South Haven city voters will head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 2 to decide who will be the next mayor and new city council member for Ward 2. Voters will also be asked whether to approve a five-year millage renewal to reduce narcotics-related crimes occurring in and around the City of South Haven. Polls are open at city hall, 539 Phoenix St. from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Mayoral race

South Haven Mayor Scott Smith will seek his third two-year term in office, but is being challenged by newcomer Ahmmad Goodwin.

Goodwin said he’s running for office because he wants to see change within city staff, the city council and the community.

“I’d like to see more diversity with jobs throughout our city staff,” he said. “Two, would be to push the city council to a new level, ensuring the public that they’re following through not only with words but with actions. Thirdly, to revamp our festivals with extended hours and new ideas to keep our summers filled with fun and recreation.”

Pressing issues facing the city include researching the best way to provide affordable housing for local residents, the need for more industry, eliminating the Broadway Avenue road diet and hiring properly trained and qualified lifeguards for the city’s two main beaches.

Goodwin served on the South Haven Housing Commission for 4 years. He is employed at Vibrocoustic’s test lab engineering facility in South Haven. He graduated from South Haven High School, and obtained an associate’s degree from Grand Rapids Community College and a certification in personal and physical conditioning from Blue Heron Academy.

Smith, who is finishing his second two-year term as mayor, said he is seeking re-election to continue making South Haven a good place for people to live.

"I want South Haven to be a community we are proud to call home," he said. "I believe we need to utilize a balanced approach to manage our year-round and seasonal economies. I will continue to make customer service and community input a priority. Government needs to work for all and as Mayor, I will continue to work hard to ensure all voices are heard."

Three pressing issues facing the city are economic development, a need for affordable housing and attracting new residents to the city, according to Smith.

"We need to help our existing businesses grow and continue to attract new businesses to make our economy less seasonal," he said. "I will continue to leverage the resources that are available at the local, county and state level to assist job growth in the area. We will continue to meet regularly with local businesses to ensure they are thriving. As part of this priority we will need to continue analyzing the impact of rentals on our housing market. The lack of quality workforce housing is a significant barrier to entry to our community. Our businesses are struggling to find labor and we need to continually look for solutions. It is essential that we balance the business of rentals with the needs of our neighborhoods and businesses."

To attract more people to the community the city needs to encourage the development of more types of housing, according to Smith.

"We will work with housing consultants, community groups and leaders as well as regional partners to identify potential funding solutions and opportunities to improve housing options in the city and surrounding area," he said. "We need to investigate what would drive residents — young professionals, workers, families and retirees — to move here on a year-round basis. We have a robust tourist economy but are struggling to maintain a year round population. We need to work with South Haven Public Schools, community groups, community leaders and regional partners to better understand the drivers to keep people in our community"

Smith is a member of the city’s parks commission. In the past, he has served on the city council, planning commission, zoning board of appeals, housing commission and Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum board.

He is an occupational therapist at Bronson South Haven Hospital and is also director of rehabilitation services for the hospital. He graduated from Alma College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and holds three master’s degrees in occupational therapy, public administration and business administration from Western Michigan University.

City council races

Ward 2 has the only contested race in the Nov. 2 election, where two newcomers — Kam Daugherty and Wendi Onuki will vie for the seat being vacated by Chris Campbell, who chose not to seek re-election.

Daugherty said she is running for office to help the community.

"South Haven is an incredibly special place and I'm honored to call it home," she said. "I have often wanted to give back to our community and my work related to beach safety measures opened up my eyes to the opportunity and value I can add by way of representation within City Council."

Three issues she plans to address if elected include improving transparency and communication between city government and the public; addressing affordable housing for middle income and workforce families, and increasing year-round residency in the city.

"I think transparency between our elected representatives, city staff and the public continues to be an opportunity for improvement in South Haven. I believe wholeheartedly that our elected representatives should be an extension of us as a community," she said.

