The League of Women Voters of the Grand Haven Area hosted a candidates forum at Loutit District Library. The event was broken up into two halves, with one dedicated to the mayoral race featuring incumbent Geri McCaleb and City Councilman Mike Fritz; and the other dedicated to the City Council race, featuring incumbents Bob Monetza and Dennis Scott and challenger Andy Cawthon.
Each candidate was asked a series of questions about a variety of issues in the community, and candidates also laid out a case to voters for why they should be elected Nov. 7.
“I’m not quite done yet, I want to keep going,” McCaleb said. “We are such a fortunate community, and I want to keep working here because I think this is a great job. ... I want to keep Grand Haven moving forward while maintaining our identity as a great place to live, work and play.”
Identifying her top three issues facing the community, McCaleb said it came down to managing employee legacy costs, attracting and growing a talented workforce, and addressing ongoing infrastructure needs.
“It’s an ongoing and never-ending project,” she said of the infrastructure management. “Our job is to figure out how to finance that.”
Fritz also laid out a case for why voters should choose him next month.
“I’ve been on council for 14 years and been mayor pro-tem for eight years now,” he said. “I don’t waver, I don’t falter. I stay true to my heart and I stay true to Grand Haven.”
Fritz also noted that he is a very accessible and transparent person, and sets out to complete projects that he starts.
Like McCaleb, Fritz also weighed in on what he says are the top issues. He noted that managing and maintaining the city’s infrastructure, charting a course for the future of power generation at the Board of Light & Power, and promoting infill development at undeveloped parcels around town to increase the tax base are all important issues facing the city.
“I think that the biggest thing we need to do is make sure we’re all on the same page with everything that we do,” he said.
The three City Council candidates each also made a case for their campaigns.
“My vision for Grand Haven, including its neighbors, is to be a complete community, offering opportunity for careers, homes, education, a diverse population, well-kept and highly functioning facilities, utilities parks and natural areas and other amenities maintained in a sustainable manner without losing a unique sense of identify,” Monetza said. “Change may occur, but change can be managed and directed.”
Monetza said there are a lot of community priorities, including infrastructure, legacy costs, stability and safety in neighborhoods, and cultivating a year-round economy for all citizens.
He also noted that affordable housing would also be a topic of discussion at some point in the future.
“That’s the 500-pound gorilla in the room,” Monetza said. “That’s a really important topic that we don’t have answers for. It’s an important (topic) for us to deal with, and we will be dealing with to the extent that we can as a community.”
Cawthon said he looks forward to being able to help the community, and that his work on various boards and commissions would serve him well.
“I’ve collaborated with many, if not most, departments with the city, and also have had extensive collaboration with community groups,” he said. “I want to put all my experience and contacts to work on behalf of the City of Grand Haven and its citizens to make us even better than we are — more resilient and more robust.”
Cawthon noted that the city’s Master Plan would be a good guide for helping chart planning and policy for the community over the next decade.
“Looking at a 10-year vision for Grand Haven, there is a Master Plan and it has excellent recommendations for growth, for maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure,” he said. “It has some very excellent recommendations for zoning to encouraging multi-family dwellings for affordable housing to feed industry.”
Cawthon also said there are things the city could do to be more accessible, such as changing times for committee meetings in order to allow more people to attend them.
Scott said there is still a lot yet to accomplish, and he wants to be a part of City Council to help in those accomplishments.
“I think I’ve shown over the last eight years I have the knowledge and experience to again be able to serve the people of Grand Haven,” he said. “I have the experience and expertise to make sure we’re working in the areas that need to be done for the most good for the most people.”
Scott noted that the community’s infrastructure needs are a very important issue, as well as the funding for it.
“We have a long list of places we need to go and a limited amount of money that we can do it with,” he said.
Scott also said he wants to make sure that the city’s public safety and public works departments are fully staffed.