U.P. Cities Face Challenges Hiring for Local Government Positions

It took Sault Ste. Marie eight months to find someone to take over as manager of their wastewater treatment plant, and they’re still looking to fill other positions including chief of police. 

City Manager Brian Chapman says there are a few reasons why it’s so hard to hire people for local government. “One of them is our rural nature, kind of being located on the fringe of Michigan here, but a lot of the positions that we’re recruiting for have some form of technical or professional license and those applicants just aren’t seeking out those jobs anymore,” he said. 

Being on the edge of Michigan means there’s less people interested in making that move. “The wages are comparable probably to positions that they have downstate so they’re not looking to make a big move for similar pay,” said Chapman.  

People also have to give up a lot of their personal life when they hold government positions. “These positions are pretty demanding of their family life and their energy and they can go into the private sector, make a little more money, and do a job that may not be as taxing on their personal life. 

In St. Ignace, one of their problems is the lack of housing available. They also aren’t able to pay as much as other places. “They have a bigger budget and can hire at a higher salary or hourly wage, where we have a limited pool of funds and a smaller budget spread out, and we can only pay so much so that’s a challenge.” 

Both city managers say it’s a different kind of living in the U.P. and that also plays a factor.