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Portage City Council {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The City Council is responsible for adopting and amending city laws and ordinances, determining city policies and standards, and authorizing the annual city budget. The Council also determines city tax millage rates and utility rates, approves contracts and agreements for the city, and directs the City Manager.The City Council consists of seven members including the Mayor and the Mayor Pro-Tempore. Council members are elected to four-year terms staggered every two years. Three Council members are elected every two years. Vote for up to three candidates.
CHOOSE TWO CANDIDATES FROM BELOW TO COMPARE
  • Candidate picture

    Christopher Burns CPA, CFA®, Fixed Income Analyst

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    Tim Earl Fire safety and building code consultant

  • Candidate picture

    Lori Knapp Retired attorney; active community board member

  • Candidate picture

    Claudette Reid City Council Member

  • Candidate picture

    Jim Stephanak Owner - Venture Advisory Group

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    Phil Stinchcomb Steel Sales Representative

  • Wayne Stoffer Campaign has been suspended

  • Candidate picture

    Terry Urban Research Chemist

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Biographical Information

Why are you running for Portage City Council? What strengths or talents especially qualify you for that office?

What are the most significant challenges facing Portage in providing services to its citizens? How do you propose to address them?

What would be your top priority toward balancing economic growth with the needs of the community in Portage?

Age 30
Occupation / Current Position Fixed Income Analyst, Greenleaf Trust
Education Master of Accounting, High Distinction, Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan; Bachelor of Arts, Economics, High Distinction, University of Michigan
Experience & Qualifications Certified Public Accountant (CPA); Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) charterholder; Instructor, Student Investment Fund - Western Mich. University; Board of Directors - Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes; Vice Chair of Membership - Michigan Association of CPAs (MICPA); Financial Advisor - United Way of Battle Creek & Kalamazoo; Investment Committee - City of Portage; Jury Board - Kalamazoo County
Campaign Phone (708) 710-3102
Campaign Website http://www.chrisburns.org
Campaign Email chris@chrisburns.org
Campaign Facebook Page www.facebook.com/burnsforportage
Campaign Twitter Handle @burnsforportage
I was born and raised in Portage. I love this community and want to help lead it into the future. I am a hard worker, a trait I learned from my mom who worked two jobs while raising two boys. Hard work led me to becoming a CPA, to my employment at Greenleaf Trust, to teaching at Western Michigan University, and to volunteerism. This level of involvement gives me a view of the needs of Portage residents, whether it is caring for an aging parent, dealing with college tuition for a child, or seeking a job that maximizes someone's talents. I also work in municipal finance and hope to use that background to solve problems for Portage citizens.
As a CPA, I know it all comes down to budgets. Portage, like many Michigan cities, is dealing with structural financial headwinds. Cities in Michigan cope with limits on local property taxes and with declining revenue sharing from the State of Michigan. The Michigan Municipal League estimates that Portage has lost $15.8 million in revenue sharing since 2002. Portage is in sound fiscal shape today, but I am concerned, 9 years into the third longest economic expansion in history, we may soon face a recession and questions of whether to cut services. The City needs advocates for better policies from Lansing and for prudent policies locally.
I would like to encourage some placemaking in the Portage City Centre area. The Planning Commission has noted this as an area where Portage could promote walkable, mixed-use development, but we have been challenged to execute that vision. The City's 'walk score' is currently 18 out of 100. As a younger resident, I am tired of seeing young families leave Portage for Grand Rapids, or for other states where they perceive a higher quality of life. We have a chance here to both address the needs of the community and to encourage economic growth in the City Centre area.
Age 43
Occupation / Current Position Fire safety and building code consultant
Education Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Experience & Qualifications Chairman of Portage Park Board. Member of several committees which write standards and building codes, which requires compromise and working with people who have opposing viewpoints. Former Navy Lieutenant Commander with 3 years as a Chief Engineer, responsible for 80 personnel during a wartime deployment. Managed a large budget for operation and maintenance of the ship’s engineering plant.
Campaign Phone (269) 762-8220
Campaign Email timearl@aol.com
Campaign Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/timearlforportage/
I have been on the Park Board for four years and actively following council activities for much longer. I want to be part of the solutions as Portage learns to adapt to what the future brings. My experience working on building codes has helped me learn how to ask the right questions about a proposal and identify potential hidden agendas or unintended consequences. I have a professional reputation as someone who is able to work with people I disagree with to find common ground and work together for the public good.
Empty commercial real estate is a nationwide problem as businesses struggle to compete with online retailers. We must work with developers and businesses to ensure these spaces are put to good use and don’t remain vacant. This helps the image of the City but also the City’s ability to serve its citizens by increasing the tax base. Local government serves many important functions, but we must ensure we are assisting businesses and citizens and not serving as impediments to better service or community growth.
We never want to say no to projects that will contribute to our economic growth, but we must also scrutinize them to ensure they are handled in an appropriate fashion so as to contribute to our community and not detract from the image Portage enjoys as a desirable place to move. For instance, retail medical marijuana dispensaries are going to be permitted by state law soon, but we must ensure they are integrated into Portage in a way that fits our community. Sometimes that means projects take a little longer, but it is better for everyone involved to make sure we get it right the first time.
Age 56
Occupation / Current Position Retired attorney; active community board member
Education 1986: LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws) Queen's University, Kingston, Canada. 1983: B.A. University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Experience & Qualifications My professional career as an attorney and my expertise in real estate law. My years of service on the City of Portage Board of Review. My leadership roles in many local nonprofit organizations, including Portage Community Center. My volunteer work in our schools, and with seniors and people in need. My commitment to our community and understanding of the important local issues facing us today.
Campaign Phone (269) 324-0178
Campaign Email loriknapp4@gmail.com
Campaign Facebook Page lori knapp for portage
I am running to bring a new voice, a fresh perspective, and forward-thinking leadership to Portage. We need to look toward the future and manage it now. Specifically: • pro-actively manage our growth and development, rather than let growth manage Portage • plan and adapt resources for an increasing and changing senior population • have City Hall build and support our sense of community and identity through more active, direct engagement with residents. Through my professional and volunteer experiences, I have focused my strengths as: a problem-solver, facilitator, negotiator, communicator, listener, and results-oriented team player.
Portage must be pro-active in not only planning but implementing innovative policies and projects to be ready for future community needs, without additional tax burden. We face a variety of challenges, from providing attractive and sustainable resources for seniors, including an adaptable Senior Center, to updating public works; from supporting people in need to addressing a changing retail landscape - a significant contributor to our tax base. Public/private collaboration and more dialogue with County members and stakeholders to better utilize resources and economic strategies are central to addressing these issues.
I would develop, communicate and seek alignment on the clear sense of priorities to be addressed in the community. At this stage, I would: • Immediately develop and implement a timetable to execute identified priorities, consistent with the 2014 Comprehensive Plan and Portage 2025 Visioning Project • Gain alignment on funding • Implement identified growth and land management expectations, community engagement tools, and a sustainable senior resources plan.

