"Because it's the biggest challenge in the state," McCormick says in a phone call between meetings. "This system is ten times the size of Ann Arbor's. We serve roughly four million people with a $900 million annual budget. We serve the city and all the way west to Ypsilanti and all the way north to Flint."
McCormick's other challenges include a bloated and inefficient staff, decades of noncompliance with the Clean Water Act, and a federal indictment hanging over the former director. Last fall, federal judge Sean Cox ordered the department to clean up its act--and allowed it to do so by granting its yet-to-be-hired new director extraordinary powers. Those powers are what changed McCormick's mind last November.
McCormick says her plan for Detroit is "to do what we did in Ann Arbor but at a much larger scale ... In Ann Arbor, there were twenty job classifications in field services, and there are 156 job classifications here--so you can see there's a lot of opportunities to find efficiencies."
She has already eliminated 550 staff positions. Now, she's working to "get everybody to understand that we need to move together in the same direction.