For most of the past 20 years, Geri McCaleb has been a part of Grand Haven’s leadership, spending eight years as a member of its City Council and another eight as mayor.
McCaleb led her final City Council meeting Monday.
“I had an awesome time – I had so much fun doing this,” she said. “I feel privileged to have been able to team up with so many wonderful people to get stuff done.”
McCaleb will be replaced this coming Monday by Councilman Bob Monetza, who defeated fellow Councilman Josh Brugger in Monday’s election for the mayor’s seat. She came in third to Brugger and Monetza in the August primary runoff, which ended her bid for a fifth term as mayor.
Throughout her time as mayor, McCaleb said she always tried to keep in mind a phrase about leaving things better than they were found.
“Build on the foundation that was built for you,” she said. “Honor the past and the people who got you where you are, live up to their legacy and move forward. My thinking was to look at the people who built this community, at their values, and build on and strengthen that.”
Monetza said he plans to continue that way of thinking.
“Geri has done a lot for the city,” he said. “She had a lot of interesting things she worked on. I hope I’m fortunate enough to have as many accomplishments when my time comes. I hope to leave a legacy of happy customers, as well.”
McCaleb said she is proud of the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.
“We had old bleachers down there and we asked the community what they wanted to see. We had a committee to look at the suggestions,” McCaleb said, noting along the way she encountered many questions and a few naysayers. “Now, so many people come up and say how beautiful it is. It has proved to be a very popular, great venue.”
Other accomplishments range from getting the south pier fixed and the catwalk back in place to keeping an emphasis on infrastructure and more.
“These are things that just happened while I was mayor – I was part of the team that got this done,” McCaleb said. “I’m glad to see the (infrastructure) proposal passed. It’s going to provide funding into the future.”
McCaleb noted that she has learned a lot about the city’s infrastructure during her time in the mayor’s seat, as well as with other aspects of the job.
“When I first started, I wasn’t comfortable with speaking in front of others, but it comes with the territory,” she said. “You have to learn to do it.”
Along with learning to speak in front of a crowd and being the spokesperson for the city, McCaleb said she learned that when decisions don’t go as planned, it doesn’t help to dwell on it.
“That’s democracy,” she said with a smile. “You find the next challenge and move on.”
As Grand Haven’s new mayor, Monetza said he knows there are many challenges ahead, such as dealing with high water levels and flooding, Zoning Ordinance changes, seeing the Board of Light & Power’s J.B. Sims and diesel plants close, and more.
“There are a lot of things on the horizon,” he said. “We have to worry about the safety and wellness of the people. Our job is to make sure the people have their needs met within our means.”
Monetza said he is grateful for the opportunity to become mayor and is ready for the responsibilities that come with the job.
McCaleb hopes that, in moving forward, Monetza and the rest of the City Council continue to make good choices for the community.
“I have tons of respect for this community – the people here deserve the best,” she said.
“My best wishes to the future of Grand Haven.”