Erik Rick is sworn in as a member of the Mount Clemens City Commission by City Clerk Cathleen Martin Feb. 23.

Erik Rick is sworn in as a member of the Mount Clemens City Commission by City Clerk Cathleen Martin Feb. 23.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Rick appointed to Mount Clemens City Commission

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published March 3, 2023


MOUNT CLEMENS — Anyone who has seen a Mount Clemens City Commission meeting in the past year knows who Erik Rick is. Introducing himself by his name and address, he has made good use of his allocated public comment minutes to speak on a variety of city issues.

Starting in March, observers will get to see him on the other end of the exchange between city commissioners and members of the audience.

“It feels good,” Rick said on becoming the newest member of the City Commission. “It’s a bit of a responsibility that I will take seriously, but it feels good.”

One of five applicants to vie for Denise Mentzer’s vacant seat, Rick was unanimously appointed on the first ballot at a special meeting of the commission Feb. 23, besting former commissioners and former commission hopefuls for the role.

A lifelong resident of Mount Clemens, Rick became interested in municipal government after returning home from the Navy in 2019.

“A few years ago, I started paying attention to what was going on, got on the Planning Commission, started going to the meetings, and it just kind of built from there,” Rick said.

Rick’s role on the Planning Commission made him familiar with how municipal government works, and it made him a familiar face to those within the government. And while working on the Planning Commission did not frequently put him face-to-face with city commissioners, Mayor Laura Kropp and city managers, Rick made up for it by becoming a frequent attender and public commentator at meetings.

“If there’s something that I feel like I can ask about or express my opinion as a resident, then I’ll do it, and that’s the venue for it,” Rick said.

While the official call for candidates to fill Mentzer’s seat did not come until after her election to the Michigan House of Representatives, Rick began pondering whether to volunteer for the vacated seat when Mentzer was still campaigning.

“When (Mentzer) was up for election everybody kind of knew the spot would be open, so we all had some time to consider it,” Rick said. “I talked with my family, got my permission slip signed by my wife. So I kind of knew (Mentzer’s election) was coming and thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and see how it goes.’”

Ultimately, it turned out well for Rick. He had already left an impression on Kropp well before the vacancy was called, citing a “level headedness” he would bring to meetings when he spoke up.

“(Rick is) somebody who takes in information, really processes things and tries to be a solution seeker,” Kropp said. “He understands, having been raised in Mount Clemens and returning here with his family, I think he really understands our trials and tribulations we’ve been through, and also our uniqueness to Macomb County. I think he really has a firm grasp of that.”

One example that stood out to Kropp about Rick’s level-headed approach to municipal issues was the question of whether to bond out and build a new water treatment plant or switch to the Great Lakes Water Authority as the city’s water provider. While Rick joined with many people and the majority of the commission to support building a plant, he gave support to the board when new information about the city’s finances proved that was impossible.

“It was a complicated situation that as the city moved through it, they discovered additional restrictions and constraints that nobody knew about,” Rick said. “Ultimately, they came to one decision they could viably make, short of trying to take GLWA to court, and even then would likely not have won.”

The city lacked the ability to bond for the plant and have cash reserves, and the resulting decision is one Rick understands and accepts.

“We can’t realistically bond for our full debt capacity for one project and then have no room for additional debt should there be any issues,” Rick said. “Especially when that project is a big piece of infrastructure that in itself may be one of the things that needs an additional loan to fix something.”

Rick’s ultimate goal for being part of the board is to help the city keep moving in what he sees as the right direction.

“The general direction the city is heading is (that) things are getting better,” Rick said. “It may be two steps forward (and) one step back, but that’s still over the long term moving in the right direction. We’re getting more grants. We’re seeing more storefronts filled downtown. ... Seeing the recreation program come back and expand has been awesome. There’s a lot of good stuff happening here.”

Another sign of the city’s improving direction is the growing number of young people getting involved in city traditions.

“The Santa Parade kind of had some issues there for a year or so, but they pulled it together, and now you’ve got a younger crowd of folks learning from the older crowd of folks to take the Santa Parade forward over the next decades,” Rick said. “I’m hoping we’ll see some more stuff with all of our keystone events here in Mount Clemens. But the fact that it’s happening with one of our biggest events is a good sign.”

Rick was sworn in on the night of Feb. 23 and has worked with Kropp to be ready for his first meeting on Monday, March 6.

The seat he’ll serve in will be up in November 2023, and Rick will have to run for election if he would like to remain a city commissioner.