02-09-2017 Four city manager candidates interviewed by Watervliet Commission; 164 years of Valentine

Four city manager candidates interviewed by Watervliet Commission

By Annette Christie

The City Commission held a special meeting Tuesday, February 7 in order to interview four candidates for the position of City Manager.  All were present except for Commissioner Duane Cobb.

The four candidates were Griffin Graham, Amanda Morgan, Heath Kaplan, and Ann Capela.

Griffin Graham is a graduate of South Haven High School and is currently attending Michigan State University with an expected graduation date of May 2017. Upon graduation, he will have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Science and Management.  He is currently interning at Meridian Charter Township.

In his position at Meridian Township he works for the Township Manager and the Human Resources Director.  He has learned and performed many human resources functions and served as interim Executive Assistant.

At Michigan State, he is a Resident Assistant and plans and organizes programs to improve the living environment for residents while enforcing university policies and promoting safety.

Graham belongs to the International City/County Management Association, the Michigan Association of Planning, and the American Planning Association.

Graham told the City Commission that he had grant writing experience while working with non-profits. He said that through his internship he has had interaction with all the municipal departments.

Graham told the City Commission that while he may have less experience than other candidates that he has the energy and drive needed.  “I want to make somewhere better,” Graham said.

Morgan started for the City of South Haven as temporary employment in October 1999. She worked up the ranks in the position of assessing assistant, office assistant, deputy clerk/administrative assistant, city clerk/administrative assistant to the City Manager, and her current position of Customer Service Manager.

Morgan has experience with budgets, elections, grant processing, utility billing, and knowledge of BS&A software that the city uses.  “I have a little bit of knowledge in a lot of areas in city government and I believe that could be a benefit for the City of Watervliet,” Morgan said.

She has experience with training and motivating but refers to it more as coaching.  In her current role, she revamped many policies in the customer service area and had to provide that in-depth training in that area.

Heath Kaplan had been interviewed in the fall of 2016 for the City Manager position but was not selected. With three new commissioners on board, he was brought back for a second interview.  He has a master’s degree in Public Administration and his resume describes his strengths as finance, accounting, operations, staff leadership, communications, project management, budgets, grant coordination, and financial modeling among others.

He is currently working at AT&T, prior to that he was doing temporary consulting and temporary work, which he has been doing since he left his management position with the City of Poplar Bluff in Missouri in 2015. He was in that position for a year.  Kaplan has also served as a Finance Director for Muskegon County (2010-2014), City Manager for Crandall, Texas (2008-2010), and an Assistant Manager/Finance Director for the City of Wayland (2006-2008).  Between the years of 2004-2006, he lists professional services for three different villages, an interim position with a city and an intern position for a city.

Now that he has had almost 12 years’ experience, from smaller communities to larger ones like Muskegon County, he realizes that smaller communities is where he wants to be, and for the long haul.

Kaplan added that he has experience with union negotiations, training employees, budgets, grant writing, planning and zoning, computers, BS&A, water billing, and the list goes on.

He explained that while some might look at his resume and say that he job hopped and to that he says, “I wouldn’t have this experience if I hadn’t.”

When asked about what happens when you Google Kaplan’s name, he said he would be happy to answer inquiries regarding it. He said that following his position in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, some enemies he had created traveled up here to Muskegon County to share with them their thoughts about what he had allegedly done there.

Prior to his fall interviews, The Herald Palladium reported that Kaplan was being investigated at two of his last employers and forensic audits were being done in response to actions he took when employed. As he sat before the City Commission Tuesday night, Kaplan confirmed that he was being sued by Muskegon County but because of governmental immunity and the fact that the allegations were false, he expected the suit to be thrown out very soon. Kaplan referenced that it had to do with a friendship with a company that he had disclosed.    He told the commission the name of his attorney and urged them to contact him for information about the suit.

Kaplan referred to the references that he provided, one of which is an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the United States Department of Justice.  He urged the commission to contact them also.  “The truth is I’ve done nothing wrong and got caught in a very bad political situation,” Kaplan said adding, “You cannot believe everything you read on Google.”

The experience listed on her resume dates back to 1995 starting as an executive director for a research organization. She has served as County Administration Coordinator in Illinois and Wisconsin, both of which were for two years. From there she was in California as a County Executive Officer for three years. She has served in the role as township manager or city manager four other times.

Capela has experience in the areas of financials, bonding, grant writing, water and sewer, and public management as a whole. She feels that the job of City Manager is that of a traffic manager with information gathering and dissemination.  She feels the key to success is good communication.

She says of her employees she expects three things, to show up, to pay attention, and to be motivated.  She considers herself to be a teacher at this point in her career, given the number of years of experience she has.

She spoke with familiarity on grant writing, funding programs through the government, union negotiations, financial accountability, leadership, and budgets from creation to execution.

Asked by Commissioner Hehl about what some might see as a lot of movement in jobs, she answered that it shows flexibility and that she has walked into a lot of states and worked in public administration, ultimately just giving her more experience. She added that sometimes that has to do with frequent changes in the elected governmental body as well.

