James M. (Jim) Palenick came to Middletown as a result of a national recruitment which resulted in his unanimous selection by City Council. He began his tenure as Middletown City Manager on July 13, 2020. Born and raised in southwest Michigan, Palenick graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1981 from Western Michigan University with a bachelor of science degree in public administration and economics. He followed that with a Masters in Public Administration degree (MPA), with honors, also earned at WMU in 1987. In a local government management career that spans over three decades, he has held the positions of village manager of Dexter, Mich., and city manager of Dowagiac and Bay City, Mich., as well as city manager of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and Gastonia and Dallas, N.C. He also served as the Economic and Business Development Director for Fayetteville, NC. In his most recent local government management position prior to Middletown, Palenick served as City Administrator of Racine, Wisconsin, an urban core community of 78,000, midway between Milwaukee and Chicago.
Palenick has spent his career providing focused leadership in economic and community development and redevelopment. Stressing the importance of being highly strategic in establishing organizational values and priorities, he believes that effective development must be “place-based” and unique to the authenticity of its culture, environment, resources, and surroundings. Further focusing on “quality over quantity,” Palenick believes that local government must focus on a core set of functions and services and perform those well and with consistency and certainty. Chief among these are public safety and the re-investment in high-quality public infrastructure. “Middletown has a long and storied history that has provided its citizens with both a sense of pride and nostalgia for the past, however, my job as City Manager is to honor that past without attempting to still live in it. We need to collectively re-invent ourselves as a community – to re-imagine what it takes to be and remain a thriving, sustainable City of the 21st century. That is our challenge and our commitment.”