LAKEVIEW — Lakeview and Stanton have been without a manager since September, when Jake Ekholm left for another job.
During Monday night’s Lakeview Village Council meeting, the council interviewed the two finalists a search committee had narrowed down from 14 applicants.
Shay Gallagher of Grand Rapids and Charlie Watson of Cedar Springs addressed the council with their qualifications and experience and why they thought the would make a good shared manager. The pair interviewed with the Stanton City Commission Tuesday night as the two communities look to continue their shared manager agreement.
Gallagher is originally from Elk Rapids, which he said is a small, rural community, similar to Lakeview and Stanton.
He graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations and later earned a master’s degree in public administration.
He interned in the village of Sparta as assistant to the village manager, where he worked on projects such as updating the capital improvement plan and ordinances and creating the first annual report and the first business retention and improvement plan.
During his time in Sparta, he took the initiative to ease the concern of residents who approached him about high property tax rates by making a property tax survey of Kent County to see and compare Sparta’s property tax rates
Gallagher then moved on to Algoma Township where he has overseen an approximately $180,000 purchase of property through a DNR trust fund grant to turn into a park and a new sewer and water expansion.
He said he wants to make Lakeview a better community for people to commute from and live in, which he plans on doing by seeking out grants for things the village would like to implement.
Gallagher noted that being a young, recent college graduate might cause some reservations from the council, but he assured them he has built a network to help him when he inevitably doesn’t know something.
“Ultimately, I think I would be the best candidate for this position because of my work at both the village of Sparta and Algoma Township, not only working with the community and the residents to foster new and great communities, but also my ability to work with all the municipalities and local entities,” Gallagher said.
Watson served on the Cedar Springs City Council for eight years — three of those years as mayor pro tem, and another three as mayor. He renovated the city’s water tower; secured facade grants; rewrote, eliminated and added ordinances; created a new master plan; served on various committees; and hired two city managers. He was also a firefighter for 31 years, 25 of which he worked as an airport firefighter.
Watson worked on several ordinances in Cedar Springs, including allowing snowmobiles on side streets and allowing burn pits in the city.
He also worked on a historical preservation of one of the two remaining natural springs in Cedar Springs by capping it and turning the spring into a fountain. He worked with Sand Lake and Nelson and Algoma townships for an environmental assessment grant for the four communities to use for assessing brownfield.
Since retiring, Watson has attended Grand Valley State University where he will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public and nonprofit administration in December.
He completed an internship in Ferrysburg, where he also worked with the village of Spring Lake and Spring Lake Township. There, he worked for Ferrysburg’s Geographic Information System (GIS), reviewed building permits and plans, reviewed and revised their Lower Grand River water shed program. In Spring Lake, he worked on a fire hydrant identification program, a police services comparison analysis, and campground rate analysis. In Spring Lake Township, Watson worked on a benefit comparison with the village of Spring Lake and shadowed a code enforcement officer for a day.
He interned with West Michigan Archery Center (WMAC) where he helped put together a policy and procedure book, coordinated a community service project and assisted with a program to allow Mary Free Bed residents to shoot.
“I believe that what I bring to the table is a lifetime of experience,” Watson said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you I know everything there is to being city manager. I didn’t know everything there was to being a mayor, and I didn’t know everything there was to being a firefighter when i started out. But, I’m not afraid of anything, and I have never come up against anything I haven’t been able to learn.”
SHARED MANAGER AGREEMENT
The possibility of a different shared manager arrangement came up at Monday’s meeting. Lakeview Police Chief Darin Dood expressed an interest in working as police chief and village manger, without the role of Stanton city manager.
“There are a lot of communities out there who doing it, and it works. It saves them about the same amount of money as a shared services like you do now with Stanton,” Dood said.
Lakeview District Fire Chief and Montcalm County Commissioner Patrick Q. Carr recommended Dood for the job.
“I think we could benefit from someone of Darin’s caliber, specifically because Darin could mend some of the past problems we’ve had,” Carr said. “He knows the players on all levels. He wouldn’t have to get acclimated.”
Village President Ed Winter commended Dood for his service as interim village manager.
“Darin was instrumental when I was gone in Germany,” Winter said. “All the commissioners hadn’t been contacted about the annexation like we thought they were. Darin took it upon himself to meet with all of them individually.”
Dood addressed concerns of financing the arrangement. He said there are checks and balances in place to keep him from pumping money into the police department because the council has to approve the budget.
“The way it happened is (Dood) applied after our last committee meeting, so the people on the search committee knew but none of the other council members knew,” Councilman Bob Huttinga said.
In the end, Councilwoman Kathy Lobert made the motion to present Gallagher as the village’s preference for shared manager with Stanton. The motion was approved 4-1, with Huttinga opposed.
“I really wanted to explore this option of Chief Dood doing both jobs because he has a ton of experience with the community. If you look what he’s done as interim president, he’s done an amazing job,” Huttinga said. “I liked Shay better than Charlie mostly because he’s young and enthusiastic.”
Gallagher and Watson interviewed with Stanton City Commission on Tuesday night. Lakeview and Stanton officials will make a final decision soon.