Stypula says leading council was a privilege

January 13, 2012
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Members of the Grand Valley Metro Council unanimously hired Design Plus President and CEO John Weiss as the agency’s new executive director last week. Weiss is replacing Don Stypula, who held the post for more than eight years and left the job last Friday.

“We’ve had a great relationship with Don. It’s been a great eight years,” said GVMC Chairman Jim Buck, also Grandville mayor.

“You’ve done a great job for the Metro Council,” said George Meek, Plainfield Township supervisor.

“I think you’re a genuinely good man and I wish you the best,” said Daryl Delabbio, Kent County administrator and controller.

“I’ve appreciated all the passion you’ve showed,” added Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County administrator.

Stypula, who joined the council in July 2003, has started a consulting firm called Collaboration Matters LLC. He said he plans to keep on top of the issues that affect West Michigan. At his last meeting last week, Stypula presented the board with a resolution calling for the state to come up with a suitable method to fund the transportation infrastructure in Michigan.

The GVMC resolution, which members approved and Stypula took to Lansing last Wednesday, says the board will work on the issue with Gov. Rick Snyder, who revealed a laundry list of funding possibilities last October, including scrapping the state’s current gas and diesel pump taxes for a new wholesale tax structure. The document also calls for the funding mechanisms to be put together quickly and for the revenue to come from a variety of sources.

“I think the resolution follows through on the long-term goals of the Metro Council,” said Michael DeVries, Grand Rapids Township supervisor and vice chairman of the council’s Legislative Committee.

Stypula also cautioned members to keep their eyes on Lansing lawmakers as they begin this month to eliminate the state’s Personal Property Tax, a key source of revenue for counties and municipalities. “It is by far the number one issue. Fortunately, the governor understands it just can’t be wiped out,” he said, without providing at least a partial replacement.

Stypula said a leading source to replace the revenue lost from the PPT is the expiring credits from the state’s all-but-gone Michigan Business Tax. “You will not get a guarantee in the (state) constitution unless you go to a petition drive. You will not get a 100 percent replacement. Stay active and engaged on an individual basis,” he said.

Stypula also cautioned members to keep tabs on transportation funding in the nation’s capital. The plan right now is to extend the current funding package for two years, but the Senate is tinkering with the bill. He said the Senate’s version would dissolve smaller metro planning agencies like the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council in Holland and transfer those activities to the state or to a larger planning group.

Stypula said Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats, are working to change the bill’s language to avoid removing groups like MACC from the transportation picture. “Like in Lansing, this is a who’s who of interest groups,” he said of those contributing to the funding bill.

As for Weiss, he has lengthy public sector credentials that began with him serving as Coopersville city manager when he was only 21. He was involved with the Metro Council at its inception in 1990.

“I just think this is a great opportunity for governmental cooperation and collaboration, and meeting those goals are very important. It’s kind of a calling and something that I want to do and am very interested in doing,” said Weiss of his new post. “It’s an organization that I think I can be a help to.”

Weiss has headed Design Plus for the past decade and thought he would be able to take over the council’s reins within six weeks.

“The firm is looking great. I think we’re going to have a record first quarter, so it’s a good time. Business has picked up. We’re doing a lot of work out of state. For me, we’ve been through the tough years of the construction industry now, so as this ramps up, and it’s going to ramp up quickly, we’re going to be very busy. So it’s a good time (to go),” he said.

Rockford City Manager Michael Young chaired the search committee that chose Weiss from what Young said was a strong field of candidates. He also said that the committee did its homework on Weiss before choosing him.

“We probably know more about John Weiss than his family does,” said Young. Weiss then joked that he hoped Young wouldn’t share what the committee learned about him with his family.

Weiss becomes the fourth executive director in Metro Council history. Jean Laug-Carroll was the first, Jerry Felix the second and Stypula the third.

“I’m still stunned and amazed at how you folks go out of your way to collaborate. We have growth. We have exciting things going on and we have a great future,” said Stypula as part of his closing comments to members last week.

“I’ve had a wonderful staff to work with — truly gifted people. Leading the Grand Valley Metro Council for the past eight-and-a-half years was more than an honor; it was a privilege.”

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