5th week of my column for my small town paper. EDIT AWAY, my editor doesn't edit! Thanks!
|When Martin Super interviewed with the Village Council for the Decatur Village Manager position they asked him if he’d be willing to sell his house in South Haven and buy one within the Village limits. He said yes. That was four years ago, when Martin was twenty four, and they hired him on as the youngest municipal manager in the state of Michigan. Currently, he is the longest serving Village Manager in the history of Decatur.
Martin says, “The council members are realists. Because of the size of the community, they know that most people they hire won’t stay more than a couple years, and that’s part of the deal.” Historically, the position has been used as a stepping stone in the careers of previous managers. “I never thought about how long I would stay,” Martin says. After reading this I think you’ll be glad we have him.
Martin is a busy and energetic guy, and from the sound of it, he always has been. When he first began working for the Village, he worked as a Realtor and for the Van Buren County Sheriffs Department on weekends out on Lake Michigan. He was also attending Grand Valley University full time in order to complete his Masters Degree in Public Administration. He describes himself as someone who likes to “finish things right.” His current daily schedule is enough to make even an early riser cringe. The day begins around 4:30am, with a drive to Kalamazoo to work out.
“I like to get up and get going while it’s still dark.” Martin says grinning.
Returning to Decatur, he goes into work at the Township Hall. The job is an ever changing array of tasks that involve fielding phone calls, grant writing, attending area meetings with the Village Council as well as countywide and regional funding meetings, and more.
“Lately I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to go in for coffee with the older guys in town, and I miss that.“ He says.
The big day to day challenge recently has been the budget. He works hard to allocate funds for the things the Village needs desperately, as well as accessing funds that the state is “giving away” for specific projects. Martin has to be creative, resourceful, and flexible.
“My job is to be an advocate for Decatur. What I cost the Village I have to bring in.” He says. “They have these meetings where they just give away money (regional state meetings), and I have to be creative to try to come up with stuff so that we get that money.” For example, today there’s significant focus on the environment and “green” projects. In order to access some of that funding, Martin wrote a first of its kind grant for an alternative fuel street sweeper that runs on propane and reduces emissions. He has some very progressive ideas. The recent “sewer and water” project was funded by a grant. The Phelps Street upgrades were accomplished through stimulus funds.
“Everybody really liked it when we painted the water tower the school colors, and that’s great!” Martin smiles, “But painting it a darker color actually saved the Village money because darker colors don’t need to be washed as often and require less maintenance. With that single project we probably saved the Village about $30,000 in the long term.”
Martin explains that each year less money is available from the State for Village needs, so he works really hard to try to think in the long term. “I’m trying to think about the budget five, ten years from now,” He says.
One thing you may not know about Martin: “I am an enthusiastic collector of military antiques.” He currently volunteers for the VFW Military Museum and loves talking to veterans. “We have lots of very involved veterans in our community and I love to hear their stories.” Martin attends the “Show of Shows” yearly in Kentucky and you can often find his goods for sale on Craigslist. In fact, on January 29th Martin is hosting a military antique show at the Decatur VFW hall.
“There will be dealers and the VFW Women’s Auxiliary will be providing the food. It’ll also bring a lot people to town, so it’s good for Decatur.” For more information visit the website: www.supermilitiashows.weebley.com.
What keeps Martin in Decatur? “I’m busy here, I haven’t gotten bored.” He smiles, and explains that it helps too that he enjoys living close to his family. “I know if I took another job in another city, my wife and I would have to move away and we are both close to our families. Like today, I’m going to help my dad bail hay after work, he lives in Grand Junction. So I’m really close. If we want to have dinner with my family, we can. I really feel like I just moved from one side of Van Buren County to the other.”