Following the interviews, the City Commission decided to do background and reference checks on all of the interviewed candidates. Mayor Dave Brinker reminded them that one of the other top four candidates was not available for interviews on that date and time but did offer to do an interview via Skype or would even drive the 10 hours it would take to come up for an interview in person.

Brinker said the commission should take the week, think about it and hopefully by next week’s regular meeting they can have the background work done and can pass that info on the commission as a whole.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

164 years of Valentines… live, laugh, love

By Kristy Noack

It is that time of year when Brach’s candy conversation hearts join other sugary treats on the store shelves. The time of year when the color red is celebrated and hearts festooned with glitter make their appearance on Hallmark cards. It is Valentine’s Day and what better way to celebrate hugs and kisses, romanticism, and Cupid than to peek into the lives of three long-wed couples who share their secrets to long-lasting love.


Judy Loomis can still remember the day she met her future husband, Art. “He had a fabulous convertible which would turn any girl’s head,” she said with a smile. Art bowled in a league; Judy’s dad rolled a ball down the same lanes on the same night. Judy, a self-described romantic, shared, “We went out and I knew without a doubt that this was the man I wanted to marry.”

53 YEARS OF LOVE… Judy and Art Loomis of Hartford have 53 years of love to celebrate this Valentine’s Day. The couple went on their first date on September 19, 1962, was engaged to be married on December 19, 1962, and married on October 19, 1963. (Contributed photo)

Early on, Judy was impressed with Art’s quiet devotion to his work and his life.

Art’s favorite quality about Judy was – and continues to be – her personality.

Their first date took place on September 19, 1962.  At that time, Judy was a beautician at Martha’s Beauty Salon, while Art worked at the Watervliet Paper Mill. Three scant months later, on December 19, Art proposed marriage to Judy. “I was going into barber school when I asked (her),” he said. The two married on October 19, 1963 after he completed his training.

After 53 years of marriage, the two have learned how to make a relationship work. “The secret to marriage is understanding, learning each other’s faults,” Judy shared.

Art agreed. “A lot (of the success) has to do with having a close family and you have to get along.”

“Marriage is a work in progress,” Judy continued. “There is no magic. Life is not a movie. It’s about loving each other for the special qualities they have.  It’s in your love’s endurance.”

Art and Judy have four daughters: Lisa, Heidi, Amy, and Abby, and 10 grandchildren. “There’s something going on in the family all the time,” Art chuckled.

The couple is very involved in the community. To this day you can still find Art lowering men’s ears on Main Street in Watervliet, while Judy is a board member of the Hartford Public Schools Foundation for Quality Education. The two also spend lots of time with their family, including acting as official babysitters for the grands.

Fifty-three years of togetherness and working for a common goal has not always been easy. “As you grow,” Judy commented, “you change. You change your likes, your dislikes.” But, the couple is ever mindful of letting the other grow. Acquiring new interests, growing in the marriage, does not change the fundamental reason for getting married. As Judy said, “Love is not a desire of the body; it is a desire of the heart.”

The couple, residents of Hartford, has grown throughout their fifty-plus years of marriage. They grew from a couple into parents, from parents into grandparents, from full-time employment into retirement and part-time employment.  They grew from two into a house full which then became a house empty and is now one in between.

Above all, love is at the heart of any marriage. The love found in a glance or felt in a look. Judy, remarking on the length and strength of her marriage to Art, pauses. “He can still make my heart flutter.”


Tom and Carol Sackett of Watervliet were united in marriage on September 21, 1962 by a Justice of the Peace. They have no official wedding photo marking one of the most important days in their life, no honeymoon souvenirs, no receipt from a reception location, but they really do not need them. Those details are not what make a marriage. The duo remembers every detail of their courtship, wedding day, and the feelings that accompanied both. They remember the things that matter.

LOVE AND LAUGHTER FOR 54 YEARS… Watervliet’s Carol and Tom Sackett will mark their 54th Valentine’s Day together next week. The couple, married on September 21, 1962 and still sparkle when they speak about their partner, con-siders laughter a key component to marriage. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

The two met at First Assembly Church in Kalamazoo, a city they originally called home. After high school, Tom had a secret. So did Carol. He liked her but did not tell her. She liked him but kept quiet the same. As Carol said, grinning, the two had “secret inclinations toward each other.”

It was Carol’s eyes that first found their way to Tom’s heart. “She has the bluest eyes. It wasn’t the light that came out of her eyes but the light in them” that struck his fancy, he recalled. Plus, “she had a cute little sense of humor.”

Carol found something in Tom as well. “He was quiet. I sensed a deep strength in him, even back before we were dating.”

So, the two began a courtship. Tom had a car and sometimes it was just the two of them cruising town. Other times, friends or other couples tagged along. Tom knew it was love when “she was the one I dropped off last.”

From their first kiss to a marriage proposal, a scant four to five months passed. Tom said, “I remember asking her mom and dad for her hand. I had a lot of respect for her dad and his family.”

