Mayoral candidates sound off at forum

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:11 AM

The two are vying for the mayoral position, a two-year term currently held by Roger Bergman.

Bergman is not seeking re-election after serving on City Council for more than 12 years. The election is Nov. 8.

McCaleb, 65, served on City Council for eight years. She was also an active member of the Eastown Association — most recently serving as president.

In regards to her time serving on city government, McCaleb said there were things she liked and also things she wanted to change.

“(The) biggest thing is to represent all of Grand Haven,” McCaleb said, adding it’s not just one single group, but an entire community.

In terms of her leadership style, McCaleb said she would want to gather as much information about a topic as possible before coming to a decision, and she would also like to work with all the stakeholders.

“I want to draw people together to come up with the best solutions,” McCaleb said.

Sharkey, 52, who is a newcomer to government, was confident his business experience would benefit him, referencing the fact that running the city government was like running a business.

“I have zero government experience, but I have a lot of political experience,” Sharkey said, adding that his biggest strength is team leading. “Being political means drawing people together,” he said.

Sharkey said he wanted to run for mayor because he thought it was time to give back to the city where he grew up and started a commercial contracting business. “I’ve been very blessed and Grand Haven has had a lot to do with that,” he said.

In addition to introducing themselves to voters, the duo also tackled a number of questions from the League of Women Voters about issues facing residents of Grand Haven. Topics ranged from leaf pick-up service to what should be done with the Grand Landing development.

“It’s going to be an economic win when we find someone to come in and take over the project,” McCaleb said of the Grand Landing site.

According to McCaleb, the city needs to be a player in helping to find someone to take over the development, and they also need to be creative with ideas since it is a gateway to the community.

Sharkey also thought it was important to work together to find a solution for getting the project back off the ground. “I do agree with Ms. McCaleb that everyone needs to get involved on that,” he said.

Sharkey also called the project “a field of dreams” and said nobody knew when decisions were initially made about the project that the economy was going to tank.

While both candidates were supportive of making the downtown area a year-round destination, they disagreed on the recently enacted Principle Shopping District funding mechanism that will be used to promote and market the community.

McCaleb said she was “wholeheartedly against” the PSD.

“I am opposed to it because they didn’t get buy-in from a vast majority of business owners in the commercial shopping district,” she said.

According to McCaleb, the PSD should be voluntary, and she didn’t think property owners in the district needed to be taxed again. "If I have a business, I want to be able to run that business the way I want to run it,” she said.

Sharkey, on the other hand, said the PSD was important to vitality of the business district — not only the downtown, but in the Centertown neighborhood as well. “We have a $10 million ‘Cadillac’ down there and we won’t have any gas for the tank if we didn’t have the PSD,” he said.

While the PSD might not be popular among everyone, Sharkey said time would be the answer as to whether it was worth it.

Both candidates also said they were in favor of culling deer to reduce the deer population in the city.

“When we had our deer cull, it was safe,” McCaleb said of the methodology being used. “... When you live in a city, I don’t think you need to deal with deer feces in your frontyard.”

Sharkey also said it was important to maintain control on the city’s deer population. “I am not afraid of culling deer,” he said.

Additionally, candidates agreed it was time to put an end to the stink near the wastewater plant on the east side. Sharkey said there is funding available to be able to cap the wastewater pools and install scrubbers in order to eliminate the odor coming from the plant. McCaleb said by capping this area, it would improve the quality of life for residents on Grand Haven’s east side.

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