Marty Colburn has a message for Traverse City’s business community – get involved with the city.
Colburn, the new city manager hired this summer after serving the City of Mason (near Lansing) for the past 16 years, introduced himself to the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors this week. Colburn built a reputation there as a public official who worked closely with the business sector there, and hopes to build similar relationships in the Grand Traverse area.
“The business community is a critical component of the city,” Colburn told the Chamber board.
Specifically, Colburn urged the Chamber to encourage its members to take an active role in city governance. Roles on city advisory boards like the city Planning Commission could benefit from the expertise in the business community, he said.
“We strongly recommend you find people to stand up,” he said.
Colburn received an early test from the severe weather that raked the region on August 2. It downed trees and created widespread damage across the city and throughout the region, leaving thousands with damaged property and without power.
Colburn gave utility and clean-up crews high marks for their response, and specifically highlighted the work of Grand Traverse County Emergency Manager Gregg Bird in coordinating the emergency response and securing a state disaster declaration for the county and city opening up state resources to help mitigate the storm damage.
He’s also been busy meeting with various groups and organizations over the past few weeks as he familiarizes himself with people and places around the city. He’s told people about himself and his background, but what he’s really interested in is learning what local residents and businesses want from their city government.
“I really do seek your input,” he said. “I prefer to listen, because that’s what I need to do to really learn what the community’s needs are.”
Going forward, Colburn said he’s reviewed various capital needs and projects in various city planning documents. But it’s time to set some specific priorities as some of the projects are competing for the same dollars. He expects the city commission will take a more in-depth look at these projects and do some additional strategic planning after the city elections this fall.
Colburn also hopes to bring some stability to the city manager position, after the city went through three top administrators in six years. He wants to focus on the long-term priorities of the city while staying on top of day-to-day operations.
“I’m excited about being here, and candidly, I plan on being here for a while,” Colburn said. “The long-term picture of the community, looking 20 to 30 years out, is really important.”
-By Bill O’Brien