While the rest of Michigan is in economic turmoil, Charlotte Mayor Deb Shaughnessy says her city is doing just fine.
“Charlotte has been very fortunate; we’ve actually been growing,” said Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy, who refused to take all the credit for the city’s prosperity, explained that the key to a successful economy has been the cooperation between the people and their governments – both state and local.
“Both the state and the city have been very involved in assisting Spartan Motors,” she said. Spartan Motors is one of the largest companies in Charlotte. In addition to building the chassises for emergency-rescue and recreation vehicles, the company recently expanded to building chassises for military vehicles too. “Spartan Motors has created 1,000 new jobs in the past two years,” said Bryan Myrkle, the Community Development Director of Charlotte. Myrkle also said that Spartan Motors’ neighbor, Redmer Group (which paints the military vehicles that Spartan Motors builds) has also generated an additional 500 jobs.
Despite its economic growth, Shaughnessy still thinks there is room for improvement. She is also aware that the economic hardships have not completely abandoned her city, either. “I’m sure some of our families are seeing cuts in their paychecks and increased health care costs, as is the rest of the state,” she said.
One improvement that Shaughnessy has lobbied the legislature on is the way the state funds infrastructure, like road repair. Residents seem to have a different agenda though. Last year, Charlotte residents turned down a millage to fund road repair and instead used it for the creation of the city’s West Side Fire House. “The passing of the millage for the fire station would best be defined as a ‘grass-roots effort’” said Shaughnessy. “This is something the community has talked about for years.”
Despite wanting to mend infrastructural problems, Shaughnessy said that this year she would also like to focus on what she calls “Code Enforcement”. Shaughnessy said the majority of complaints she receives are from residents who are concerned over how much their neighbors pick up after themselves. Excessive trash and abandoned cars are just a few of the problems that Shaughnessy and Council would like to see eliminated.
Finally, Shaughnessy gave much credit to City Council members who have tried to keep their citizens informed on all aspects of living in Charlotte including, but not limited to the government and ways to manage a business. “We’ve really tried to open up the government to the community,” she said. She and Council are also making plans this year to help get the youth more involved in the community, and vice versa. “We continue to invest in more recreational opportunities such as: a mountain bike trail in Bennett Park, 18-hole disc golf at Lincoln Park, as well as an enormously successful skate park in Lincoln Park,” she said. “We are seeking to build a handicap accessible playground and constructing an outdoor hockey rink.”
While Shaughnessy continues to look forward, she is glad that her city has seen such successful progress.
“Some of it is a just a result of our location, and the rest is good fortune,” said Shaughnessy. Without having to give much attention to domestic issues, the city of Charlotte is now looking to expand and share its wealth with neighboring counties. They have already begun to do so through their Rural Fire Agreement, which divides part of their yearly budget among five other townships. In addition, Myrkle has laid out a plan, listed on the city’s web site, to bring together neighboring communities in the effort to continue the growth and prosperity of Charlotte.