Amid wedding planning, Carol and Tom took stock of their love, their future, and what they wanted. They decided to forego the cake tasting and selection of invitations and eloped. And, later this fall, the couple will celebrate 55 years of marriage.

“One of the secrets of maintaining a relationship is we have a date night every Friday night,” Tom shared. You might find the pair at Tosi’s, their favorite haunt, or in Lawton trying out a restaurant, or just holding hands and laughing.

That is two things Tom and Carol still do like the young couple they used to be: hold hands and laugh. The couple sparkled while talking about each other. Their eyes shone, and even a few tears were shed when talking about their life together.

They relayed stories of their youthful, harmless, fun pranks; they recalled moments with friends, vehicles with rusted out floorboards, and making a home together. Throughout the shared stories and looks of love, they laughed.

For their 50th anniversary, the two renewed their vows and after celebrated with dinner at Tosi’s. Carol said, “It didn’t seem like 50 years then. It doesn’t seem like 55 now.

“One of the basic things (couples have to do) is learn forgiveness. Sometimes (marriage) is really hard. You just have to love each other.”

Neither Tom nor Carol ever looked at marriage as short-term. “Be prepared for a long life,” Carol said. “This is permanent. You have a forever partner.”

Tom concurred. “Working through (marriage) you get a sense of how valuable it is.”

The couple is parents to Brad, Cheryl, and Wendi, grandparents of 12, and great-grandparents of four.

Tom is a longtime employee of Lane Automotive. Carol taught at Montessori School in Benton Harbor and retired in 2004 after 27 years.

After remembering some of their favorite memories over the past five decades, the two paused and shared a smile. They expressed gratefulness at the longevity of their marriage. They attributed their success, in part, to their strong faith. But above all, they are thankful for each day they can spend together as a couple. As Carol summed it up, “We don’t know how long we have, but we’re going to make the most of it.”


The life and love between Keith and Grace Duffield can be documented by the numbers.

AN EXTRA SPECIAL VALENTINE… Keith and Grace Duffield of Coloma will celebrate 57 years of marriage on Valentine’s Day this year. In 1960, the couple wed on the holiday at Salem Lutheran Church in Coloma and then renewed their vows at the church on February 13, 2010 when they celebrated their 50th anniversary. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

On Tuesday, February 14, 2017, the happy couple will have been married 57 years. That equals 20,819 days of wedded bliss. The Duffields were joined in matrimony at Salem Lutheran Church in Coloma on Valentine’s Day in 1960. They renewed their vows 50 years later on February 13, 2010 at the same location where their married life began.

Keith and Grace are both members of the Coloma High School Class of 1956, two of 56 students, which made it easier to know of each other.

As young boys in school are wont to do, they often tease the young girl they fancy. Or, as Grace recalled more succinctly and with a laugh, “He kept poking me.”

According to Keith, that was just to get her attention because, as he recalled, “She was going with a guy.”

The two became friends which soon evolved into dating one another. Back then, Grace shared, “He trapped foxes and sold the pelts for $5. That was our date money.”

Dating led to a proposal that Grace did not see coming. She recalled that often Keith would enlist the help of his mother to buy Grace a present. This time, Grace wanted Keith to select a present himself. “I used to tell him, don’t get me any candy. Keith, just go pick out a card. You pick it out; don’t have your mom pick it out. I want it to come from you.”

One day, Keith is driving and he looks over to his passenger Grace and says, “I didn’t know what to get you. So my mom got you something. It’s in the glove box.”

Grace, as expected, was, shall we say, bothered by the fact that there, in the glove box right in front of her, is another gift from Keith that his mom picked out. Grace opened up the glove box and the present and there it was: an engagement ring; selected by Keith. Laughing, Grace said, “He knew how to push my buttons!”

So, the two got married. They had three children, Brian, Allison, and Jeff. The family of five made their home in Coloma. They have spent over five decades sharing, caring, and creating a solid foundation based on love.

Grace said, “(Marriage) is a lot of give and take. It’s never going to be one-sided.

“When you’re younger, everything is bigger. You want what everyone else has –a bigger house, a nicer car. But, it takes patience. You don’t have to have it all right now.”

Keith agrees that every marriage will require work. The benefit the Duffields had, according to him, was they “knew each other’s background. We just work things out.”

The couple enjoys bus trips with the Coloma Senior Center, camping with family, and traveling. They have traversed the United States from Alaska to Maine to Florida and points in between.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Keith smiled at his bride of over five decades. “We’ve had a good life,” Grace concurred. They have a great love.

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are one half of a whole or newly engaged or hitting the dating scene with a new lease on life, remember the words from our happy couples. Marriage takes work. Marriage is a commitment. Marriage is not just about the love you feel today.

It is a bond that can bring you peace and comfort and stability during difficult times. It can fill you with an enormous capacity of love and laughter during shared moments of joy. It is a legacy, an example you will leave to your children, family, or friends. Love is capable of all things – forgiveness, healing, happiness. And although it is revered on Valentine’s Day, great love should be celebrated every day.