By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Township Board June 5 chose Cindy Osman — the Saugatuck city planning and zoning administrator who co-led the Nov. 6 recall of four board members— as new supervisor.
She will fill a post left open by Chris Roerig’s resignation. The board also June 5 appointed Mike McGuigan as Kalamazoo Lake Sewer and Water Authority representative.
Members praised Osman for her municipal government experience, but also told fellow applicant, planning commission chair Andrew Prietz, his talents and capabilities were exceptional.
“I wish we could appoint you both,” trustee Brenda Marcy said.
In effect they did. Osman said afterwards she will name Prietz her deputy.
Osman, a township resident since 1988, took her Saugatuck city post in 2016 after 31 years as a Holland city official, most recently assistant director of community and neighborhood services.
She said the Saugatuck city attorney apprised her working for both neighbor governments would not pose a conflict of interest. “I’m a city employee, not a policy maker there,” Osman said.
“I will take paid time off from the city to hold office hours here,” she continued. “I will always be available by appointment to meet with residents or in emergencies.”
Osman, who earned a Juris Doctor degree from Cooley Law School in 2009, noted in her application she might not be available in Februaries.
Prietz, a retired customer service manager most recently with Getman Corp. in Bangor, said that status left him open to hold office hours as needed.
“I feel,” Prietz wrote clerk Abby Bigford in his May 9 application letter, “I have been an active and contributing member of the planning commission. During the current board/employee transitional period I have been assisting with planning and zoning issues as needed.
“If I’m appointed as the township board supervisor, I will bring this same level of leadership, enthusiasm and contribution to this very important position,” Prietz’s application said.
Quizzed by the board, both applicants said they would like to heal and restore township relations with the Saugatuck Township Fire District plus neighbor cities Saugatuck and Douglas which grew strained under the past board and township manager.
Treasurer Jon Helmrich asked about differences the township and City of Douglas had with Saugatuck City Council over the proposed non-motorized Blue Star Trail through the joint communities.
Osman and Prietz said they supported the trail.
“I’m not a policy maker in the city,” Osman said. “I’m just an employee. I support a trail through Saugatuck city limits and think I could help with council relations on that.
“I have questions about the proposed southern township stretch going over the I-196 bridge, but that’s something else,” she said.
Prietz said he sees people using the trail and fully supports efforts to extend it. “It’s great we and Douglas support it. We still need to work with Saugatuck city though.”
Helmrich, Marcy and trustee Stacey Aldrich (clerk Abby Bigford was absent because of illness voted 3-0 for Osman. All encouraged Prietz to remain active with the township.
“We are lucky to have an asset like you, Andy,” Marcy said.
Members chose McGuigan — a 40-year water sciences engineer who retired from General Electric in 2014 — to replace Roerig as KLSWA board representative.
Also applying were STFD Lt. Chris Bernhardy, who was not at the meeting, and Richard Brady, a retired engineer and zoning board of appeals alternate who withdrew his name beforehand.
“Being KLSWA representative requires technical knowledge,” said trustee Stacey Aldrich. “Having someone with Mike’s background available pretty much makes this a no-brainer.”
Osman and fellow resident Kathy Sturm led a petition drive that last fall resulted in the recall of board incumbents Brad Rudich, Lori Babinski, Roy McIlwaine and Doug Lane. Replacing them were Helmrich, Aldrich, clerk Bill Wester and trustee Abby Bigford.
Roerig, appointed by the former board, was elected supervisor unopposed.
Among the first orders of business for the new board was to accept/force the resignation of 5-year township manager Aaron Sheridan. A month later, Wester stepped down as clerk for family medical reasons.
The board voted in Bigford as clerk in February and chose Marcy, another recall advocate, the next month to the open trustee position.
Also in February members hired former Marshall assistant city manager and planner Natalie Dean as manager and zoning administrator.
Dean resigned fewer than three months later, saying she and the board disagreed, to some extent, on agendas for the township. Roerig resigned the same weekend, saying the direction the new board wants to take the township in is vastly different (from) what I believe is best for our residents.” Both departures took effect May 3.
Combined with the planned retirement of 15-year assessor Sherry Mason, the board has pressed on during the “transitional” time to which Prietz referred.
The township hired independent planning contractor Lynee Wells as a zoning administrator and planning contractor May 13 and Kyle Harris to start the next day as new assessor.
Both contracts were formalized Wednesday, as was one that would pay Frank Walsh of Walsh Municipal Services LLC to conduct a manager search. It pays Walsh as much as $3,900 up front to conduct the search, and as much as $3,900 more when the board hires its new office leader.
Walsh led a similar search for Douglas that led to its May 6 hiring of new city manager Rich LaBombard.