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Benton Harbor mayor-elect works to bring city leaders together

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Betty Guy talks to Benton Harbor city department heads, elected officials and residents at The Ideal Place Friday. Guy is the Director of Strategic Planning at Lakeland HealthCare in St. Joseph, Michigan.

City leaders in Benton Harbor are trying to come together after a turbulent couple of years under a state appointed emergency manager. The emergency manager was appointed to Benton Harbor in 2010 after ten years of deficit spending. 

Mayor-elect James Hightower hosted a workshop Friday to talk about the city’s plan for future.

“You can’t keep looking back, you have to look forward,” Hightower said. “The first step is to bring people together, get them on the mindset of thinking strategic planning, and hear some of the best practices that are happening around the state.”

Hightower brought in a strategic planner, Saginaw’s City Manager Darnell Earley, and Benton Harbor’s Emergency Manager Joe Harris.

Commissioner Juanita Henry is confident the new commission will not let the city fall back into financial distress. “A leader is going to come out of this group,” Henry said during the workshop at The Ideal Place restaurant. “I don’t know who it’s going to be but we’re all going to have to make a conscious effort to work together,” Henry said. She was thrilled to get more detailed financial information from Harris at the workshop.

Henry and other commissioners say they’re committed to working on common goals and agreeing on the best way to reach them. Hightower says this is one of many meetings he’s planning to get city leaders to come up with common goals.

Benton Harbor’s emergency manager expects to turn power back over to elected leaders sometime next year.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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