Age 63
Occupation / Current Position Current City Council Member; also Occupational Therapist for Michigan Rehabilitation Services
Education Wayne State University, 1975, Bachelors of Science in Occupational Therapy. Extensive continuing education in OT field, specializing in assistive technology and vocational rehabilitation.
Experience & Qualifications 3 terms on Portage City Council. Boards include: Kal. Co. Consolidated Dispatch Authority (member, finance committee); Public Media Network (member/chair); Community Action Agency on poverty issues (board member/chair); KCTA/CCTA on public transit (campaign co-chair); Kal. Area Transportation Study on Federal plans/funding (Rep./Alternate); Kal. Co. Council of Governments (member/officer).
Campaign Phone (269) 491-9725
Campaign Website http://reid4portage.com
Campaign Email reid.clauds@gmail.com
Campaign Facebook Page Claudette Reid for Portage
City Council is a team of citizens who provide policy direction for the City as well as manage our one employee, the City Manager. Having a diverse group of thinkers who can collaborate well is the best way to generate creative and fiscally sound policy to steer the City into the future. This is how I have approached my role over the past 12 years serving on the City Council. I am a critical thinker, work well in a team, and have demonstrated leadership on Council as well as in county-wide boards representing the City. I look forward to continuing to serve the City with the new members on Council.
Specific issues that will be addressed include determining how Portage will manage the five new Medical Marihuana licenses available through the State beginning Dec. 15, managing our open spaces more intentionally and supporting a range of housing options to help attract and retain young adults and families. For the first two issues I want a high level of citizen engagement, including public meetings to provide information and gather input for setting these important policies. We also need to be more deliberate about managing our existing older housing stock as an option for affordable, entry level housing.
Portage does a very good job of providing the core City services (public safety, roads, water/sewer) at a millage rate that is in the lower 25% of cities our size state wide. Investments the City has made in infrastructure and services have resulted in economic and residential growth. My top priority is to avoid undercutting our growth by reducing our emergency funds to provide a one-time financial boost or tax cut. Connected to this is thorough consideration of new programs or initiatives; developing public/private partnerships for expanded services is one way to assure that they are going to be both supported and sustainable
Age 60
Occupation / Current Position President/CEO - Venture Advisory Group, llc & also Owner - Paint Recycling Services, llc
Education US Navy Veteran
Experience & Qualifications As the final publisher of the Kalamazoo Gazette, owning two small businesses and having served in the military, I know what it takes to get things done. I'm a firm believer in the power of teamwork and clear communication. I have had to build concensus with my teams in every role to make sure we were rowing in the same direction.These talents will serve the residents and Portage City Council well.
Campaign Phone (269) 760-4745
Campaign Website http://www.jimstephanak.com
Campaign Email jim@jimstephanak.com
Campaign Facebook Page www.facebook.com/ElectJimStephanak/
I care about the future of Portage. Let’s be smart in our growth. Why not stretch our imaginations and build an even more vibrant, exciting Portage? We’ve made good strides in the last 5 years; opening ourselves up to new possibilities and exhibiting higher levels of cooperation. We can't rest on our laurels. We need to challenge the status quo and be proactive, not reactive.

