East Lansing, MI – East Lansing has a new city manager. In a unanimous decision, the city council chose George Lahanas. He's acted as interim city manager since October. He's served East Lansing for 13 years, having previously worked as a labor relations specialist and deputy city manager. Lahanas says he's looking forward to working with the council on a permanent basis.
GEORGE LAHANAS: It's a challenging position to attain, and I'm very pleased with the outcome and the waiting was worth it. And I appreciate the confidence of the city council and look forward to serving.
KEVIN LAVERY: What do you think are the top three issues right now facing the city, and (what's) your plan for resolving them?
LAHANAS: Well, I think the top issue facing the issue of East Lansing has been the budget challenges we've been facing over the past four to five years in particular. With the decline in the housing market, East Lansing has had some decline in property taxes, we've also suffered from some cuts to state shared revenue. I think that's probably the biggest number one issue we've been facing. Also, along those same lines have been challenges regarding providing the same level of services that our residents have come to know and enjoy. And I think that's our challenge going forward, is to make certain that we can keep East Lansing the great community that our residents know and expect and love, and we look forward to that.
LAVERY: How will you continue to represent East Lansing citizens to the legislature? You mentioned shared revenue payments; certainly a very large issue. What's your plans for making the citizens' voices heard at the Capitol?
LAHANAS: I think it's important just to remind the state legislators that local governments provide services that impact people's day-to-day lives, and that these services: fire, police, streets, sanitation; all these services are critical to our residents, and to remind them that fully funding those services really impact people's day-to-day lives in a positive way, and that cities are building the future of Michigan. That's a great investment in our future.
LAVERY: Contract negotiations are a big part of the city manager's job; eight union contracts in the coming year will be up for re-negotiation. What's your approach to labor contract re-negotiation, and how will you be preparing for those?
LAHANAS: It's actually been an area of emphasis for me over the past 13 years. We have a great relationship with our eight labor unions. We've partnered with them on issues of health care and controlling costs. So I think we have a great relationship. In the past we've been able to work very productively together through issues regarding budget challenges, and I look forward to continuing that in the upcoming negotiations.
LAVERY: You've been the interim manager for some time, and certainly you've cultivated some partnerships in the community. Will there be any new partnerships that you will have to work on developing to continue to work on those top issues that you talked about?
LAHANAS: Well, I think obviously being the home to Michigan State University, that is a very important relationship to us; we have a great relationship with Michigan State University and that's something we certainly will continue in that great spirit of cooperation. We also have great cooperation with our neighbors; Meridian Township and the city of Lansing, Ingham County; we have a lot of shared service initiatives that we're currently working on, things already in progress and things we've accomplished that we'll keep moving along on. So, with all our regional partners we'll keep moving forward. We have great relationships and we look forward to continuing those.
LAVERY: You probably heard this during the interview process - how will the citizens of East Lansing know a year from now that you were the right choice for this community?
LAHANAS: I think really it's keeping East Lansing the way our residents have known and come to expect it to be. Our commitment to parks and recreation, to arts, also our great commitment to public services and public safety that East Lansing will be the same safe, great community that they know and love. Obviously we have budget challenges, but within those budget challenges we have to continue to provide the services and keep making East Lansing the great community that people have come to expect.