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By John Minnis
Legal News

Thaddeus J. “Ted” Kedzierski opened his Detroit Free Press one Sunday morning in September 2009 only to learn that his affluent community, Grosse Pointe Shores, home to three billionaires, was on the State of Michigan’s “Fiscal Watch List” along with the likes of Detroit, Ecorse and Highland Park. Needless to say, his fellow “Shores” residents were “concerned.”

Kedzierski, a CPA certified in financial forensics and of counsel tax attorney with Charfoos & Christensen, was not surprised. He saw this coming a year earlier when he started attending his city’s pension board meetings.

“I was too dumb,” Kedzierski recalls of his naïve days before he became active in his city’s governance. “I really didn’t know. I just happened to read about this, and I realized it was in my own backyard.”

He ran for city council in 2009, after the Free Press article, and won. Last year, he ran for mayor and won.

What Kedzierski didn’t “know” before he became involved was the danger his and cities across the state and country faced with their defined-benefit pension plans. Defined-benefit plans are supported by invested funds. But when the economy, and stocks, tanked in 2008, defined-benefit pension plans found themselves, like most Americans’ homes, under water.

“The result is these plans are unsustainable,” Kedzierski says. “All cities face this problem. We are not unusual here. I thought my background would be beneficial.”

Thaddeus J. Kedzierski, born in 1953 in Hamtramck, was one of six children of his schoolteacher father. He was named after an uncle who was killed in an air battle over the Adriatic Sea in 1943.

After graduating from De La Salle Collegiate, Kedzierski went to Wayne State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in business administration in 1975 and his J.D. in 1979. He has practiced as a CPA and tax attorney since 1982.

After his father died, his mother moved to Grosse Pointe Woods, where Kedzierski met his future wife, Kathleen, while swimming at the municipal pool. They married in 1988, living in Grosse Pointe Woods before moving to the Shores in 1995. They have two children, Michael, 23, and Alla, 18.

Kedzierski became of counsel with Charfoos & Christensen in 1989. “They’re a great group of people, a great group of individuals,” Kedzierski says of Charfoos & Christensen attorneys and staff. (Managing shareholder) Doug Peters is the best negotiator there is. I have immediate access to Charfoos & Christensen attorneys and vice versa. It’s a good fit.”

Kedzierski is an active member and seminar presenter for the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants and the National Business Institute and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He is the current treasurer and past president of the Advocates Bar Association, a member of the State Bar of Michigan, Taxation and Probate and Estate Planning Sections. He was admitted to practice in the U.S. Tax Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeals (Sixth Circuit).

Besides serving as mayor and on the city council, Kedzierski’s community involvement includes the Grosse Pointe Shores Improvement Foundation, Grosse Pointe Babe Ruth Baseball Inc., Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Old Newsboys Goodfellows Fund, Grosse Pointe Shores Swim Team (parent) and Grosse Pointe North High School Coaches Club.

His first priority on the council and as mayor was to transition employees off defined-benefit plans and into defined-contribution plans, thus limiting and city’s exposure. Another was to go to a three-year rolling budget so that financial planning could be ongoing rather than yearly.

“We only had a few months to work out a budget for the next year,” Kedzierski recalls of the old way of doing things. “Now we have a three-year balanced budget to roll.”

He credits Oakland County Executive L. Brook Patterson for many of his ideas. “I was listening to Brooks Patterson,” Kedzierski says. “I give credit to him. I think the biggest thing he did was a three-year rolling budget.”

As mayor, Kedzierski thinks the values of his community’s 1,070 homes are stabilizing, and he looks forward to young families moving in now that houses have become more affordable. To help sell the city, Mayor Kedzierski has created an Ambassadors Committee to spread the word. (New homebuyers get a free boat well for a year in the city’s newly modernized marina.)

Also on his agenda is maintaining the city’s 52 streets, including Lake Shore Drive, for which he is using matching federal funds this summer to repave.

Even a paradise like Grosse Pointe Shores has its detractors, and the buck stops in the mayor’s office.

"I’m the complaint department, or part of the complaint department. It’s a thankless job,” Kedzierski says of being the Shores’ 13th mayor in its 100-year history, “but it’s the highest honor I’ve ever had to represent your community.”

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