Jim Misner picked for open Otsego City Commission seat

Daniel Pepper

Otsego city commissioners decided the second time was the charm for Jim Misner and appointed him to fill an open seat the second time he’d applied.
“I want to thank Mayor Trobeck and the commission,” Misner said. “I feel very humbled and proud. Thank you very much.”
Misner first applied in June when commissioners had to fill the seat that had belonged to his late wife, Kathy. She died in May of complications after heart surgery.
Commissioners then chose former Commissioner Stacey Withee to fill the seat and now, with the need to replace to fill Ryan Wieber’s seat, chose Jim Misner.
The motion to appoint Misner was unanimous at the commission’s Monday, Sept. 18, regular meeting.
Commissioners went through a longer process of interviews at their meeting this time, hearing both an opening statement from each candidate, but also asking a number of questions of each applicant.
Misner said, “My true intention is to see this as an opportunity. Thad leaving, he did a great job and Ryan did too, but I think it’s an opportunity and we can move on to do even better.”
Gary Burd also applied and said he’d run for the commission twice before.
“I hear from a lot of people who have concerns, but they don’t feel they can come down here and tell you them,” Burd said. “I think I can be a voice for those people.”
Bob Sherman applied for the second time after also applying for Kathy Misner’s seat.
“Having lived here as long as I have, I figured I should pay the city back a bit,” Sherman said.
Mayor Cyndi Trobeck started the questioning by asking each about what special talents they would look for when picking the new city manager.
Sherman cited his time in the military and as a shop teacher.
“I’m pretty well-acquainted with leadership,” he said. “A lot in the military and with the politics in education. I dealt with a lot of administrators.
“Experience would be my primary concern.”
Burd said he hoped to try to bring vibrancy back to downtown Otsego, mentioning Maxwell Street Days from his childhood as something to get back to and pointing to Hastings as a model to follow.
“I think fresh ideas and a fresh outlook are what we look for,” he said.
Misner he said presumed anyone they’d really consider would have skills involving budgeting and handling personnel needed.
“The most important factor to me would be cultural fit,” he said. “Just someone who’d be able to fit into our tight-knit community.”
Trobeck asked each what they thought the biggest issue facing Otsego was.
Misner said, “I think finding the right person to be the manager is paramount.”
Sherman said, “The people I run into are very happy with the improvements downtown, but there’s been very little in the outside areas.”
He pointed to sidewalks as an example.
Burd pointed to infrastructure.
“Water lines, gas lines, sewers,” he said. “I know we have a lot of old ones.”
A former firefighter, Burd pointed to membership in the fire department and the number of calls it has to handle.
Trobeck asked about each candidate’s vision for Otsego in five years.
Burd said, “I’d like to see us as a place where people want to come visit.”
Sherman said he’d focus on trying to get more people downtown, especially by reaching out to young people who socialize online as much or more than in person.
Misner said, “Every storefront filled with a prosperous business in collaboration with the city and our schools.
“I know some of that is happening, but I’d like to really emphasize the notion that we in Otsego are like a family.”
Withee asked whether the candidates had participated in Main Street or related activities.
Sherman and Burd said they hadn’t. Misner said he’d participated in a number of them, some on purpose and others where his late wife drafted him. He also pointed to his involvement with the Otsego Veteran’s Memorial Committee.
Commissioner Tom Gilmer asked each candidate what they thought were the biggest challenges for small communities.
Misner said, “I think our greatest challenge is the state and the way they are funding smaller communities now.”
Sherman talked about attracting businesses and pointed to Plainwell having an industrial park as a model to follow. He also said Otsego could look at getting rid of some housing adjoining the downtown and make space for more businesses there.
Burd mentioned infrastructure again and said Otsego needed to go after grants to help with improvements there.
Gilmer asked each what each would tell someone about Otsego.
Sherman pointed to the small town atmosphere and contrasted it strongly to the east side of the state.
“People over there are more like ‘What do you want?’ even when you walk into a business,” he said.
Misner said, “The most positive part for me is that I feel safe.”
He credited Otsego’s police and firefighters for that.
Burd agreed. “I feel safe walking around in the middle of the night. That’s the most positive thing.”
Commissioner Nick Breedveld asked each how they’d handle disagreements.
Sherman said, “I don’t have a problem with not taking things personally.
“I’ve worked on both ends of the management ladder.”
Burd said when he was younger he had more of a problem with that but he’d mellowed.
“When I ran for commission twice and I didn’t get it, the only thing I was upset about was the lack of voter turnout,” he said. “Everyone has the right to their own opinion, just like when we vote for president. I wouldn’t hold it against someone who voted for a different one.”
Misner said, “I spent 20 years in sales, which means 60 percent of the time I heard no.
“But it also meant that no didn’t mean no, it meant not now.”
Trobeck said, “We do have a tough decision, because we have three good candidates.”
Breedveld said, “Thank you for your applications and please, if you hear anything from anybody, call any of us.”
Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.


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