Village picks Christine Burns

Christine Burns was selected Monday to be the next Village of Spring Lake manager. But no hiring will happen until after the results of a lawsuit over a village disincorporation issue.
Marie Havenga
Jun 5, 2012


Burns, who is in her mid 40s, has served as Cedar Spring's city manager since 2007. She oversees a $6 million budget and 17 full-time employees in the home of the Red Flannel Festival. The city's population is 3,500. Her current salary is $67,786.

“Everyone here at the house is all excited and thrilled about the call,” Burns said Monday night after the village's search consultant, Bill Baldridge, notified her of the Village Council decision to offer her the job. “I can't wait to make Spring Lake home.”

But relocating her family — husband, Bill; and children: Brad, 19, and Bre, 15 — may come later rather than sooner. Burns told council during Saturday's interview that she had promised her daughter when they moved to Cedar Springs that she could finish high school there. Bre will be a junior this fall.

Although Burns said her daughter appeared enthusiastic about Spring Lake during Saturday's tour, the final decision of relocating would be up to her.

“She asked me tonight if she could go to the school and meet some of the people before she decided,” Burns said. “I said, 'Absolutely.' If she decides to stay here and council is OK with my commuting, I would do that. If she decides OK, we would put the house up for sale and start shopping in Spring Lake.”

Council members on Monday said they were torn between Burns and James Freed, who currently manages both the Village of Lakeview and city of Stanton under a shared-services agreement.

Council named Freed the top alternate. If negotiations were to break down with Burns, they directed Baldridge to immediately begin contract talks with Freed.

All seven council members tagged Freed and Burns as their top two choices. No one pushed for candidates Michael Burns or Chris Yonker, who both also interviewed on Saturday.

Village President Jim MacLachlan said he was impressed with Christine Burns' poise, knowledge and background.

“She has grants experience and redevelopment experience,” MacLachlan said. “She seemed to be the most knowledgeable about what we're dealing with right here and now. I liked her style of team-building.”

MacLachlan said he was also impressed that Burns wore many hats in Cedar Springs — she served as zoning administrator, downtown development authority director and economic development director.

Councilman Dave Bennett said Burns was the only candidate that discussed maximizing revenue.

“I rate Mr. Freed and Mrs. Burns pretty evenly, but I think she has a little bit better persona that fits in well with our environment here," Bennett said. "She was concise, had good answers, and she was very positive about what she was saying.”

Burns spoke highly of Ryan Cotton, who resigned as village manager in March to become Holland's city manager.

“Initially, I need to come in and learn the staff, get a feel for the community, the community members and council,” said Burns, who would be the first female manager in Spring Lake Village history. “I don't anticipate making any big changes right away. I'll get a feel for everything, then I'll roll up my sleeves and look at continuing some of the projects that Ryan started.”

Burns said she's not too worried about the lawsuit that is expected to be decided in Ottawa County Circuit Court next week.

On May 23, the village filed suit to have the court decide the validity of a petition that seeks to put the issue of disincorporating the village on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. Village resident Joyce Hatton and about 30 volunteers collected close to 400 signatures to get the issue on the ballot, and the petition was filed and certified in mid-May.

Hatton said dissolving the village into Spring Lake Township would save village taxpayers hundreds of dollars and provide more efficient government.

Village legal counsel maintains that because Spring Lake is a Home Rule Village, there is no mechanism in its charter for disincorporation, so there is no authority to vote for such action.

If the court decides that the disincorporation question should be on the ballot, MacLachlan said it would be foolish to proceed with a contract for a job that may not exist. He would then recommend that council not take any action to hire until the results of the election are known.

Hatton, who was present for Saturday's interviews and Monday's decision to hire Burns, praised council members for their candidate choices.

“I thought both of them were excellent,” Hatton said of Burns and Freed. “I'm delighted that persons of such caliber are interested in the village.”

Burns said she is taking the potential ballot issue in stride.

“In all honesty, it will sort itself out,” she said. “At the end of the day, it's up to the people who live in Spring Lake and what they want. I'm a firm believer that God has a plan and it will work itself out



Regardless of the courts decision on the validity of the petition, the Village government is there to serve the people. If the Village residents want to save money (and it's not a little bit of money) and combiln with the township, Village leadership has an obligation to determine the proper way to do that - and get it done!


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