Q&A with Brad Kaye, Midland City Manager

In 2017, after a nationwide search for candidates to replace former City Manager Jon Lynch, Midland’s City Council chose Brad Kaye to help navigate Midland’s day-to-day issues and guide its future. We sat down with Kaye to hear about what Midland can look forward to in the coming year, his plans for its future, community engagement and why businesses and residents of Midland should invest in their community.

Q: What are a few things are you are looking forward to in the coming year?

A: Well, we’ve got a busy year, no doubt. We had the flood of last June and the study on that is coming along and we’re getting the results on impact. Now we’re looking for public input on what we do next to best address the options that we have for protecting property and people’s homes. We’ll be engaging in that through the summer, and we’ll be starting to get results from that in the fall.

Brad Kaye, Midland City Manager
At the same time, we’ll be reaching out to the public and asking for their input on what the priorities for the city should be. We’re going to be asking, for instance, do you like the services we provide? If some of them aren’t your favorites, which ones should we consider getting rid of if we ever needed to make some financial changes. And conversely, is there anything that we’re not doing that we ought to be doing and perhaps how to find funding for that?

So there will be some specific survey work done over this summer, and then in the fall we’ll be doing a different set of public engagement rounds and round table discussions, inviting people in to come and talk to us and let us know what their thoughts are, and that will help us with our budget decisions, not only in this coming year but probably a few years into the future.

Q: With community engagement being so important for you, what are ways citizens of Midland can make their thoughts and opinions heard?

A: You hit it on the head there, engagement is certainly important to us. Our city council is actively engaged in their own individual wards, and any resident of Midland can reach out to them to let them know what their concerns are. The council members are highly responsive and they can’t always give people the answers they’re looking for or the solutions they’d like, but they will respond and then bring those ideas forward.

There are always opportunities with public engagement processes, whether it be on specific issue like the storm and sanitary sewers study, or whether it be a more generic sharing of thoughts and ideas with us.

People always have the opportunity to engage with us through social media. We are active on the city’s Facebook page. There are number of conversations that happen on other Facebook pages and we choose not to engage on those because they’re not our official communication channels. But if people want to engage with us through social media, our staff is highly responsive and will answer. If there’s something we can’t answer, or if Facebook isn’t the appropriate forum for discussion for that topic, we’ll forward the message onto the appropriate staff members.

Q: Part of being a City Manager is always thinking ahead and setting a long-term plan in action. What are some personal goals you have for the city over the next five years?

A: One of our main concerns is the health of our downtown. It’s also a concern for any city. One of things we talk about is that a downtown is the front porch to the city - it needs to be healthy and vibrant for the city to be healthy and vibrant. We’ve been investing in that aspect with our Streetscape Redevelopment Project through great support from the Midland Area Community Foundation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and several others, which, quite frankly, wouldn’t have happened without it. Now we’re looking towards continuing to encourage the investment that comes behind it, and that means supporting residential and office usage projects downtown.

We’ve heard some concerns from developers that the cost of developing downtown is an impediment, and so we are having some discussions internally about that to see if there’s anything we can do to make it an even playing field. We need to make it as cost-effective to develop downtown as it our in the periphery of the city.

In general, we want to make sure that people are getting information, that they have opportunities for continued interaction not only with the elected officials, but the staff and other employees of the city. We’re revamping our website which is just about to be released, and we hope that becomes a source of information and communication as well.

Q: What is it like being a City Manager? What’s the most challenging and most rewarding part of what you do?

A: The answer might be the same for both. As the City Manager, everything that’s going on in the city has the potential to land on my desk, whether it be a water and sewer problem, a planning issue, an issue with our police or fire, or any other service we provide.

What that means is that I could come in at 8:00 a.m. with a full day planned and within five minutes, that schedules changes entirely. You never know what you’re going to face, so it’s a challenge in that context, so you need to able to respond and be flexible. That’s the challenge, but the great part of it is that you get to be involved in those decisions. You get to move forward, clear hurdles out of the way. I’ve got a tremendous staff that just need to be positioned to do their jobs and be successful. So my  my job is to get stuff out of their way, and then get out of their way myself so that they can go achieve the fantastic results that we see around the city.

Q: What makes Midland a great city for businesses and citizens to invest in?

A: From a business perspective, what we do with partners like Midland Tomorrow, all the different foundations, organizations like Momentum Midland, and business and property owners that are looking to encourage economic revitalization and growth, is work together. We can pull in resources very quickly. When somebody has a challenge, there’s a team of people ready and willing to work and support them, and everyone does it for the best interests of the city.

That environment isn’t easy to create, but it’s something that the city of Midland has cultivated over many years, and that continues today.

From a resident’s point of view, we’re a small city in terms of population, but we are able to offer the amenities of a city much larger. We have tremendous resources in things like the canopy walk that’s going up in Whiting Forest, Dow Gardens, the Midland Center for the Arts, the Loons Stadium. We have all these amenities that, frankly, if I was working in another city, I’d be jealous.

The beauty of it is that the community support and the business support has been there to provide those. If you’re coming in as a resident or a family, you have a wealth of options that you are available to enjoy.
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