake replied. “We have a main street organization; I work with small business and meet one-on-one with individuals and of course our largest stake holder the university.

“I think what I possess and probably the greatest skill that I have gained is relationship building, meeting one-on-one, making promises, following up on them and have a good mutual understanding. As a result I feel we have been able to accomplish many sound solutions.”

Brake described the city’s annexation plan, a minor boundary adjust to take in 3.8 square miles, as a “learning experience.”

“As you can imagine there were many individual opposed to that. We had many open houses to collect information and going through this in a very thoughtful and measured sort of way. There are many people in the unincorporated areas who want to be in the city. It was rather contentious. Part role as a leader is to remain calm and to assure this is a sound policy initiative that we’re going forward with. It’s still facing many, many different challenges.”

Among those challenges, Senate Bill 209 that is now awaiting the governor’s signature that requires consent from all freeholders in an area targeted for annexation through minor boundary adjustment. The bill was inspired by Morgantown’s 2019 annexation plan.

On March 12th, a “Meet the Candidates” event is scheduled followed by a second round of formal interviews with the city commission.

Brake was hired in Morgantown in January, 2017 following the departure of former City Manager Jeff Mikorski in August 2016.

The city of Morgantown employed the services of GovHR USA to coordinate a national search for city manager candidates when Brake was hired. The same search firm was contracted by the city of Royal Oak, MI to find a list of qualified candidates.

According to the job posting on the Gov HR USA website, Royal Oak has a population of 59,006 people. The city employees 330 full-time staffers and has an operating budget of approximately $41 million. The job, which was first posted Dec. 11, 2019, comes with a starting salary of between $140,000 and $150,000.

Brake’s interest in a position in Michigan should not come as a surprise. Prior to his tenure in Morgantown, Brake served the city manager in Grand Blanc View, MI, located about an hour from Royal Oak, from July 2011 to August 2015.

He left that position to work for SAFEbuilt, a company that partners with communities on projects to address budget, customer service or development needs.

Brake also has more than a decade of experience as a former assistant township manager in Michigan.