In a phone interview with WSBT News, Tony Saunders shared his background and qualifications for taking the EFM position.
Saunders says he graduated from University of Michigan in 2009 with a degree in Economics and has a marketing background.
"My dad had me reading Warren Buffett at 8-years old. I'm a nerd in my spare time."
Saunders, a Detroit native, says during school in 2007 he and some buddies started the marketing group, DoWYLD.
According to their website the name stands for, "do what you love doing."
"Marketing had been my passion and I planned to be an entrepreneur after school," explained Saunders.
Instead, after graduation Saunders became a Senior Advisor & Chief of Staff for Detroit City Council.
Then last year the state pegged him to become Emergency Financial Manager in Highland Park, a distressed community near Detroit.
He is credited with helping turn their 1.3-million dollar deficit into a $850,000 dollar surplus within a year through spending reductions, department restructuring and monitoring the budget.
"I learned all about the importance of cooperation and collaboration. And I hope to bring that to Benton Harbor."
Saunders takes over February first as Benton Harbor's EFM, replacing the controversial Joe Harris who held the position for three years.
"Goal number one is for me to create an exit strategy," Saunders said "I think that's important for the citizens to know what steps we need to take for me to leave and for their commission to regain local control."
Saunders says his other top goals as EFM include reforming the city's pension program and wiping out and turning around the city's general fund deficit, which has a more than a $1.4 million dollar deficit.
"What I'm really focusing on is forging a better relationship with the commission. Hopefully, we can do this together,' stressed Saunders
"It doesn't mean we'll always agree. It does hopefully mean we can have a certain level of respect for one another that we can agree to disagree."
Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower has talked with Saunders and says he is excited to start working with him.
"After speaking with him, I think we can look forward to some good things," said Hightower.
Saunders says he plans moving to Benton Harbor and believes becoming a resident will help him do his job better.
Saunders admits that will be challenging since he is married and his wife of three years is expecting their first child and has a career in the Detroit area.
"She's much smarter than me," Saunders professes. "We're still figuring out what we're going to do."