John Gunyou, an outspoken state finance commissioner for former Gov. Arne Carlson and the widely praised city manager in Minnetonka, plans to retire June 1.

With his youngest child set to graduate from college in May and his oldest child about to make him a grandfather in July, Gunyou said on Tuesday that the time was right. "I have been saying, 'Oh, maybe another year or two,' and then I realized I have been saying that for some time," said Gunyou, who is 63.

His only plans are to continue teaching an undergraduate course on nonprofit and public finance at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

On Monday, City Council members praised his work over the past 11 years and credited him with using his understanding of state government and finance to successfully reposition the city for the recent lean years.

"He was able to get a sense of state cutbacks before most people were really up to speed," Mayor Terry Schneider said.

In 2008 and 2009, Gunyou proposed an aggressive 6.5 percent cut in city personnel along with restructuring of departments, Schneider said. "That put us in very good financial position as we went through 2009, 2010 and 2011."

It was his experience with state finance that distinguished Gunyou from four other highly qualified candidates when he applied for the city manager's position, Schneider said.

The city had hired an executive recruiting firm that brought in four candidates with strong résumés, but "we recognized that we had a unique opportunity to hire a city manager who was sort of out of the box," Schneider said.

Council members liked Gunyou's open leadership style and his communication abilities.

His 11 years as city manager turned out to be the longest time Gunyou spent in one job. During his tenure Minnetonka has been looked upon as a leader that other cities have watched for ideas, Schneider said.

Gunyou initiated a city, private industry and state partnership to get the Hwy. 169-Bren Road interchange built last year at a time when it was not on the near-term to-do list for the Minnesota Department of Transportation

He also led the city in the effort to open the visibility and accessibility of Minnehaha Creek in hopes of making it as much of a signature asset for Minnetonka as it is for Minneapolis.

Never a shrinking violet, Gunyou has a reputation for writing articles critical about the condition of state finances, often making an effort to peel away political rhetoric. In a letter to the editor of an education publication in 2003, called "Straight Talk About Government Finance,'' Gunyou asserted: "The state crisis wasn't inherited, it was self-inflicted.''

In 2010, Gunyou surprised many people by becoming the running mate for Margaret Anderson Kelliher in her unsuccessful bid for governor.

The heir apparent to the always sought-after Minnetonka job is Assistant City Manager Geralyn Barone, who took a larger role in running the city when Gunyou was running for office.

"We have had 13 years to interview Geralyn it seems to me, and she certainly has not disappointed me in those 13 years," Council Member Dick Allendorf said. He asked Gunyou to outline her qualities so the city can justify "not hiring a $30,000 search firm to go countrywide," looking for the traits the city has already found in Barone, Allendorf said.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287