He has managed full-service cities that have also included municipally owned golf courses and a downtown arena. In three communities, he has managed cities with general aviation airports and has dealt with fixed-based operators and hangar leases, issues that Middletown also faces.
Palenick is also a believer in intergovernmental agreements, which he said is “critically important.”
“It’s a win for both parties because you are sharing the sacrifice,” he said. “You mitigate sacrifice by making a sacrifice.”
Born in southwest Michigan (he remains a Detroit Lions fan), where his father worked 43 years in a factory making universal joints for trucks, he could not imagine himself being a factory worker. While he was in high school, Palenick interviewed his hometown’s city manager and discovered he had an interest in city government.
“It’s so different because no two days are ever alike. It’s challenging and fulfilling,” he said. “I think it’s about making the community better. If not, then I haven’t done my job.”
Palenick said he applied for the Middletown position because the city manager works with a city council, and the smaller council is “smart, engaged and committed with a cohesive vision that was very appealing” to him.
He said some of his notable accomplishments include leading efforts to redevelop the riverfront in Bay City, Mich., develop a downtown with an arena as its cornerstone in Rio Rancho, N.M., and redevelop brownfields following the recession in Gastonia, N.C. Palenick said he sees a lot of parallels between Gastonia, an old textile mill and manufacturing town, and Middletown.
While serving as Gastonia’s economic development director, Palenick worked to transform a three-acre backup reservoir for the city water plant in an underserved neighborhood into a park with buildings, a 1.7-mile walking trail and fishing docks.
When he’s not working, Palenick likes to be outdoors walking, hiking and biking. He said he is looking forward to riding on the Great Miami River Recreation Trail that runs through Middletown.
Palenick also likes to travel in the U.S., the Caribbean and Mexico. He also enjoys cooking, especially Italian, Chinese and Mexican dishes. His signature dishes are green chili enchilada and a stir fry, he said.
His family includes his fiancee, a 26-year-old son who lives in Washington, D.C. and two brothers who live in Michigan.
Middletown City Managers
1956 to 2019
Charlie Thompson, March 1956-March 1964
Dan Kothe, June 1964-September 1970
Dale Helsel, October 1970-May 1985
William Burns, October 1985-January 1988
William Klosterman, July 1988-August 1992
Ron Olsen, November 1992-November 2004
William Becker, March 2005-March 2007
Judith Gilleland, January 2008-July 2014
Douglas Adkins, July 2014-Dec. 17, 2019.
James M. Palenick, July 13, 2020
SOURCE: City of Middletown
Jim Palenick’s public administration career
Palenick has more than 30 years of professional experience and has served in the following positions:
- City Manager, city of Middletown, Ohio, July 13, 2020
- City Administrator, city of Racine, Wis., 2017-2020
- Director of Economic & Business Development, city of Fayetteville, N.C., 2016-2017
- Town Manager, city of Dallas, N.C., 2012-2016
- City Manager, city of Gastonia, N.C., 2007-2011
- City Manager, city of Rio Rancho, N.M., 2003-2006
- City Manager, city of Bay City, Mich., 1996-2002
- City Manager, city of Dowagiac, Mich., 1992-1996
- Village Manager, village of Dexter, Mich., 1987-1992
Palenick earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration and economics from Western Michigan University in 1981, graduating summa cum laude. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration, with honors, in 1987, also from Western Michigan University.
Middletown City Council approved an indefinite contract with Palenick that is renewable annually. His new salary will be $160,000, and a raise to $165,000 is built in pending successful completion of his first year.