Traverse City Will Have A New Mayor This Fall
By Beth Milligan | June 22, 2021
After six years as mayor and 22 years serving on various city boards, Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers confirms to The Ticker he will not seek reelection as mayor this fall. Carruthers is still deciding whether to run for a partial commission term that will open when Commissioner Roger Putman steps down in November, while former city commissioner Richard Lewis confirms he’ll run for mayor. The city commission is expected to experience significant turnover in November with incumbents including Putman, Christie Minervini, and Brian McGillivary leaving office and a handful of new faces vying for seats.
Carruthers cites the time commitment involved with serving as mayor and competing personal demands as the reason he won’t seek a fourth mayoral term. In addition to serving six years as mayor, Carruthers previously served two four-year terms as a city commissioner and two four-year terms as a Parks and Recreation commissioner. “Richard (Lewis) and I talked awhile ago, and I’m perfectly fine with him running because I was considering not running again anyway because of personal issues,” Carruthers says. “In my family life, I’m spending more time away with aging parents and a husband who doesn’t live in the same state…the time commitment has gotten to be a lot. That’s what most people don’t realize, there’s a lot of time and effort involved.”
Carruthers has picked up a nominating packet for the partial two-year commission term through 2023 that will be vacated by Putman, who announced last month he will resign effective November 8 for health reasons. Carruthers and any other potential commission candidates will need to collect at least 70 signatures from city-registered electors to appear on the ballot by the July 20 filing deadline. “I did take out the petitions, but I still haven’t formally decided (whether to run),” Carruthers says.
Putman and Carruthers aren’t the only incumbents changing gears on the city commission. Christie Minervini and Brian McGillivary, whose terms are up this fall, have both announced they won’t seek reelection. Minervini, who was elected in 2019 to fill a partial term left when Michele Howard stepped down, said in an email to supporters Monday she decided not to run again “in order to pursue other goals,” adding she’d seek to serve the city in other ways. “I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve, and I’m proud of our accomplishments over the past two years, even with the challenges of leading during a pandemic,” she wrote.
McGillivary, meanwhile, recently emailed his fellow commissioners to announce he won’t pursue another term this fall. “Because of my current personal and professional commitments, something has to give and so I will not seek reelection this November,” he wrote. McGillivary added that he is keeping his campaign signs “because I may run again in the future, but it won’t be 2021.”
The departure of so many incumbents “strongly” influenced Commissioner Tim Werner, whose term is up this fall, to seek reelection in an effort to provide continuity and “momentum” on the board. “I would have been less likely to run if more of the incumbents had been looking to run, but with all these other people stepping back…it has come into play rather strongly to decide I would like to do this,” says Werner. He cites the redevelopment of city surface parking lots for housing, action to address climate change, and “buried infrastructure” as key issues on his radar. “Those three things taken together, I feel like we have so much potential and we’re starting to head in the right direction,” he says. “I’d like to continue to be a part of that process.”
Meanwhile, at least two familiar faces – and a handful of new ones – will try to earn spots on the commission. Lewis, who served as city commissioner from 2015 to 2019 and previously served as city manager for Traverse City for 17 years and St. Joseph for two years, is the only candidate so far to pick up a nominating packet for mayor. Lewis confirmed to The Ticker he will run for mayor, but declined to comment further until he’s officially filed his paperwork, which he plans to do this or next week. Werner says he appreciates that Lewis “is willing to step up. It’s a tough spot. We’re not a strong mayor form of government, and yet most people think we are, so it’s a challenge. It’s not one I’m interested in.”
Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe, on the other hand, is up for that challenge – but will finish out the rest of her term through 2023 before making a mayoral run. “I ran for reelection in 2019 with the intention of serving a four-year term, and there is still work to be done,” she says, citing her involvement on the Traverse City Light & Power board and the city’s recreational marijuana ad hoc committee. “I am interested in running in two years when my term is up. At that point, I’ll have spent eight years on the commission and will have a lot of experience to offer the community.” Though Shamroe says she’s willing to challenge Lewis in two years if he runs again then, she calls him a “good mayoral candidate” for the upcoming term, saying he’s an “organizer and a doer” who will target firm timelines for getting major city infrastructure projects done.
While Lewis is the only mayoral candidate so far, several candidates will vie for the three open full-term commission seats – and more contenders could emerge over the next month before the filing deadline. In addition to Werner, former Grand Traverse County commissioner Tom Mair has picked up a nominating packet for the commission. Mair, a familiar fixture in past local election races, ran against Minervini for Howard's seat on the city commission in 2019 and was a 2020 candidate for the Michigan State Board of Education.
Two new contenders are in the commission race, including Mitchell Treadwell, a landscaper and river steward who attended Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University and is currently president of the Central Neighborhood Association. Treadwell serves on multiple city boards, including Parks and Recreation, the Traverse City Housing Commission, and the Board of Zoning Appeals. “While I've long spoke out on city issues ranging from public art to trash management in parks to addressing stormwater,” he says, “the past year has made it apparent the city needs to do more to tackle affordable housing, diversifying our economy, and paying city employees a living wage so that departments can better fill vacancies.”
Mi Stanley was born and raised in Traverse City, graduating from Traverse City Central High School and spending two years at Northwestern Michigan College before transferring to Michigan State University. After a year of AmeriCorps service, she spent 15 years in Syracuse, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from and teaching at Syracuse University before she “boomeranged” back to Traverse City in 2017. Stanley is now the communications and marketing manager for Traverse Health Clinic and says she felt a “responsibility to my hometown to step up to the plate” after being encouraged by other community members to run for city commission.
“One of the things I think about a lot is I don't have student loan debt, I’m not paying for child care, and my husband bought our home when he was a bachelor in 2013,” she says. “If any one of those things weren’t true, I wouldn't be able to live in Traverse City. I'm an educated person in a professional career. We all know housing is a tough issue, but I truly believe our police officers, our nurses, our teachers should be able to afford to be a part of the community, if that's where they want to live.” In addition to housing, Stanley cites infrastructure as a priority – “none of us wants to see raw sewage in West Bay,” she says – along with retaining senior programming at the Traverse City Senior Center on East Front Street. “It’s something that is very important to people in this community...it would be a missed opportunity to see that go elsewhere,” she says.
Pictured: Current city commission, from left to right: Brian McGillivary, Jim Carruthers, Christie Minervini, Ashlea Walter, Roger Putman, Amy Shamroe, Tim WernerComment