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Grosse Pointe Shores council candidates discuss backgrounds, ideas

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 18, 2020

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Grosse Pointe Shores officials and residents had an opportunity to hear from at least a couple of the candidates vying for a vacant Shores City Council seat during a special council meeting Feb. 11.

Sandra Cavataio and Sean Schotthoefer talked about their backgrounds and why they applied for the council seat at the meeting. They are two of what Mayor Ted Kedzierski said are the five candidates who applied for the council seat that was left vacant when City Councilman Bruce Bisballe stepped down Nov. 19.

The council scheduled a special work session Feb. 11 so that the candidates could address the council and respond to questions from council members. Officials said all of the candidates were invited to participate in the special meeting.

Cavataio, a consultant with a finance and engineering background who runs her own company, has worked with major corporations such as General Motors Co. and International Paper. She said she worked as a financial analyst for many years and has been hired by companies “to make them more efficient” and find ways to save money.

“I’m used to looking at the whole entire system … and doing it as a team approach,” said Cavataio of her consulting work, noting that she likes to talk to employees within a company. “I’ll look at everything and see what areas need improvement.”

Although Cavataio said she hasn’t volunteered for anything in the Shores, she said she has been active over the years with a number of nonprofits and with Grosse Pointe Academy. She has lived in the Shores for about 20 years and is a former member of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.

“I’m passionate about the city as well as serving the public,” Cavataio said.

Schotthoefer grew up in Grosse Pointe Woods and has lived in the Shores since 2012. He’s one of the owners of Doetsch Environmental Services, an underground infrastructure firm that’s been in his family for five generations and was started in 1898 by his great-grandfather. Like Cavataio, he said he hasn’t been involved in any Shores committees or the nonprofit Grosse Pointe Shores Improvement Foundation, but Schotthoefer said he served as commodore of the GPYC in 2018; during his tenure leading the GPYC, he said, he tried to improve the club’s relationship with the city.

“Between the two entities, I think there’s a lot we can offer,” he said.

His company cleans and televises sewers and performs related work; Schotthoefer said they were one of the firms that was hired to repair the Macomb County sinkhole on 15 Mile Road.

“You’ve got to have a plan in place (for the underground infrastructure),” Schotthoefer said.

Kedzierski said Bisballe’s departure “left a big void” on the council because of Bisballe’s financial expertise, so that’s one of the skills the council is looking for in his replacement. City Councilman Matthew Seely said the council needs to find “someone who can hit the ground running,” and asked both candidates what they feel the city’s biggest financial challenges are.

Because the Shores is landlocked and developed, Schotthoefer said the city’s main source of income — property taxes — is only going to increase about 2.5% each year, so the city either needs to find areas where it can trim costs or ways it can increase revenue. He said that public safety and public works aren’t really viable places to reduce expenses. Schotthoefer suggested that perhaps the city could consider working with the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House to develop the vacant land across from the estate that is currently used for overflow parking.

“I know we don’t want to start bringing in business, but that’s on the north end (of the city),” Schotthoefer said.

Ford House officials had briefly mulled a small hotel for that property a number of years ago, but outcry from neighbors quashed that idea before it ever got off the ground.

“We cannot increase the revenue because we do not have the businesses like the Farms and the City,” said Cavataio. She said the only option is to “reduce costs” because she isn’t in favor of increasing taxes.

Both candidates said they have flexible work schedules. Cavataio said she only has one teenager still at home, while Schotthoefer said that although he’s the parent of two young children, he’s used to multitasking and juggled the busy commodore role as a parent.

The City Council was expected to select a new council member during its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 18. The Feb. 20 edition of the Grosse Pointe Times went to press before that vote took place.

Whoever is named to Bisballe’s seat will serve the remainder of his term, which is slated to expire in November 2021.

Seely said he didn’t feel the council should allow the other applicants to give a presentation at the Feb. 18 council meeting, because they failed to come to the special meeting and none of them contacted Shores officials to give a reason why they couldn’t appear Feb. 11. Others on the council informally agreed, and pointed out that Cavataio and Schotthoefer both have impressive backgrounds.

“Both of you are very strong candidates,” Kedzierski said.

City Councilman Doug Kucyk, who also helps the Shores Beautification Commission plant flowers around the city before Memorial Day, urged the candidates to join in that day. Volunteers are always needed and welcome for the annual planting event, which helps to beautify the city. He encouraged the candidates to find other ways to get involved with their community as well.

“We’re going to be selecting somebody, but that doesn’t mean it ends there (for the people who aren’t selected),” Kucyk said.