Editor’s note: This questionnaire is the first in an eight-part series, giving readers an opportunity to learn a little more about the candidates who will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. Grand Haven candidates include Josh Brugger and Bob Monetza for the mayoral post; Collin Beighley, Jamie Cooper, Ryan Cummins and (incumbent) Mike Fritz for two City Council seats; and Andy Cawthon and Todd Crum for a trustee position with the Board of Light & Power. Questionnaires will run through the Oct. 26 edition of the Tribune.
Name: Josh M. Brugger
Occupation: Owner, Brugger House Builders LLC and Grand Haven City Council member
Education: Grand Haven High School, 1996; Hope College, 2000 (B.A. in political science)
Community involvement: City Council, Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Human Relations Commission, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity
What unique qualities or experiences make you a good candidate for mayor?
I am a third-generation Grand Haven resident raising the fourth generation. I am passionate about our hometown and focused on making Grand Haven a better place for all of us. As the owner of a Grand Haven business, I know the challenges our local business owners face each day. As a former chairperson of the Grand Haven Salvation Army Advisory Board, former executive director of Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity and a sitting City Council member, I have the leadership skills and experience needed to lead. As a father and husband who is committed to building a future that is brighter for our children than it is for us today, I am focused on “doing what it takes” for all of us who are fortunate enough to call Grand Haven our hometown.
What do you consider the top issues facing the city, and how would you address them?
We live in an unprecedented time of change in our nation, state and city. Our Zoning Ordinance and Master Plan were drafted before Uber and Airbnb even existed. Facebook has changed the landscape and definition of community. We spend more time on a hand-held electronic device talking with it than we do with our neighbors next door. Yet, I still believe in the power, appeal and possibility of a town like ours to be a beacon of light to our state and nation. A town where neighbors still borrow a cup of sugar or some eggs when they’re out. A town where we greet one another more than once a week when we take out the trash or mow the lawn. A town where the Maxwell House cup of coffee, soda fountain, penny candy and “free Coke on your birthday” of Pfaff’s can coexist and thrive with the craft coffee and beer of the Armory and Odd Side’s. The greatest challenge to Grand Haven is change. It is also our greatest opportunity.
What do you consider the city’s strengths and how would you build on them?
I believe in the people of Grand Haven. They are our greatest strength. Any politician who says that they have all the answers is full of baloney or of themselves. While I believe in fiscal responsibility, passing on a debt-free city rather than one tens of millions of dollars in the hole as we are now, I also believe that it is the people of Grand Haven who have the ability to set aside differences to get the job done. “The City” isn’t a building that sits on Washington Street or the elected leaders and employees who sit inside it. The city is all of us. Together, we can address housing affordability. We can solve parking challenges without changing the physical structure of our downtown. We can balance the need for a healthy ecosystem with our need for energy. We can do all this by engaging with one another. We can share a cup of coffee, a beer, or even a cup of sugar. We’re neighbors. We all care about our hometown. Together, we can make it better than it is today.
What do you see for the future of Grand Haven, and how would you work with City Council to make that happen?
Looking toward the future of Grand Haven, I see a community that is debt free by our 200-year anniversary in 2035; a community that doesn’t borrow from the future to pay for the present, but rather budgets to cover streets, sidewalks and operational expenses with cash, not debt. As we transition to a “pay as we go” philosophy, our property taxes will go down and living here will become more affordable. I see a city that is welcoming to tourists and seasonal guests, but whose first priority is the residents who call Grand Haven home year ‘round. Working with residents and elected leaders to make adjustments to our spending practices and our zoning rules so that they complement a community that is focused on a better quality of life for our residents is a key component to getting this done.