Ludington mayor candidate profile: Mark Barnett

June 6, 2022

Mark Barnett

Ludington mayor candidate profile: Mark Barnett

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Residents of the City of Ludington will vote for mayor during the Nov. 8, 2022 General Election. The Ludington mayor serves a four year term and is allowed to serve three consecutive terms. The term begins on Jan. 1. Ludington’s form of government is council-manager, meaning the city manager, not the mayor, is the chief executive of the city, appointed by the council. The mayor, instead, helps guide the council and presides over city council, which is comprised of six councilors who each represent one of the six city wards and a councilor-at-large. The mayor is only allowed to vote in the case of a tie vote. The mayor also appoints councilors to committees, decides who will chair those committees. The mayor also recommends appointment of citizens to various city commissions and committees, with the approval of the council.  

This year, there are two candidates for the mayor seat, incumbent Steve Miller and former Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett. MCP has interviewed both candidates and is presenting their interviews separately. This is part two of the two part series, an interview with Barnett; the first featuring Miller. 

Mark Barnett and his wife, Lisa, and three children moved to Ludington in 2001 when he was hired as the chief of Ludington Police Department. Barnett went on to serve in that role for over 19 years, retiring in 2020. 

“Lisa and I still marvel at how well we were accepted by the community,” Barnett said. “We had the opportunity to raise our kids here. They are now adults and two of three of them continue to live here and serve the community. That says a lot to us that they call this home. My job allowed me to provide for my family. I’ve been involved in community service for 43 years and have had the opportunity to view how critical it is working as a team to accomplish objectives, working with issues. 

“One person can’t go out and solve all issues. In Ludington all the councilors have a vote and the mayor doesn’t. That’s by design. The mayor sets the agenda and helps guide the vision of the city in partnership with the council, the city manager, the staff and, of course, the citizens. I had the honor to sit alongside the council for 19 years and observe almost all its meetings during that time. I am very familiar with the procedures of the council and offer the leadership skills to help guide it.”

Barnett said he starting thinking about running for mayor after he retired from the police department. He said he has spoken with each of the city councilors along with city staff and has asked them about their goals and visions for Ludington. 

“There are some specific topics that most spoke of,” Barnett said. “The local brownfield authority, which is being established in collaboration with the City of Scottville and Pere Marquette Charter Township, is one that most spoke of. That’s more short term and will be most likely be in place prior to the end of this current year. “Just about everybody spoke about infrastructure improvements, the city charter review and housing, particularly the need for affordable housing. However, affordable housing means different things to different people.”

Barnett said the topic of allowing marijuana facilities in the city is another short term item that was brought up frequently by those he spoke with. Currently the City of Ludington has an ordinance that bans recreational marijuana facilities within the city limits. The city also does not allow medical marijuana facilities. The current city council is in the process of creating an ad hoc committee to review the topic, as it did three years ago. Barnett said he estimates that the topic will be decided by the council, one way or another, prior to the end of this year and therefore does not consider it a campaign issue. 

Barnett said the topic of housing is directly connected with the city’s ability to retain its current staffing — along with the city and Mason County being able to maintain employment levels in general. 

“As the city looks at hiring new employees, it’s crucial that those new employees are able to find affordable housing,” Barnett said. “Clearly, that’s an important topic that directly impacts the city’s ability to provide quality services to its citizens.” 

Barnett said he sees the role of the mayor as being a person who presides over the council and works alongside the councilors and the city manager to set the goals and policies of the city. He also sees the role of the mayor as someone who is available to listen to the concerns of the citizens. 

Barnett said he believes his 43 years experience in law enforcement have prepared him to lead the city. “I believe strongly in the form of city government that Ludington follows, which is having a council-manager government,” Barnett said. “I do not believe the mayor should be involved in the day-to-day operations of the city but rather to serve as the chair of the council and as a representative of the people. My experience in law enforcement, particularly in leadership, has prepared me to help guide the council and also gives me a perspective of somebody who has extensive knowledge in city government.” 

Barnett was recently elected to the city’s charter commission and said, if elected as mayor, will continue to serve on that commission until he is sworn in as mayor. Charter commissioners are not allowed to serve in any capacity in city government, according to state statute. 

 

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