Detroit — Warren Evans on his first day as Wayne County’s executive announced he will save taxpayers $1.2 million with fewer staff and lower salaries.
The savings will stem from a 5 percent salary reduction for all appointees, according to a press release sent early Monday. Evans also will have nine fewer appointees than his predecessor, Robert Ficano.
“The county is facing difficult financial problems, and I will deal with those issues in a forthright and transparent manner beginning day one,” Evans said.
Several members of Evans’ senior leadership team were announced Monday, including Chief of Staff Rudy Hobbs, who will receive a salary of $140,600. Hobbs previously served as a Michigan state representative.
Other appointees include:
■June Lee as assistant county executive. He will be responsible for oversight of county departments and will receive a salary of $138,387. Lee previously served as Ficano’s chief of staff.
■Tony Saunders as chief restructuring officer. He will lead county restructuring efforts, identify efficiencies and help implement the county deficit elimination plan. Saunders will receive a salary of $138,387.
■Lloyd Jackson as communications director. He will manage Evans’ communications staff and serve as chief media contact and spokesman. He will receive a salary of $116,898.
Evans is interviewing candidates for deputy county executive, chief financial officer and purchasing director, according to the release.
Evans began his term on Monday, saying he was prepared to face underfunded pensions, a county deficit and the controversial jail project.
“The big problem is the underfunded pensions and then the fact that our yearly deficit is going to grow over the next several years and our revenue is not,” Evans said after arriving at the Guardian Building just before 8 a.m. “Until those balance, we’re going to have trouble, so we’re going to try to figure out how to best do that for all the citizens and to be the least onerous we can on the employees of Wayne County.”
The new administration will continue searching for answers for the stalled jail project, Evans said. Construction stopped last year because the project at Gratiot and Madison was $91 million past the $300 million estimate. In September, a one-man grand jury indicted three current and former Wayne County officials as part of an investigation into millions of dollars in cost overruns in the project.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are close to announcing whether Ficano or anyone else will be charged criminally following a years-long investigation of corruption within the former Wayne County executive’s administration.
“I don’t see any real clear answers that aren’t going to be particularly onerous on the public right now, but we’ll keep working at it,” said Evans of the jail project. “I think it was a terrible decision; I’ve said that before, but the decision had been made, and now we have bills to pay.”
The first step is to get his team “aimed in the right direction,” Evans said Monday.
“(I want to) form some relationships with the people I don’t know and pull the people that I do know together, because they’re going to be working with people they may not have known before,” he said.
Going forward, Evans said he will keep county business open and transparent.
“In the next couple of weeks, you’ll see we’re really clear about who we’ve hired, (and) we’ve hired less people than previous administrations,” he said. “The salaries will be less, and you’ll know how much they make.”
Evans said his experience as the chief of police in Detroit has prepared him for his new role as county executive.
“I think running a large organization and having some control over policy and rules will make a difference,” he said.
Evans said his focus is on the county’s success.
“It’s about the business of fixing Wayne County, he said. “Not building a fiefdom.”