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Wobser named city manager

Andy Ouriel • May 15, 2014 at 12:58 PM

Eric Wobser is coming back home. Sandusky city commissioners voted 7-0 Monday night to hire the Ohio City Inc. executive director as the new city manager.

Wobser could start as soon as next month. The hiring announcement came after commissioners interviewed all five finalists during a five-hour private session Monday afternoon. Each candidate interviewed for about an hour in City Hall.

“I believe in myself, and I believe in this city,” Wobser said. “This city has an amazing collection of assets: the historicarchitecture, the lake, how walkable it is, the (proximity) to metropolitan areas, the schools”

Commissioners selected Wobser, a 1997 Edison High School graduate who grew up in Sandusky and Perkins Township, based on his extensive and impressive resume.

Who is Eric Wobser?

•RESIDES IN: Cleveland

•CURRENT JOB: Ohio City Inc. executive director since 2009. He oversees a nonprofit agency improving the city’s economic development and neighborhood revitalization efforts.

•EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio University (2002); juris doctor from University of Michigan Law School (2005). 

•EXPERIENCE: AmeriCorps member in Cleveland (2001 to 2002); University of Michigan office of the general counsel law clerk (2003 to 2004); special projects manager for mayor of Cleveland (2006 to 2009).

Since 2009, Wobser spearheaded Ohio City Inc., a nonprofit organization overseeing community and economic development along with neighborhood revitalization in Ohio City, just outside Cleveland.

In this role for Ohio City, Wobser:

•Leveraged about $200 million in public and private investment over a four-year period.

•Attracted more than 70 local businesses to the area.

•Reduced the commercial vacancy rate from more than 30 percent in 2010 to less than 5 percent in 2013.

•Maintained historic neighborhood housing stock through single-family rehabilitation, foreclosure prevention and community outreach.

Leaning on his track record, Wobser made logical pitches to commissioners about how he could achieve similar successes for Sandusky.

“Eric demonstrated an incredible amount of energy and knowledge of how cities work, and in particular, how to lead a city with similar demographics to our city,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said. “He is a great communicator, and he has an ability of bringing people together to explain a vision. All seven (commissioners) are going to get behind him, and what you saw (Monday) was a unanimous decision that Eric is the right person to lead this effort”

Murray said the three priorities for Wobser revolve around creating more revenue opportunities in a cash-strapped budget, mapping out realistic long-term economic development ideas and improving area neighborhoods — all tasks Wobser has accomplished.

“The biggest challenge in Sandusky is changing perception,” Wobser said. “Its getting people to believe in the city and it’s potential. This city is important not only to people living in Sandusky but to the entire region. Sandusky is so special because it’s a national tourist destination. Very few cities have beautiful architecture, powerful cultural institutions and all the other assets around here”

Among the finalists who did not land the job: Sandusky chief planner Rebecca Corrigan. In a previous Register story, Corrigan said she’d remain chief planner if she didn’t secure the city manager’s spot.

An opening for the position occurred after city commissioners voted to fire Nicole Ard in early March for failing to perform her job duties. Commissioners hired Ard in fall 2011 with the approval from a consulting firm paid more than $20,000 in city funds.

Ard was paid about $129,000 a year.

Commissioners opted against using a firm and decided to perform this search process themselves.

It’s not known how much Wobser could receive, since commissioners plan to create an incentive-laden contract, in which he could obtain more money based on accomplishing certain tasks.

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