KALAMAZOO, MI – Mayors of Kalamazoo and Portage see a possible opportunity of exploring new partnerships with elections in the rear view mirror.
For the first time after a period of 12 years, Portage has got a new mayor. Patricia Randall won the seat after mayor Pete Strazdas retired and she beat her opponent Nasim Ansari by earning not less than 600 more. This is according to the provisional results reported on November 7th by the Kalamazoo County Clerk’s Office.
In Kalamazoo, Bobby Hopewell who is 53 year old now was elected to a sixth consecutive term, making him the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history. He was uncontested on the ballot, challenged only by two write-in candidates.
After Randall, 59, was elected to the Portage City Council in 2009, Hopewell reached out to her and the two formed a kind of kinship. Hopewell was there for Randall when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and she attended the funeral of Hopewell’s older sister when she died earlier this summer.
These were Randall’s words:
“He called me almost every week during this campaign, almost every day near the end… I hate when people use words like ‘cooperation’ and ‘coordination’ but don’t mean anything by it. I think we’re going to get together and figure out ways that we can do things together.”
Though the two municipalities border each other, they’ve historically operated independent of one another after Portage became its own city in 1963. Randall said Portage is like an island or has “a moat around it” when it comes to working with Kalamazoo.
“I’m not going to do anything that drags Portage down, it has to be beneficial to us, but I think there is a lot of ways we can combine (forces) and be better, we are a region. The health of Kalamazoo directly affects Portage and vice versa. I don’t think Kilgore Road is that big of a dividing line.”
Hopewell said the pair have a “very positive relationship” that will likely serve as the foundation for mutually beneficial partnerships.
Local governments in Kalamazoo have already collaborated to consolidate transit and emergency dispatch services. Hopewell and Randall said there are likely other consolidation opportunities that could be explored.
“We’ve already talked about, if she won, how we could come together more… Her and I particularly started thinking about other ways for cooperation to happen and thinking about regional approaches to this community.”
Hopewell said public safety resources could be shared, particularly detectives and criminal investigators. Sharing space for record storage is another example the Kalamazoo mayor gave Tuesday.
“I understand that both these cities are very important to everything that happens in Southwest Michigan, we’re like-minded and trying to move forward together.”
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