STANTON — After weeks without a manager, the village of Lakeview and city of Stanton have finally settled on a replacement for James Freed, who left the post earlier this summer to take a job in Port Huron.
Following an extensive search process and several interviews, Stanton’s City Commission on Wednesday voted to hire Jacob Eckholm as shared manager for both communities. Lakeview’s Village Council had already arrived at the same decision Monday evening.
Eckholm, 24, is new to city politics. A resident of Muskegon, he currently works as regional manager of TrueNorth Community Services in Fremont.
Eckholm edged out Frank Goodroe, 60, of Huntington Woods, the only other candidate called back for a second interview.
Eckholm told commission members the city manager’s job is exactly the sort of thing he’s been looking for since first deciding to turn his educational focus toward public service. No stranger to rural communities, Eckholm hopes to bring his fondness for, and knowledge of, small towns to the position.
“This is the most important interview I’ve ever been a part of,” Eckholm said. “This is my long-term career goal. I’ve always focused on community development. I applied to several positions, but this is the one callback I was really hoping to get.”
Eckholm added he felt Stanton had a lot to offer as a community, but said it could be more attractive still if certain aspects of the city were further developed. He cited an interest in bringing in businesses to fill vacant downtown storefronts and finding ways to encourage users of the nearby bicycle trail to stop in town while riding.
“I want to make this a sustainable place to live, work and play,” he said. “This community could be greatly attractive to a lot of people.”
After interviewing both candidates for the second time, all Stanton commissioners save one voted to hire Eckholm. Commissioner Karl Yoder was the sole dissenting vote. Yoder noted Goodroe’s years of experience in both the public and private sector, as well as pointing out Eckholm’s relative lack of experience.
“I think Jake is a fine young man,” Yoder said. “He has training in a lot of realms, but when compared with the experience of (Goodroe) and the things he’s dealt with already in his career, I don’t think there’s any comparison. Why we wouldn’t pick Frank just amazes me.”
Commissioner Larry Petersen said he felt Goodroe’s experience could actually work against him, noting he was actually “too qualified” for the job and would be likely to leave the position for another if more money were to be offered elsewhere.
Commissioner Krista King echoed Petersen’s sentiments, pointing out that Goodroe had stated during the interview process that he had previously left positions for exactly that reason.
For Mayor Pro-Tem John Kroneck, his decision to vote for Eckholm was more a matter of personalities.
“When I listened to Jake I came away energized,” Kroneck said. “With Frank I found myself wondering if my eyes were still open. Moving into the future is the piece for me, as well as the personal connections we talked about.”
With the decision finally made, commission members and representatives from Lakeview’s council will now meet to hammer out a formal offer to present to Eckholm.
Eckholm has said he will be happy to start work as soon as he can tie up loose ends with his previous employer. He plans to move with his fiancée to either Lakeview or Stanton in the near future.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Stanton Department of Public Works Director Jeff Main reported that vandalism has continued at the city’s cemetery and that a new door, recently affixed to the unused mausoleum, was destroyed by vandals.
“We just built it and they knocked it in,” Main said. “Also, the outhouses were pushed over. We get to clean it up; that’s why it gets to us.”
Yoder asked why the mausoleum remains standing at all, since it no longer serves any real purpose. “Is it a landmark or what?” Yoder said. “What does it symbolize?”
Mayor Monica Tissue-Daws responded that some area residents consider it a landmark and an important part of the cemetery.
“I just don’t understand the purpose of having something that keeps costing taxpayer dollars and has no function or purpose for the future,” Yoder countered. “Just to have an empty building sitting there because we’ve always had one does not sit with my idea of what is a good idea.”
Commissioner Janet Davis suggested the history of the mausoleum be thoroughly researched before any determination as to its removal is considered.
“We should see if it was donated or something,” Davis said.
No action was taken on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting.