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New Grand Rapids deputy city manager: 'Grand Rapids is special'

Posted at 10:17 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 14:56:29-04

Kate Berens comes to West Michigan from the Seattle metropolitan area.

After three weeks on the job, Berens says her focus is on understanding more about the city by meeting with staff and commissioners.

Berens says her experience out in Washington is going to translate well here.

"So, Grand Rapids as a city and the commission is very supportive," Berens said.

Grand Rapids is throwing its support to Berens, a Michigan native from Midland.

She's coming back after working in Bellevue, Washington, for 20 years.

"At the time I was working for Bellevue, we faced many of the things that are happening in Grand Rapids. So, lots of really fast-paced growth, a lot of new jobs coming in, a lot of housing affordability challenges and a lot just housing availability in general."

According to the U.S. Census, Bellevue saw an almost 20% population bump from 2010 to 2020.

Grand Rapids is sitting at around a six-percent increase over the same time.

Still, Grand Rapids has around 46,000 more people than the Seattle suburb.

"At the core, there's that belief that Grand Rapids is special, and we just need to help other people understand how special it is and get people there to get people here," she said.

FOX 17 asked what she would like to get done in the next six months to a year. Her response was for us to follow up with her.

"You probably should check with me in about another month or so to have a better answer. Because, it would be a lot for me to step in and decide what I'd like to see happen without talking as much to the commissioners and the community about because really the job that I have is to help the community achieve what it's setting out to achieve," she added.

Berens is a University of Michigan law graduate. Her focus is on real estate and land-use law. She says her education and years of experience can help grow the city.

"We own economic incentives that we have our equity policies to really create inclusive economic development. And there's really interesting real estate transactions happening; there's really interesting conversations with the community happening and that's an area I really get excited about," Berens told FOX 17.

Berens succeeds Eric DeLong, who was in that position for 26 years.

Her starting salary is $178,000; it's the same as her predecessor.

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