She also wants to see the city step up efforts to address housing needs and in turn developing more of a year-round community.

"When looking at trends in home ownership and school enrollment in South Haven it is easy to see that we are trending towards a 'dying community.'  To begin to reverse this, a lot of factors will need to be addressed.  We need to explore ways to make home ownership more affordable for the middle class in South Haven and that goes beyond purchase price or monthly rent.  We need to look at city-controlled expenses such as utilities, property taxes and more. I'd like to begin to explore ways to realistically draw down the balance of short-term vs. long-term rentals."

Employed as a finance manager for Whirlpool Corp., Daugherty has served as a member of the South Haven Beach and Pier Safety committee in 2020-21. She also is a founding member and lead contributor to the South Haven Lifeguards in Full Effect Facebook (LIFE) forum. She graduated from Siena Heights University with a degree in business, focusing on finance.

Onuki said she is seeking a seat on the city council to make a positive impact in the community.

"So many residents feel like they are not a priority or that they do not have a strong enough voice on city matters, and I will work hard to always put them and their needs first and make sure that they are represented at city hall," she said. "South Haven is an incredible place to call home, but I feel that the direction we are moving is not sustainable; by listening and putting our residents' needs first, we can adjust course and move more toward becoming a flourishing year-round lakeshore town for everyone to enjoy."

Three issues facing South Haven, according to Onuki are lack of affordable housing for people who would like to be year-round residents, making sure people of different races and backgrounds feel welcome, and promoting better stewardship of the environment.

"We need a viable plan to create affordable housing opportunities for families, seniors and individuals of all backgrounds and means who want to live here," she said. "Part of that solution could entail updating our zoning ordinances to allow for more duplexes, triplexes and other multifamily dwellings that fit into the residential character of our neighborhoods; scaling down the number of short-term rentals and adding restrictions on density to find a more harmonious balance and keep our neighborhoods intact."

In relation to attracting more housing options, Onuki said she will strive to making the city a welcoming place for people of different races and backgrounds.

"As a city, we could adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance; establish a human rights commission; make efforts to bring more representation to city hall; and develop partnerships and initiatives that would focus on achieving equity in health care, education, housing, policing and other areas." she said.

Protecting the town's natural environment is also important to Onuki.

"As a lakeshore community, we must work diligently with experts and other leaders to protect our shorelines from such threats as high water levels, erosion, pollution and invasive species," she said.

Onuki is executive director of the Children's Museum in Fennville and graduated with a journalism degree and a minor in public relations from Grand Valley State University. She has been a member of the city's Parks Commission for five years, is a member of the Lincoln Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization and the South Haven Diversity Coalition and has volunteered with the Al-Van Humane Society and We Care food pantry.

Also on the ballot are Ward 1 council member Joe Reeser and Ward 3 council member George Sleeper who are running unopposed.

Narcotics millage

The ballot will ask voters to renew 0.6612 mills to pay for efforts to control narcotics use and sales in and around the city, with an additional 0.0388 mills that would bring the total to 0.7 mills for five years.

The proposal includes the increase of 0.0388 mills to reset the millage amount to 0.7 mills, a figure that was established in 2007 when city voters approved an amendment to cap the narcotics millage at no more than 0.7 mills, City Manager Kate Hosier said.

“That proposed amendment was approved by the voters in 2007 for a period of five years,” Hosier said.

However, due to the state’s Headlee Rollback law, the narcotics millage proposal was rolled back twice – first in 2011 and again in 2016.

The levy is used to fund two police officers who are assigned to narcotics investigation teams, as well as a portion of the K-9 costs to deter drug activity in the city, Hosier said.

If approved, the millage would generate $280,000 annually in 2022, the first year the millage would take effect.

If voters OK the millage, the owner of a home with a value of $300,000, would pay $210 annually in taxes, while the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would pay $175 a year. As it stands, the owner of a $300,000 home is paying $198 for the narcotics millage, while the owner of a $250,000 home is paying $165 a year.