SETTLING IN

Nate Heffron holds meet-and-greet with residents, community leaders

Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron, left, talks to Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch during a meet-and-greet at the Negaunee Senior Center on Tuesday. Heffron started working for the city in January. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron said he is excited to engage in a collaborative effort to build on momentum the city has already established.

Dozens of Negaunee residents and community leaders came out on Tuesday to meet Heffron, who took the reins in late January.

Heffron said he has spoken to several boards and organizations in the city and surrounding communities, but he welcomed the opportunity to engage with residents.

“I think it’s important that people get to see the face of their city manager,” Heffron said. “Hopefully they see me as someone who is approachable and we can work together in this community.”

Heffron said while he has a few areas of focus, he will not squelch efforts that are already happening in the city.

He wants to drive economic improvement in the city, especially the downtown area and the U.S. 41 corridor.

“One of the things I am very impressed with Negaunee so far — which makes my job 10 times easier — is that most of the downtown is full with businesses. We have lots of great committees and organizations involved with things across the board,” Heffron said. “I want to express that this is everybody’s community. So we kind of have to get out there and listen to what people have to say before we make any plans.”

A key part of that development could lie in convincing Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. to reopen the Empire Mine, Heffron said.

“We are having a meeting tomorrow with a bunch of managers to try to see what direction we can go, and see what we can do to get the state involved in some capacity,” he said. “I think that is going to be important. If we can accomplish that, that would be a lot of jobs coming back, and a big economic boost to all the communities in the area. And hopefully we can build off of that for future economic possibilities.”

In addition to economic development, Heffron said he would like to focus on the elimination of blight in the city, but that process will be designed to involve members of the Negaunee community by way of a blight committee.

“It is not going to simply be — ‘I think there’s blight,’ or two people from the community come and say they think there’s blight,” Heffron said. “We’re going to investigate it a little bit, we are going to come up with some recommendations for the council, and then it will be their prerogative whether they want to pass an ordinance and follow the recommendations of the special committee I will be creating.”

Heffron said the workings of government should be as visible and inclusive to residents as possible, and communication is key.

“I do look forward to being as transparent as possible because if you work in any type of government organization,” Heffron said. “I have expressed this to the council that there needs to be better relations between the city manager’s office and the council itself, and one way that we are going to accomplish that is holding some workshops that are going to be open to the public, open to the council so that we can have everybody more involved in the decision making of how we are going to operate our community.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.