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March 15, 2013

Utica mayor rethinking retirement plans

By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer

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Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan, pictured at the Jan. 23 Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Heritage Luncheon, said she is rethinking her plans to retire after her current term in office.

A politician changing his or her mind is hardly unusual, but when Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan says she is rethinking her retirement plans, people are going to listen.

Noonan, who said her 13th term as mayor would be her last after winning election unopposed in 2011, told the Utica City Council March 12 that she is rethinking whether or not to walk away from her post atop the city’s government because of continued fiscal obstacles facing the city.

“While I did announce I would not run again, I am literally in the process of rethinking that,” Noonan said March 15. “I would be surprised if we have anyone run, because it’s a very difficult job right now.

“I am not saying I am completely decided in my course of action,” Noonan added. “But right now I’m not as committed to being gone as I was a month ago.”

The deadline for Noonan, who as recently as the Jan. 23 Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry Heritage Luncheon said she was not going to run again, to declare her intentions for the 2013 election is Aug. 14, when she must file with the Macomb County Clerk’s office.

Noonan cited issues such as contract negotiations with four of the city’s labor unions and the continually shrinking general fund balance as primary reasons why it would be hard to walk away at this time.

“I’m looking at all the alternatives and it has to do with all the difficult situations communities are in,” Noonan said in reference to issues such as decreases in revenue from sources including the personal property tax.

“And I’m not looking to move out of Utica when I leave, and with that in mind, I’m trying to make a final decision.”

While Noonan hasn’t fully committed to running for re-election Nov. 5, at least one local business leader would welcome her return with open arms.

“If that’s being talked about by the mayor, I would fully encourage that,” said Joseph Mayernik, who owns the Shamrock Pub and is president of the city’s Downtown Development Authority. “I have always supported Jackie Noonan. I think she has always been a tremendous influence for not just the city, but the entire surrounding area.

“She gets it, and she has the background and education,” Mayernik added. “She’s like a sponge with knowledge, facts and figures, and she knows what’s going on. She’s one of the brightest politicians that any small city or any city would be happy to have.”

Mayernik said he understands the trials facing Noonan and the rest of Utica’s government and how that might be a deterrent for a would-be first-time mayoral candidate.

“The real reason you might not have more people put their hat in the ring is because of the real strict economic times,” Mayernik said. “So many places are strapped that it’s very, very difficult to jump into that situation without knowing everything and how it works.

“(Noonan) knows how to go about what to do and how to pull the right strings to keep the city going. It’s quite possible that everyone is afraid (to run for mayor) because they know how tough the job is these days.”

Noonan has said that if there is someone else interested in running for mayor, she would be open to serving as a mentor for the individual, if she does decide against returning for a 14th term in office.

Of course, finding someone willing to take on the challenges of the job and follow Noonan’s popular tenure in Utica could be easier said than done.

“Utica mayor, Shelby Township supervisor or Sterling Heights mayor, those are tough jobs, and I commend anyone that wants to get off their couch and try,” Mayernik said. “People think these are not really difficult positions, but they are.

“Everyone wants to complain, but there are few people that get out there and try to govern, and you’ve got to commend anyone that gets off their couch and does it. You can argue with and debate with them, but those people that do it should be given a round of applause.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brad D. Bates at bbates@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.