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Get to know mayoral candidate Geri McCaleb

Tribune Staff • Jul 23, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Name: Geri McCaleb

Age: 72

Occupation: Seamstress, semi-retired

Education: Bachelor of Science, Grand Valley State College, major in earth science, minor in history

Community involvement:

Elected to City Council in 2001 and served two four-year terms. I ran for mayor in 2011 and I am completing my fourth two-year term. I was involved in starting and served as secretary in the Eastown Association, which focused on Eastown businesses and neighborhoods. On council, I was the council liaison to the Cemetery Board, the elected representative on the Harbor Transit Advisory Board, as well as one of the city’s representatives to the MPO that deals with transportation policy and funding. I was also on the early infrastructure committees. As mayor, I serve on the MSDDA Board, the Audit Review Committee and the Brownfield/EDC Board. I am also the Grand Haven-elected representative on the NORA Board and attend the BLP Board meetings.

What unique qualities or experiences make you a good candidate for mayor?

My two terms on council laid a good groundwork to understanding the workings of the community. People appreciate a listening ear and thoughtful consideration of their ideas and the issues they face. I come at government from very much a citizen point of view. I strive to be what I would like to see in a representative. As a lifelong learner, I educate myself on the issues before making a decision, and once a decision is made, I try not to waiver unless compelling evidence comes to change my mind. My years on council and as mayor give me an appreciation of the time and effort it takes to bring an idea to reality. Serving the community has been a very gratifying experience.

What do you consider the top issues facing the city, and how would you address them?

(1) We learned that we can’t rebuild our entire infrastructure in 10 years. We have had two millage approvals and have leveraged our money very well, but much remains to be done and we recognize that infrastructure will be ongoing expense. So the City Council approved a way to return to a pay-as-you-go basis. This will take the approval of the voter and patience, but will put us on a good path for the future.

(2) Historically, the City of Grand Haven has taken great pride in having its own power plant, and with Sims II shutting down in 2020, the community desire is to build another plant. In a changing energy world, we need to find the best way to accomplish that goal. We also need to provide an affordable heat source for the snowmelt system that keeps downtown free of ice and snow in the winter months. We are working together with the BLP to find solutions to these problems that will work for everyone, and I have great confidence that we will be successful.

(3) There is a lot of healthy tension between the forces for growth and development and maintaining our identity as a small lakeshore community. There has to be a balance between growth and preservation. It takes time and patience to air out these issues and listen to the concerns of the community and address them. There needs to be dialogue, education and understanding from all points of view. By listening and balancing the varied interests and ideas, we will find that direction that will stand the test of time.

(4) Grand Haven and all of Ottawa County are great places to live for young families and retirees. That puts pressure on housing availability and affordability. The rise in property values is great for the seller but problematic for the buyer. Add to that the predicament of people who have lived here their whole lives and may no longer desire to stay in their home, but finding another place to live is unaffordable. Similarly, our industries that are a large part of our tax base face a very tight labor market. These employees need housing or good transportation options to work in our local industries. We are working to address these needs, but it is a difficult problem all up and down the lakeshore and, if you watch the news, nationwide.

What do you consider the city’s strengths and how would you build on them?

The city’s strength is in its people. The people of the community are passionate about the city and the surrounding area. The city of Grand Haven is the hub for surrounding townships and a draw for inland communities. When the call went out for the preservation of the catwalk, the community went into action and raised a million dollars to rebuild it and bring it back. Volunteers built the original Imagination Station and, when it needed to be replaced, a new generation of citizens took on the ReImagine Project. When the federal government shut down, the community responded overwhelmingly to support our local Coast Guard personnel. So many people love this city and take great pride in the community, and so it is imperative that the people remain engaged, and that is done by making sure government listens and addresses their needs and desires.

Is there anything you would change in Grand Haven? Why and how?

I have lived in a variety of places, and came back to Grand Haven because we wanted to raise our family here. This is a beautiful city with a lot of great people and a lot of community pride. The challenge to me is not to change for change sake, but to respect the people who built this community through the years and left us with such a great heritage. Change comes and we need to decide what change we want to embrace and what we want to say no to, and that takes a lot of wisdom and insight. Grand Haven is built on a strong foundation of faith, self-reliance and community, and we need to remember our history and the people who brought us here and build on what they gave us so we can pass on to the next generation an equally good place to live and raise a family.

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