Community Celebrates 25 Years of Public Service to East Grand Rapids
After a career in public service for more than 35 years, East Grand Rapids City Manager Brian D. Donovan announced he will retire from his role this coming winter.
City manager since 1993, Donovan has fostered a culture of strong service, fiscal responsibility and innovative thinking among the 67-fulltime staff members in East Grand Rapids. Under his leadership, numerous capital projects were implemented and significant financial decisions made, including:
- The Community Center redevelopment in 2006, which included successfully raising more than $1 million in private funds and passing a millage in 2004 to connect the city hall and library into one renovated and expanded community center.
- Moving city staff from defined benefit to defined contribution retirement plans in 1999, which allows the city to better budget for benefits.
- Reactivating the Gaslight Village Business District through a redevelopment and streetscape overhaul in 2005.
- Managing the city through the 2008 foreclosure crisis and severe revenue declines due to the Headlee Act and Proposal A with no reduction in services and no layoffs.
- Redeveloping city parks, including the upgrade of John Collins Park along Reeds Lake in 2000 and successfully competing the redevelopment effort of Waterfront Park Phase I in 2011.
- Leading the city through two master plan processes, including the Gaslight Village sub-area plan update.
- Formalizing the Reeds Lake Trail into a comprehensive system, including path construction, boardwalk expansion and bridge creation, through a public-private partnership.
- Working to update almost 50 miles of road and 80 miles of sidewalk within the city limits after the street and sidewalk millage passed in 2015.
“Brian has been a tremendous asset and advocate for the City of East Grand Rapids during his tenure here,” said Mayor Amna Seibold. “He has brought not only strong skills and expertise as a city administrator, but has truly put his heart and soul into making our community a better place to live.
“His leadership has guided us through big decisions and challenging times, and along the way he has always kept a forward-thinking mindset of how we can continue to improve quality of life for our residents and visitors. On behalf of the commission, staff and residents of East Grand Rapids, I give my sincerest gratitude to Brian for his unwavering dedication to our community.”
A native of Cincinnati, Donovan held a number of municipal government positions in Liberty, Missouri, , Oklahoma City and Elgin, Illinois before becoming the city manager of Charleston, Missouri in 1990. He joined the City of East Grand Rapids on Nov. 1, 1993.
Donovan has received a number of awards for his public service, including the 2013 Outstanding Service Award from the Michigan Municipal League in recognition of exceptional contributions to state and local affairs initiatives and the 2007 Civil Libertarian of the Year from the Western Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
His leadership was felt not only throughout the East Grand Rapids community, but the greater metro area and beyond as well. Donovan serves on the board and executive committee of the Grand Valley Metro Council and has passed served as president of the West Michigan Local Government Manager’s Association and Lower Grand River Association of Watersheds. He has also served on the board of the Right Place and Guardian Angel Homes.
Nationally, Donovan served on the advisory board of International City Management Association Retirement Corporation, which manages and administers retirement plans for public sector employees.
“Twenty-five years at the City of East Grand Rapids has taught me a lot about how dedicated our staff, commissions and residents are to building a community we can all be proud of,” Donovan said. “It has truly been an honor and privilege to be the manager of such an exceptional community. I could not have asked for a better experience and look forward to seeing how our community continues to progress.”
“I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the staff in East Grand Rapids – the talent, drive and dedication to local government displayed in each of our employees motivated and inspired me everyday. The many projects we’ve executed during my time here would not have been accomplished if it weren’t for the collaborative and energetic efforts of our high-caliber team.
“I feel confident in the team we have built and know that East Grand Rapids is in good hands.”
Donovan holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Miami University in Ohio and a master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas. He is a credentialed manager with the International City/County Manager’s Association.
Donovan has lived in East Grand Rapids with his wife, Sherri, for 25 years. The couple has three adult daughters Erin, Eileen and Glenna. In retirement, Donovan plans to stay active within the local community, utilizing his strong managerial and financial skills for charitable and not-for-profit work.
“We realize how difficult it is going to be to find Brian’s successor as city manager,” Seibold said. “He has left the city in a much better place than when he started here – and we’re grateful for that. He is leaving big shoes to fill.”
The city commission plans to develop a process to replace Donovan in the coming months. Information on the search will be released after plans have been finalized.