Executive Profile:


Deborah Stuart, City Administrator, Mason

“Change occurs best when you build consensus and those who have to implement it believe in it.”

Community Basics

Number of full time employees:

Annual Budget:
$15 million

Years in Current Position:
I began my current position in January 2016.


Professional Path

Years in the Profession:
Over 2 years.

College Attended and Degree Program:
Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Central Michigan University; Master’s degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University.

What path lead you to your current position?
I got into this position because of my passion for the community first.   My family fell in love with Mason and I knew I could use my skills to make a difference in this position.  I had the budgeting, management, and economic development skills, but was definitely a non-traditional candidate.

What do you enjoy most about being a city manager?
Having a direct and immediate impact on the place that so many of my neighbors and I love.  This is my dream job!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Patience.  Change occurs best when you build consensus and those who have to implement it believe in it.  That takes time and I often want to move faster than is realistic.  I keep a list of goals that I started within three months of starting.  I refer to it when I get frustrated and know that even though I’m not checking off everything right now, there is progress.

What are some of the most important skills it takes to be a city manager?
Leadership, relationship building, positive outlook, and budgeting.  It is critical to stay out of the way of the technical experts- grow their leadership skills and clear the path for the work they know needs to get done.  That is accomplished through empowerment and providing them with the necessary resources through the budget process.  In order to do that, you have to have good relationship skills and stay positive even when you don’t want to.

What project has been most meaningful in your career to date?
Two come to mind right away:

  1. A large manufacturing company was looking at a new plant at another location in the state and we asked for one meeting to pitch Mason for an expansion.  They took us up on it and after six months of hard work, they did that new plant AND a $100M expansion in Mason.  Due to their experience with the City, six months later they did another $30M investment.
  2. We just finalized a partnership with Mason Public Schools to lease space in City Hall.  We have a building that is too large for City services and the school had passed a bond to improve their school/administration building.  It was a difficult negotiation that some struggled to fully understand, but the positive results of this relationship will last well into the future for Mason.


Career Advice

What is your best tip for entering the profession?
Know that other professions relate. If you can lead a team, manage a budget, and build relationship- you will be successful at this job.

What is your best tip for succeeding in the profession?
Patience – but never settle or be content with the current process. Keeping perspective and not taking things too personally. I just read a quote that is changing my outlook on my issues: “Frustration shows up only in the absence of perspective”- Rory Vaden.  A big part of being a leader is providing your team with perspective and keeping that perspective in mind for yourself.

How do you establish the best relationship with your elected officials?
Set clear boundaries and give honest feedback about what I need from them. When it comes to boundaries, City Managers often get frustrated when their councils overstep. However, I was given advice early on how important it is to make sure as a Manager you don’t overstep by asking them administrative advice. There is separation for a reason of those duties and the boundaries have to respected on both sides. That is often easier said than done.