The City of the Village of Douglas 

In Douglas, it takes a village to be a city

The Grand Rapids Press

DOUGLAS -- Voters may have elevated Douglas to a city, but its official, if unwieldy, name still encompasses its village roots.

The City of the Village of Douglas was created Monday when voters adopted a city charter and picked a nearly all-new slate of members for its first City Council.

The vote spelled relief for charter commissioner Jerry Wagner, who now plans to return to his retirement.

"My last job is to introduce the new City Council members to the public. They take the oath of office and then I pass the gavel to the highest vote-getter," Wagner said. That person will oversee the council's first order of business: picking Douglas' inaugural mayor.

In the end, only one of the current Village Council members, Steve Laughner, was elected to the new City Council. Voters dumped five other Village Council members from the governing body, instead selecting six new faces to round out the seven-member board. In all, 13 candidates ran for the spots.

Matt Balmer, a new Village Council member and the city's top vote-getter, said he was not surprised by the support for cityhood. But he was surprised by the council vote.

"I thought it would be more of a split between Village Council members and newcomers," said Balmer, who runs the Everyday People's Cafe in Douglas.

He said he knows the new council will need to spend time getting acclimated with each other and the new city charter.

Tim Glinski, the only Village Council member who did not run for a City Council position, said he was surprised voters chose a council with such little experience.

"It doesn't seem like a prudent move for the community to go forward with a new charter, new manager, new clerk, new government status and a council with the majority of new members," Glinski said.

He has been a strong voice against the switch to cityhood, saying the debate leading up to Monday's vote has been divisive for the harbor town off Blue Star Highway.

The possibility of Douglas becoming a city had been discussed for several years. In the days before the vote, both sides accused each other of being motivated by politics.

Local control and taxes were hot topics on both sides of the debate. Under Michigan law, villages are not recognized as independent government agencies and must be included as part of a township. As a city, all taxes collected stay within the government and go to provide services such as assessing and elections, which now are provided through Saugatuck Township.