The feature race on Bay City ballots this November is for the Office of Mayor. Chris Shannon, the current Mayor, is subject to term limits and will be leaving office after the election.
The candidates in this race are well known to Bay City residents and consist of City Commissioner Chris Girard and Kathleen (Kathi) Newsham, who was a City Commissioner prior to serving as Mayor from 1998 to 2002.
The Review had the opportunity to ask the candidates a few questions about their goals and objectives if elected; and here are their answers. We hope you find this Candidate Forum helpful and informative.
Review: Bay City employees a “weak Mayor” system, where a City Manager handles day to day execution of the City’s business. In this model, what do you believe is the primary role of the Mayor?
Chris Girard: I believe the primary role of the Mayor of Bay City is to work with residents, City Commission, and City Staff to help set good policy and to facilitate community initiatives that will move the city in a positive direction. As the “face of the community” it’s important to listen and lead by example by being involved with community events and be willing to tackle complex issues that are important to our citizens.
The mayor should also be a good collaborator and have a good understanding of the community resources available to meet the needs of the city’s residents. Some examples of initiatives that I would bring forward as Mayor Include: the development of a youth government council, expansion of the spring neighborhood cleanup to include more summer clean-up dates, and establishing efforts with local nonprofit agencies to promote increased healthy living opportunities.
Kathleen Newsham: The Primary role of the Mayor of Bay City is to preside over the City Commission Meetings, working with the 9 elected City Commissioners and City Staff. The City Manager and his staff run the day to day operations of the City. Another role of Mayor is to work with the City's elected officials and Staff to build a consensus and set our vision of goals and objectives.
Other minor roles or duties of the Mayor are to be visible in the community. As Mayor, I will represent the City and the organizations that make Bay City so unique. As Mayor, I will do whatever I can to help Bay City's celebrations succeed, i.e.: Fireworks, Tall Ships, River Roar, River of Time and the St. Patrick's Day Parade to mention just a few. I have been an active member on many of these groups for the past 15 years. I look forward to my job as one of the Liaison Officers as Bay City Host to the “Tall Ships Celebration in 2016. As your Mayor, I will continue to work with these groups and help promote Bay City as a destination place.
Lastly, the position of Mayor may be a "weak form" of government, but the Mayor does have the power of the Veto. This is not an often used tool, but as the former Mayor, I was not afraid to use the Veto.
Some of the other roles the Mayor has that I think is important is for the Mayor to be available to attend functions in the community. I have personally been very happy and proud to attend special events. Whether it was an event for MLK day, Eagle Scout events, presenting deserving residents with the honor of the Key to the City, giving special recognition to different groups and organizations such as the Bay County Humane Society, the Woman’s Center and Habitat for Humanity for the work they do and many others.
Review: What would be your approach to relationships with the County Government and other regional entities, such as Bay Future?
Newsham: As Mayor I will reach out to other entities such as, Bay Future, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and the local Citizen District Councils, County Government Officials as well as our neighboring Townships, State Representative Charles Brunner, Congressman Kildee and Senator Greene. I have personally worked with these agencies and individuals in the past and I am personal friends with most of them I will continue to cultivate these relationships. I will always make sure we are working together.
I will make sure Bay City has a representative appointed to sit on the appropriate committees with our local governmental agencies as well as the private sector groups. It is important for everyone to work collaboratively on certain projects of mutual interest such as; Public Safety, Bridges, Roads, Water, Sewer and Electric. I am a “Team” orientated person. It is about the common good of the City, not personal goals or motivation to seek a higher office!
Girard: As mayor I would strengthen relationships with County and Township officials by working with the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce to create an ongoing local government council. We have shown by the construction of the new Bay Area Water Treatment plant that great things can happen when we collaborate as governmental partners. This government council will continue to build on the momentum to create greater community impact by working on a common goal for everyone.
I currently work with Bay Future, the Bay County Growth Alliance, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance through various committees or community activities. Through these established relationships we will be able to leverage the assets of Bay City as a showcase for the region. Having these community partners engaged will be vital to develop a sound strategy to attract and retain youth and families in our community. We must all work together if we truly want to address the legacy burdens of the community so we can all focus on growth. I can and will bring people together to move Bay City forward.
Review: Is there a way that you see that we can fund the repair of crumbling City streets?
Girard: Can Bay City fund the repair and the funding of our streets alone with our current funding levels? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “No.” However, we do need to take a proactive approach if we don’t want to go back to driving on dirt roads in the not so distant future. Part of the road solution is that we will need to continue to encourage our State Legislature to find a way to pass a road bill that supports local municipalities without cutting revenue sharing.
Our State Representative Charles Brunner and State Senator Mike Green have introduced legislation for the State to take over bridge operations for 2 city bridges. If this were to happen it would allow us to shift the $650,000 that we currently spend on bridges into city streets. Again, this will only happen if Michigan passes a road bill. Additionally, As Mayor, I would work with the City Commission and Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to address the streets based on condition and utilization data. This plan would be the basis for discussion around a possible road mileage if we truly want to make a longer term investment for our streets. There will be no road to kick the can down if we don’t take some reasonable measures soon. There is no simple solution but I’m ready and willing to tackle it head on.
Newsham: Monies for our roads are collected at the Federal Level and dispersed back to the local units of Government. I will do everything in my power as your Mayor to work with our Congressman, and our elected officials in Lansing to help obtain funding to help repair our crumbling roads and our infrastructure as well. Right now we replace our water mains, water lines and sewers as they break, freeze or just stop functioning. Having talked with hundreds of people throughout the city in the past few months, this is one of the top concerns. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it happen.
I will push to have the new commission make our roads and infrastructure one of our top priorities. The residents have made it clear, they have been paying their taxes and they are not paying more.
We cannot tax our way out of the hole we have dug ourselves into over the past 50 years. This is not a unique problem to Bay City.
We need to send the message to Washington to act on an Infrastructure Works Bill to rebuild this country.
Review: Mayor is a part time job, with full time responsibilities. Can you explain how you would approach this challenge should you be elected?
Newsham: As a former Mayor, I am very aware of the time and responsibilities of being the Mayor. I work in the downtown area and I have a supportive boss who allows me the flexibility to attend meetings or special functions during work hours. I am more than willing and able to fulfill the duties of the office of Mayor.
Girard: Currently I serve as the City Commission President and understand the dedication required to serve all the residents of Bay City. I’m also very fortunate to serve in the role of President and CEO of Do-All, Inc., which affords me the opportunity to be actively engaged in the community through many boards and committees.
The key in any position of leadership is effective time management and as a leader in the community I’ve demonstrated the ability to be organized and driven to ensure results for whatever project or committee I take on. As Mayor, I will continue to be a very visible and active leader in our community, giving my all to serve the residents of Bay City to the fullest.
Additionally, I’m very blessed to have a supportive family in my service to the community and together we want a bright future for the City of Bay City. If chosen as Bay City’s next mayor, I know the key to our continued success will be tapping into the time and talents of all the hardworking and dedicated citizens that live here. They are truly the major asset we have and their vision and leadership are the reason why Bay City is what it is today and what we will become tomorrow.