Traverse City News and Events

Michele Howard Named Next City Commissioner

Dec. 9, 2016

Following two rounds of interviews and a ballot process that winnowed a field of 11 applicants down to four finalists, Traverse City commissioners unanimously selected Michele Howard to be the city’s next commissioner Thursday.

Howard, 46, will fill the vacancy created by the recent resignation of former Commissioner Ross Richardson. She will be sworn into her new role at Monday night’s commission meeting and will serve on the board until November 13, 2017. “I’m really excited,” Howard says. “I just feel like I’m up for the challenge.”

Howard currently serves as the government documents librarian at Northwestern Michigan College, a role she’s held since 2006. She has a Masters of Information and Library Studies from the University of Michigan and was a political science major at Michigan State University. Howard has served as the PTO President at Central Grade School and PTO Vice President at Glenn Loomis Elementary School; she has also held volunteer leadership roles at community organizations including the M22 Challenge, North American Vasa Ski Race, Hagerty Cycling and Grace Episcopal Church.

Commissioners told The Ticker Howard’s experience in government research, extensive community volunteerism and personal experience as a mother of three prompted their selection.

“She had a perspective we don’t have on the commission in terms of being a mother, and her professional background adds a unique perspective and approach,” Commissioner Gary Howe says. Commissioner Brian Haas agrees. “What I liked about her is she’s met a great demographic that isn’t well-represented on the board,” he says. “We had eleven great applicants….and she stood out. She brings a different perspective.”

Commissioner Amy Shamroe said while some candidates had more governmental experience, Howard’s “knowledge of how the system works and being a slight outsider is going to be a great asset (for the city) going forward.”

An initial round of questions from commissioners were posed to all 11 candidates, who had one minute each to address topics ranging from their ideal vision of Traverse City to top issues and challenges facing the city. Howard said she would “love to see Traverse City be a leader (on issues) so when other municipalities look for examples, they look to Traverse City." She pointed to improving infrastructure and providing multiple pathways and routes between communities among her priorities, and cited increasing affordable housing and transit options as some of the city’s top challenges. 

Following the first round of questions, commissioners used personal ballots and a points system to narrow the field down to four finalists. Along with Howard, Traverse City Planning Commissioner Janet Fleshman, attorney Ross Hammersley and BATA Transportation Planner Tyler Bevier made the final cut. Commissioners then asked a second round of questions of the finalists – including why they believed they should be chosen. Howard responded she was “passionate about our city” and approached issues “differently as a mom and a librarian," adding she had "the resources to research tough issues" and an "open mind."

When commissioners – who were each allotted four points to distribute among the four finalists as a method of voting for their top pick(s) – cast their final ballots, Howard came out as the clear leader, with 14 points. Fleshman was the runner-up with seven points. After the results were announced, commissioners formally made a motion and unanimously approved appointing Howard to the board.

As with other candidates, Howard was asked to identify any potential conflicts of interest serving on the commission. She noted her husband – attorney Scott Howard – is legal counsel for the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Howard said she would consult the city attorney on votes related to the BRA or brownfield funding to ensure there weren't any conflicts of interest.

Howard also affirmed yes when asked by commissioners if she’d run for another term when her appointment expires next fall. She commended the interview process and field of candidates to The Ticker after the meeting. “I thought the interview process was really good; they asked some very thoughtful questions…and I was impressed by all the candidates’ answers,” she says. She agreed with commissioners’ assessment that her experience as a mother of three children – ages 17, 15 and 12 – would bring a new perspective to the board.

“When you’re a mom, you’re balancing everyone’s needs,” she says. “I can apply that to the commission, in terms of time, and hopefully some empathy to what people are saying."

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