As publisher of the Kalamazoo Gazette I asked the tough questions to fully understand the issues. My business and military experience taught me to be pragmatic and analytical. These attributes will serve Portage wellI. I will be the residents eyes and ears in city hall
Staffing and money can be pointed to as a culprit for not delivering services to its citizens. While these help, if the culture of City Hall is not fully aligned to serve, receiving the full value of these resources can not be realized.

Money and staffing: Continue to watch the budget with a very sharp pencil. Challenge the status quo. Use the data we collect to better leverage technology to ensure we maximize energy use, staff as efficiently as possible and deliver services in the most timely manner.

Culture: Ensure employees are passionate about their jobs, inquisitive and focus on what the residents reallly need; then surprise them.
A smart economic growth plan takes the long term goals of the community into consideration. The three key areas that comprise this growth plan should be a combination of our economy, social well-being and the environment. Growth for growth sake, without putting all three of these factors into the equation will result in a less than ideal future.

My top priority is to ensure that the decision making process for the City takes all of these factors into account as we make important choices regarding future economic growth plans. We are vigilant now. Keeping this in mind is very important to maximize our resources and our future quality of life
Age 55
Occupation / Current Position Sales
Education Bachelor of Science in Marketing Indiana University
Experience & Qualifications I served two terms as a Kalamazoo County Commissioner for the 10th District, Portage, 2010-2104. During my tenure, the county had a balanced budget, we collaborated with KRESA to move Head Start to the professional educators, and we reduced county retiree health care and pension legacy costs, as well as reduced law enforcement compensation costs.
Campaign Phone (269) 207-2778
Campaign Website http://philstinchcomb.com
Campaign Email phil@philstinchcomb.com
Campaign Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Phil4UMichigan/
Campaign Twitter Handle Phil4UMichigan
I have lived in Portage since 1997 with my wife, Pam. We chose to raise our three children in Portage because of the schools and the high quality of life it offers. I love Portage and want to see our city and people grow and prosper. That is why I am running for Portage City Council. Having experience serving on the County Board, I believe I have a unique set of experiences and knowledge that would allow me to work within the system to always do that which is in the best interest of Portage, while still doing what is best for the region.
Most significant challenge facing Portage is the looming retail ice age. Commercial businesses and commercial property taxes will be under pressure because of internet sales. My two term experience on the county board will assist in leading Portage to plan for the future. I will work with council and the city manager to work with our businesses to see what the city can do to assist. We need to be in front of this issue before there is an announcement of a big retailer closing its doors like State Farm did earlier this year in Kalamazoo.
My top priority is to keep the city of Portage government lean. Low taxes, improved services and great customer satisfaction is the key to community success. I will push council to invest in infrastructure so our roads, sewer and water are accessible and in excellent condition city wide. Another priority will be to collaborate with Portage Public Schools on cross bridges for student walkers and bike riders. Opportunities for community investment are on the table as well, maybe an improved sports complex to host softball and/or baseball tournaments. Portage is the best price for your dollar. There is no place like home!
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Age 58
Occupation / Current Position Research Chemist (hiatus), Full time parent and caregiver
Education B.S. in Chemistry, University of Illinois, 1980.
Experience & Qualifications Portage resident since 1980. Portage Park Board, 8 yrs. Portage Zoning Board of Appeals, 8 yrs. Portage City Council, 5 terms. Past or Present: Long Lake Governmental Lake Board, Past Chair. Gourdneck Lake Governmental Lake Board, Chair. Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study. Convention and Visitors Bureau. Central County Transit Authority. FAA Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner.
Campaign Phone (269) 323-8160
Campaign Facebook Page @terryurbanforportage
I considered retiring from Council this year. But when Mayor Strazdas announced he wasn’t seeking reelection due to health issues and 2 Council members filed to run for Mayor it meant that there would be at least 2 new Council members and an inexperienced Mayor. If I didn’t seek reelection that would have meant 3 new council members. While new members on the Council are good I believe 3 new members be too much change for Portage. Based on City Manager’s statements when hired he may retire during this term. Experienced Council members will be important to hiring the next City Manager. Other major issues will require experienced counsel.
Portage is fortunate to be in a strong financial position. The major challenge is to ensure we maintain the infrastructure in a manner and on a schedule acceptable to the high expectations of the citizens of Portage. With the recovery continuing from the 2008 recession and continued investment in both industrial and residential sectors we have the ability to accelerate road repair, decrease debt, and expand services cut during the recession within our current millage rate. Proposed changes in Federal CDBG funding may require Portage to examine continuing programs with a portion of the increasing tax revenue.
Economic growth is only partly within the control of the City Council. We ensure that Portage is a place where people want to do business and encourage investment in our community. A significant challenge will be to ensure the continued strength of our retail sector in the face of internet sales pressure. Assisting the redevelopment and repurposing of business that may be impacted by the changing purchasing habits of America will be important to maintaining our vitality. Facilitating retail businesses that concentrate on customer service, custom products and immediate needs will be important in maintaining our retail vitality.

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