Townships talk turkey

This is the fifth and final story in a five-part series on local public officials' wages.
Alex Doty
Jan 3, 2014

Township managers are among the top-paid public employees in the 2012 public salary survey.

Their salaries, however, range drastically — from $81,053 in Spring Lake Township to $102,202 in Grand Haven Township. Some smaller townships, with less tax base and fewer services, pay even less.

We asked the managers of the area's two larger townships to share their perspectives on township successes and challenges.

Gordon Gallagher, the Spring Lake Township manager; and Bill Cargo, the Grand Haven Township manager, each answered 10 questions. Here's what they had to say:

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face?

Gallagher:  “Continuing to provide excellence in local government services while living in an environment where people want to pay less, and state and federal resources to local government are diminishing.”
Cargo: “Managing conflict. When I entered the field, I expected to manage systems, projects and people. But I discovered that a very large percentage of my job entails managing conflict at both an individual and organizational level.”

Q: What keeps you up at night?

Gallagher:  “Wondering what changes might come out of Lansing or Washington, and what the unintended consequences of those changes might be.”
Cargo: “I sleep well. There are no fundamental or structural issues that are threatening the operations of the township.”

Q: What are three things the township needs to accomplish in the next three years?

(1) A complete GIS mapping of water and sewer systems
(2) A review and upgrade of our fire station structures
(3) A continued review of our long-term cost structure and a review of the services that we provide to the residents of the township
(1) Increase collaboration with our municipal neighbors
(2) Focus on quality of life issues such as new recreational facilities
(3) Encourage the development of a planned industrial area within this region to allow for expansion of current businesses

Q: What gives you the biggest headaches in the township? Why?

Gallagher:  “Probably the biggest headache comes when we have to tell someone ‘no,’ and when they feel that that is not the answer that they wanted to hear. Once in a while, someone takes major offense with our staff in a very personal way.”
Cargo: “It would be too easy for people to misinterpret any answer that I give, so I won’t.”

Q: What’s the one thing that is easiest to manage?

Gallagher: “Our staff. We have a well-educated, well-trained staff that works very hard. We talk a lot about the fact that our residents must get their services from us.”
Cargo: “Surprisingly, finance. The township entered the Great Recession in a strong financial position and, at the end of the recession … is still in a strong financial position.”

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



I have a Masters degree in Bus. Admin.
Lifetime pensions: Do not have any pension
Lifetime insurance: I pay $100/ mo. plus have a $4000 deductible and very limited items covered.
Smaller classes including an assistant: I have no assistant.
Fantastic benefits: Nope
3-4 months vacation: 3 weeks a year after 10 years.
Why do we have financial issues salary is $ 38,000/year.
Hours.....45-50 per week @ the office.
Gee, got me again!


It's all relative, chopper4444. I co-own a small business:

Degrees: 2 - unrelated to business.
Pensions: Just what gets saved.
Insurances: Covered to the hilt in the event of catastrophe, all private pay.
Benefits: Needs definition.
Vacations: Once in a great while when everything is humming smoothly.
Hours: Pretty much 24/7. When you have the added responsibility of employees, their livelihood and the welfare of their families, you put in however many hours it takes.
Salary: What you can bring home after payroll and bills get paid, which always comes first.

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