Q & A with Norway's city manager

Not too long ago, Norway, a city of nearly 3,000 people in Dickinson County, hired a new city manager, the first new one in more than two decades.

Dan Stoltman arrived in this western U.P. community from Colorado, taking the helm from Ray Anderson, who retired after 21 years as city manager. Anderson had been with the city slightly longer – 22 and one-half years. Stoltman took the helm in spring 2022, leaving his post as town manager in Kremmling, Colorado.

Although new to the Upper Peninsula, Stoltman has Michigan ties. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Oakland University in Rochester and a master’s degree in public administration from Eastern Michigan University with a focus on public land planning and development management. 

We talked to Stoltman recently about how his background will influence his role in developing the area economically as well as the city’s overall future.  

How will your experience and degrees in political science and public land planning help you with future economic development of Norway?

My education certainly provided me with a solid base of knowledge in public administration, and that base is the cornerstone of how I approach my job. However, there is no substitute for the knowledge you gain by working in an organization and getting to know the community that helps influence and shape the future plans for the city. My education and experience help me in making the best recommendations I can to the city council as well as help guide them in making decisions.

Can you name specific goals you’d like to see implemented?

One goal I have is to look for ways to entice new businesses to come to our downtown. This can be difficult when you have a smaller city population and the larger economic hub only 15 minutes away. 

One approach I have discussed with our city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to overcome this is to invest in a building on our Main Street that needs repair in order for a business to occupy it. It can be difficult to bring a new business into town when they first need to invest a lot of capital just to get the building in order to open. That upfront cost plus the general risk of opening a new business can often be too much of a risk.

Therefore, if the DDA owns a building and invests in its rehab, we can offer a space that is ready to go for a new business. Hopefully, this would eliminate enough of that risk in order to get them here. Sometimes it’s that level of investment and risk we need to consider in order to spur economic growth. 
An online article said you were attracted to the U.P. because of its outdoor recreational opportunities and lower cost of living. How do you see these factors benefitting Norway? 
I grew up in the Metro Detroit area and we spent a lot of weekends in the U.P. I think a lot of people in lower Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. do the same. With a lower cost of living compared to those areas and the recreational opportunities that we all come here for; we hope that people from those areas will see the benefit of moving here permanently instead of visiting. That can help spur more housing development and, in turn, economic development. With working from home still prevalent I think the idea of leaving the larger populated areas for a place like Norway can become a reality.
You have mentioned bringing in “more amenities to the community.” Can you be specific?
From an amenities standpoint, I think the city does a really good job already in providing municipal amenities. However, we could use a few more businesses that provide amenities that the city can’t – such as a coffee shop, bakery, or mountain bike store (we have a lot of mountain bike trails) to name a few.
Do you foresee providing more services to the community? Will your operation of present services be changed, streamlined, etc.?
There is always room for improvement in how we operate and deliver our services to the community, and we are continually looking at ways to do so. 
What sort of businesses do you see relocating to Norway in the future? How would this benefit those businesses and Norway?
It can be difficult to know what type of businesses want to be here or would be successful. For me, personally, and from what I have seen in other places where I’ve worked that have done well, are coffee/artisan bakery shops that provide homemade goods, a brewery, or even a child daycare facility. These examples don’t currently exist in town, so they have the potential to make for successful businesses.’
What are future plans for the development of downtown Norway? 
We are looking at updating our city master plan which will take the ideas of what the council and the community want to see in the future and that will help guide future development. We are always looking for ways to bring more housing to the area as well as businesses as they are often tied to each other. 
On a more personal note, how was the transition for both you and your wife from Colorado to Norway? Was it a difficult or relatively easy transition?
Anytime you move from one location to another, especially from another state, it can be difficult. Fortunately, the move went well, and we are fully settled in at this point. Of course, we miss certain aspects about Colorado and our friends there, but we are happy with our decision.
What do you like about living in the UP?
We love the lush forests and abundance of water. In Colorado, and particularly the area where we lived, we had such a wide array of outdoor activities at our doorstep and the U.P. offers that same opportunity. 
Do you have a favorite outdoor activity in the Norway area?
We enjoy the mountain bike trails and walking the Menominee River trail. In general, we love to camp, hike, backpack, and all winter activities. 

Ann Dallman has lifelong roots in Michigan’s UP. She started out as a newspaper reporter/photographer and returned to journalism after retiring from teaching. Her first Middle Grade novel, Cady and the Bear Necklace, received a State History Award (Books/Youth) from the Historical Society of Michigan as well as a Midwest Book Award, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was a Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist and a UP Notable Book. Her second book, Cady and the Birchbark Box, also received the Historical Society of Michigan State Award, is also a UP Notable Book and was a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona 2023 Book Awards. 
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