Ann Arbor’s city Administrator Publishes Leadership Book

Milton Dohoney Jr. is Ann Arbor’s city administrator, and now, he is also an author.

Dohoney published “It Always Begins With Leadership: A City Manager’s Perspective” in June, and hopes it can inspire other leaders. 

Dohoney has been in municipal management for close to 40 years, and for the last few of those, he has been journaling about his experience working in different cities. After retiring from his position in Phoenix in early 2021 due to COVID-19, he starting writing the book, which he completed in October of that year. 

Realizing he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he wanted to draw from his own experiences of running cities to inspire others to be good leaders too. 

“I wrote it from a practitioner standpoint, what it’s like to actually lead a city, what it’s like to actually be in different leadership scenarios,” Dohoney said. “It’s more of a conversational style presentation. I try to keep it real and let people who are aspiring to be city managers see these are actual situations that you could find yourself in and here’s what’s expected of you in terms of thought process, in terms of motivating people, in terms of leading things and recovering from setbacks.”

An important piece about the release of this book is that while there are close to 14,000 city managers nationwide, it is rare that people in the profession write about themselves. Also, there are only a very few number of city administrator’s nationwide who are Black, so Dohoney hopes to show other African American people that holding leadership positions is possible. 

“The road I traveled is unique to me, but it is relevant for other people who look like me,” he said. “It felt important for people to hear from an African American practitioner. It’s even more rare for someone who looks like me to write about leadership within municipal management.”

Dohoney said he does not shy away from heavy topics in the book, as some of his chapters discuss policing, race and leading through COVID-19. 

While the book is most applicable for people in city managerial positions, Dohoney said anyone who is a leader or who hopes to be some day should read it.

“I think it’s important to highlight the importance [of leadership] because you can have money in the bank, you can have technology, you can have a lot of other things but if you don’t have leadership to be able to determine what to do with it, you’re really not going anywhere,” he said. 

Dohoney is still getting used to the smaller team in Ann Arbor compared to his last position in Phoenix, but, he said the city has a lot of potential.

“We’re trying to elevate our downtown areas. We’re very aggressive around our sustainability goals. We’re trying to enhance our affordable housing,” he said. 

While he doesn’t expect to work another job whenever he retires from his Ann Arbor position, it does seem like a second book could be in store at some point. 

An authentic story containing personal insights, humor and “real talk” from a municipal executive with over thirty years of experience, this book is designed to cultivate leadership skills.

It’s most applicable for those aspiring to become city managers, yet it encourages people to lead from wherever they are. 

Written by an African American who has served in four large cities in different parts of the country, the information presented is both unique and relevant to today’s aspiring leaders.

This is not a textbook; rather, it recounts a personal journey of one city manager’s experience with leadership.

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