NORTON SHORES, MI – Norton Shores Mayor Gary Nelund faces a challenge in this year’s general election for the four-year seat.
Phillip Marsh is running against Nelund, mayor for 12 years. The mayor is the ninth member of the city council.
The election is Tuesday, November 2, and postal ballots are currently available.
Both candidates answered MLive’s questions about their priorities. They also provided information about themselves.
Nelund, 51, is an independent agent for State Farm. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kalamazoo College.
Nelund is Chairman of the Board of Directors of United Way of the Lakeshore and Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Muskegon Promise Zone. He is the former president of the American Red Cross in Muskegon, the former president of the Rotary Club of Muskegon and a former member of the board of directors of the West Michigan Symphony.
He was first elected mayor in 2009 and was re-elected in 2013 and 2017.
Nelund is married and has two children.
Related: Seven candidates vying for four extraordinary seats on Norton Shores City Council
Marsh, 61, is a musician and independent instrument representative for the West Michigan Band. He has been the conductor of The Hip Pocket, a West Michigan horn group for 30 years, and also gives private lessons.
He is a former professor of jazz guitar at Grand Valley State University and professor of jazz guitar at Muskegon Community College and Hope College. He has also performed for the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Kalamazoo Symphony, Don Rickles, Regis Philbin, Mac Davis and David Cassidy.
Marsh is a graduate of the Guitar Institute of Technology and attended Muskegon Community College, Grand Valley State University, and Western Michigan University.
Candidates provided written responses to several questions, which appear unedited below. They were asked to limit their responses to 250 words.
Why should voters elect you?
Nelund: I love Norton Shores and want to continue to make it a great place to live and work. I will continue my work to bring all the people together to discuss the issues and find solutions that have the greatest positive impact for all residents. During my tenure as mayor, the city’s population has grown steadily, businesses have grown and moved here, and assessed values have increased. These are all positive elements for residents and indicators that the City is on the right track for future growth and a better quality of life. I own a local business and this business owner perspective, coupled with my education and experience, gives me the perspective and skills to continue doing a great job for the residents of Norton Shores.
The position of the mayor of Norton Shores is non-partisan, and that is important. This distinction ensures decisions that have the greatest positive impact for residents and businesses without being clouded by partisan issues impacting decisions at the state and federal levels. The main job I do to provide clean water, good roads, snow removal, police and fire protection, zoning, economic development, etc. may seem mundane and routine, but they are vitally important to the quality of life at Norton Shores and should not be affected by partisanship. If re-elected, I will continue to work with all county, state and federal officials to ensure Norton Shores continues to provide the best service and quality of life for residents.
Marsh: I decided to run because I realized I was the problem with politics today. I realized that sitting down and complaining was not the way our representative republic worked. They are caring citizens who have decided to make a difference that makes our country so wonderful. I decided to be an active participant rather than a passive participant.
If you are elected, what will be your three priorities?
Nelund: 1). Economic development. It’s the engine that keeps the city going. By supporting current businesses and attracting new retail and industrial businesses, the city can generate a new tax base while keeping our mileage rate low. The continued growth and development along the Norton Shores side of Harvey Street is significant. Industrial parks and industrial areas in the southern part of the city (mainly along Grand Haven Road) are filling up and we need to focus on this area to maintain job growth and promote job creation so that residents can live and work in Norton Shores.
2). Maintenance and growth of the park. Norton Shores has just launched a new brand campaign with the slogan “It’s in our nature”. The natural spaces of our city are what make it attractive to families who choose to live here. We have unparalleled access to Lake Michigan with PJ Hoffmaster State Park, Lake Harbor Park and the new county-owned Dune Harbor Park all located in Norton Shores. Lake Harbor Park and Ross Park provide access to Lake Mona and Black Lake Park provides access to Little Black Lake. Time and time again, residents tell me that parks are very important to them, and I want to continue to maintain them, add amenities and expand them. One serious expansion we are working on is to connect PJ Hoffmaster to Lake Harbor Park by a dedicated off-road trail.
3). Ongoing fiscal responsibility. I was first elected mayor in 2009, just after the Great Recession. The subsequent reduction in property values and city income necessitated tightening our tax belts and implementing changes that would benefit the city in the future. My experience as a longtime business owner has certainly helped me with these decisions. The City implemented higher-deductible health insurance plans, eliminated defined benefit pension plans for new employees, initiated measures to reduce road maintenance costs and reduced employment levels . Although property values and income rebounded over the following years, the changes made many years ago are still in place and those changes have dramatically improved the financial future of Norton Shores.
Marsh: 1) No federal subsidy that would require Norton Shores to cede its autonomy to the federal government.
2) No critical race theory taught in the government or the Norton Shores school system.
3) A review of the policy, by-laws and by-laws of the Town of Norton Shores.
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