Goodbye, for now, as your mayor

Dear friends:

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you, my community, for the past eight years as Mayor and member of City Council. As you may know, I have decided not to race anymore and instead Mary and I are enjoying an RV trip and some great family time with our son, Landon. I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve you. The last eight years of serving the city have been very rewarding for me and I believe we are headed in the right direction.

Graduating from Charlevoix high school in 1995, I have always felt close to the city. But it wasn’t until my service that I developed such a strong bond with you and our community. When I was first elected, I had limited knowledge of how municipal government works. But in the past eight years working for you, I’ve learned so much.

First, I learned that government operates differently from business. In business, you do what you can to get the best result. But in the public service, it is the smooth running of the process that is just as important as the result. A good public and transparent “process” gives the community confidence in its leadership.

During my time as mayor, I relied on the skills God gave me: lots of energy; enthusiasm; willingness to learn despite controversy; courteous; business acumen, to name a few. I also did my best to learn from my faults: well, it’s easier to list my qualities. But I struggled with certain personalities and with the slower pace of the government. (If you talk to my detractors, I had more but, hey, this is my letter – they can write theirs). When I was first elected eight years ago, I filled the seat vacated by Lyle Gennet after serving on the board for eight years. Lyle was a role model for me and supported me as I grew in public service.

I consider the change in the way we treat each other to be my greatest achievement. The culture of the city council is better — much better — than it was when I took over as mayor. When I first knocked on doors, that was my main campaign promise and I believe I delivered. We had many other positive changes. Throughout my tenure, I have encouraged council to set priorities, such as: improving the budget, working well with neighboring townships, better housing for year-round residents, developing our year-round economy/community and promoting a better walking/cycling community.

Budget/Collaboration: Our budget is balanced with a healthy but not excessive reserve.

Lodging: If we’re going to make progress on solving this crisis (it’s a crisis!), we need to see housing as our top priority and not something we should be doing as long as it doesn’t get in the way of any of our other priorities. It’s not just about low-income housing (although some of that is also needed), it’s about our nurses, teachers, shopkeepers, our friends, who can no longer live here . If we don’t turn things around, most of our friends who don’t already own a home will be gone in the decades to come. We must work hard to reverse this crisis to maintain the community we love. Despite my terrible warning, we have made progress.

We have changed our zoning to allow for more year round opportunities in our home development. We have created a deed restriction program that ensures participating properties will remain for residents year-round. This program is voluntary and private funds are raised to support it, but we already have five restricted act units in the city. We have created year-round housing incentives at our utility connections. There are a few others that gave us marginal gains. But we must continue to make it our top priority. The community is counting on all of us to do more.

Walking and cycling: Our sidewalks are clearer downtown, we’ve also improved sidewalk clearance for walking routes around town. We are building a multi-use trail along Park Avenue and just received our TAP Grant for the Charlevoix Trailway, an off-road multi-use trail from downtown to the Wheelway on Waller Road. I am proud of the Sentier Charlevoix, built thanks to a partnership between the City of Charlevoix, the Canton of Charlevoix, the County of Charlevoix, the ISD of Charlevoix, many private owners and the Little Traverse Conservancy. And it was led by our late friend and resident Bob Boch, a community champion. Multi-use trails and routes create and connect communities.

Why I don’t run anymore: Our son will be in kindergarten next fall, so this is our last chance for a family adventure. Mary and I are working remotely and we’re off on a nine-month RV trip, visiting national parks and visiting our skydiving sites. I can’t be mayor while on an RV trip, but I plan to continue working on some local projects, like housing and multi-use trails. I have mixed emotions over this decision, and I will truly miss serving you. I truly enjoyed every part of this job and everyone I worked with, and did my best to serve everyone equally, even those who weren’t supportive of me.

Thank you again for the incredible eight years together. I look forward to the next chapter for me and my family, and for Charlevoix.

A sincere goodbye for now.

— Luther Kurtz is the current mayor of Charlevoix. He is not seeking a new term in November.

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