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Village Council appoints Michelle Hanks to vacant seat

Marie Havenga • Aug 23, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Spring Lake Village Council on Monday appointed the only resident to apply for a vacant council seat.

Council unanimously appointed Michelle Hanks, a local businesswoman.

Last month, Hanks filed two recall attempts to oust Joyce Hatton as village president. Hatton resigned Aug. 8, and Councilman Mark Powers took over as president, creating the vacant seat.                   

Hanks, 56, co-owns the Seven Steps Up concert venue with her husband, Gary, and is a self-employed accountant. She will fill the remainder of Powers' term on council, which expires at the end of 2018.

Village Deputy Clerk Maryann Fonkert swore Hanks into office Monday night. Hanks then left her seat in the audience and took her seat with council.

“It feels good, but it's kind of surreal at the moment,” she said. “If somebody asked me 10 years ago about my plans for the future, nothing that is going on in my life would have been on that list.”

Hanks became more active in local politics after Hatton made comments comparing the village parking ordinance to the “police state” of Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Hanks said she didn't just want to complain about the way things were — she wanted to make a difference.

“After standing up and saying, 'I don't like what's happening,' it felt like the right thing to be involved in what happens next,” she explained. “It felt like this is what I needed to do. I own two businesses here and I live here. (The village) is a fairly significant part of my world.”

Hanks said she would like to see Spring Lake become more of a destination town, and not just a pass-through to Grand Haven. She thinks changing the sign ordinance could help that cause.

During the interview prior to her appointment, Hanks told council that signs need to stand out and not just blend in.

“I think it's very difficult when you're driving through to see who is here and what's here,” she said. “That's something I would like to see changed. The world and technology have changed a lot since our Master Plan. I'd like to see a more active business community.”

Powers said he's pleased with the newest addition to council.

“We're very happy to have a resident and downtown business owner on the council,” he said. “This, I think, is a good thing. I have gotten to know Michelle in the last few winks and I think her personality will fit in well.”

Village Manager Chris Burns said she thinks Hanks’ financial background could be beneficial to council.

“As both a resident and a downtown business owner, Michelle will bring a unique perspective to council,” Burns said. “As a CPA, the learning curve regarding municipal finance will be very swift and easy for her to climb.”

Burns said Hanks exhibited great passion leading up to the August election, encouraging voters to reject a proposal that would have triggered a charter amendment allowing a mechanism to disincorporate the village.

Hatton was a strong proponent of dissolving the village and making it part of Spring Lake Township so that residents would only have to pay property taxes to one municipality.

Hanks became a strong voice against disincorporation.

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