Mayor nominates Gregory Venker as Lansing’s next city attorney

Deputy city attorney would replace Smiertka, retiring after nearly 20 years


FRIDAY, April 5 — Lansing Deputy City Attorney Gregory Venker is slated to replace retiring City Attorney James Smiertka next week if the City Council approves his appointment in its regular meeting on Monday.

Smiertka, who announced his retirement on March 15, served as city attorney from 1994 to 2004 and was appointed again in 2016. Mayor Andy Schor sent a letter April 1 notifying Council members of his decision to appoint Venker as Smiertka’s successor.

Venker, 41, was hired as an assistant city attorney in 2017 and became deputy city attorney in 2023. Before that, he practiced law for nine years in Wisconsin, six as a state prosecutor and three at a private law firm. The Arizona native earned his juris doctor at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It's a big job but also a fun job and probably the most exciting kind of law that I've done in my career so far,” Venker said, adding that his experience in private litigation led him to favor public work.

Both Schor and Venker credited Smiertka for building a strong department in his second stint in the role.

“Jim is a living legend here in Lansing,” Schor said. “He’s been a tremendous asset for this city for decades, and he’s put together an incredible collection of talent who can take over at any time. I wish him the best in his retirement as he gets to travel and spend more time with his wife, kids and grandkids.”

Schor said his office looked at a few internal candidates before settling on Venker.

“We decided that it wasn’t worth going out and spending a lot of money in a search when we already had qualified candidates in-house,” Schor said. “With Venker serving as an assistant and deputy city attorney for several years now, we saw him as someone who would be great to step into that role right away.”

“You're not going to see a big gap in service,” he added. “You just have the next person in line stepping up.”

Schor also noted that Smiertka will remain in a limited capacity as a city attorney emeritus to help facilitate the transition.

“It won’t be a 24-hour job. He’ll get to continue to practice law and help the city, but it will be on his own time with a short schedule,” Schor said.

Schor said he expects the Council to support the appointment on Monday, although he added that he hasn’t received any firm commitments from members since this afternoon.

For his part, Council member Peter Spadafore said today that he favored the move.

“Mr. Venker has my support. He's professional, unbiased, and extremely knowledgeable. We are fortunate to have professionals like Greg who demonstrate a commitment to public service and we would be lucky to have him as our permanent City Attorney,” Spadafore said.

Venker said he was looking forward to the opportunity.

“We've got a strong law office here, and I’m excited to carry that forward and keep the tradition going,” he said.

Jim Smiertka, Gregory Venker, Andy Schor, Lansing, City Attorney, Municipal, Government, Politics, Law, deputy, assistant, Peter Spadafore


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us