Tri-Cities leaders talk challenges

City and village managers are on the top-paid list in the Tribune's 2012 public salary survey. This is the second story in a five-part series.
Alex Doty
Dec 30, 2013

Their salaries — which range from an average of $24,994 in Spring Lake Village to $48,884 in the City of Grand Haven — differ based on the size of the community, its tax base and services offered.

Grand Haven is the largest city in our area and an employment powerhouse with 124 full-time people on its payroll. Ferrysburg and Spring Lake also serve as economic, residential and recreational pillars in our region, employing a combined 87 people.

Managing a city or village takes being a Jack-of-all-trades, these leaders note, but also requires having a certain amount of political finesse and business savvy.

We asked the three managers of our Tri-Cities about their challenges and rewards in these top jobs. Pat McGinnis from Grand Haven, Craig Bessinger from Ferrysburg and Chris Burns from Spring Lake each answered 10 questions. Here's what they had to say:

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face?

McGinnis: “Legacy costs are a big threat to us. We promised benefits to past employees as part of their compensation package. … We’ve been working to diminish that risk.”

Bessinger: “The decrease in property values. The last four years, property values in the city have declined. In 2013, the decrease was 0.0125 percent from 2012.  With the decline in property values, there has also been a decrease in tax revenue to the city.”

Burns: “Declining revenue while trying to provide the same level of service.”

Q: What keeps you up at night? 

McGinnis: “I guess I should be lucky to have so many things to worry about."

Bessinger: “Wishing I had more time to do more things. There is always one more thing I wished I would have accomplished that day.”

Burns: “My biggest issue is looking at legacy costs and figuring out how to pay for those. Things have changed since the bubble of ’07 and ’08.”

Q: What are three things the city/village needs to accomplish in the next three years? 

(1) Continuing the practice of asset management with artifacts and infrastructure.
(2) Improve conditions in Grand Landing and downtown to improve taxable value.
(3) Maintain a high level of transparency with local government.

(1) Working on the reconstruction of North Shore Road.
(2) Maintaining the city’s infrastructure.
(3) Having funds available for routine maintenance.

(1) Be as transparent to the general public as possible.
(2) Do a better job of maintaining public spaces.
(3) We need to focus on what God gave us and maintain those resources.

Q: What's the one thing that is hardest to manage or gives you a headache?

McGinnis: “The hardest thing to manage is our expectations because we have high expectations of what we have to do, but also high expectations of low tax rates. Everyone wants it to be perfect all the time.”

Bessinger: “There are always concerns with funding. There are many needs, and the cost to repair and replace infrastructure is sometimes hard to believe. The positive is city councils have and continue to be conservative, taking the time to study and decide how funds are spent that benefit the city’s residents. ” 

Burns: “The things that I’ve never dealt with before.”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Tuesday: "County gets big bucks"



Say no to new taxes

Like it or not, consolidation is in the future for all three of these towns. Having three city managers and three of everything else makes absolutely no sense. Skyrocketing property taxes will force this to happen, taxpayers will demand it. School districts will be next, their administrations are even more bloated. Welcome to the real world where "globalism" has stripped our communities of factories that paid taxes and provided head of household jobs. Time to pay the piper.


I think you are right. Consolidation is an emotional issue with many legacy concerns, but it needs to be considered.

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