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New Leadership In Battle Creek Tackling Old Problems

Posted at 10:55 PM, Nov 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-12 22:55:44-05

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –  For the first time in four years, the city of Battle Creek will be under new leadership.  The city commission held its first meeting since election day and the first matter of business was to decide who the new mayor and vice mayor should be.

Soon after election day, FOX 17 spoke with Susan Baldwin about her decision to remain on the council but no longer serve as mayor.  She said she wanted more time to spend with her family and said the job of mayor requires someone who is willing to give it their full attention at all times.

All nine commissioners were asked to vote for mayor, and Commissioner David Walters received five or the nine votes and was elected.  The same for Deb Owens, who was elected vice-mayor.

Mayor Walters was first appointed to the commission in 2010 and then won re-election in 2012 and earlier this month.

He said he’s well aware of what is working in the city and what still needs to be fixed.

“I’m just really looking forward to continuing the good things that have been going on and my main focus right now is for Deb and I to clear up any communication issues between the commission and the city administration.”

A lack of communication that some would argue was on display during allegations of police department corruption and cover-ups that were brought to light when two off-duty officers were involved in a drunk driving accident in July 2012.

An internal investigation showed others within the department attempted to cover up the incident leading to suspensions and demotions.  At the time, some city commissioners said they were the last to know about it.

“It’s a transparency thing,” said Mayor Walters.  “But it’s also about getting good, clean, right information out to the city as soon as we can.”

Walters said he has plans to address the communication issue between the city commissioners and the city manager’s office.

Next week an outside professional communication group will be asked to attend a commission workshop hoping to bridge the communication gap.

“Shame on me if we just jump into some changes that are just knee-jerk,” said Walters.  “I don’t want to do that.  I want to get the communication system going better first.  As soon as we get that in place, if there are any changes they will come out.”

As for Susan Baldwin’s role as a commissioner, she told FOX 17 her attention will be to grow the downtown Battle Creek area, particularly looking at attracting new businesses without having to be concerned about the day-to-day operations of the city.