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Community celebrates City Manager Greg Sundstrom's retirement

Elected officials, police officers, firefighters and other community members came to say farewell to City Manager, Greg Sundstrom at the DeVos Place, Monday, January 29, 2018.
Cake at Sundstrom's retirement party

Cake at Sundstrom's retirement party /Dylan Grosser

A smooth jazz performance, cheese and wine, a sheet cake with strawberry filling, and other extravagences were rolled out for retiring City Manager Greg Sundstrom on Monday, January 29, 2018 as he attended a party commemorating his successes as city manager for Grand Rapids at the DeVos Place.

The musicians of the Isaac Norris Project played all evening long, as guests ate and mingled with Sundstrom during his final days of city manager.

Sundstrom announced his retirement on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. He leaves after helping to solve the financial crisis Grand Rapids was undergoing during the recession of 2008, where the city had a $33 million deficit on a $110 general fund budget. He was able to turnaround that deficit by laying off over 500 city employees in order to get Grand Rapids out of the red. His efforts in doing so are widely regarded as the most significant aspect of his legacy

Several officials who worked with Sundstrom during his time of service spoke on his character and what he has done for Grand Rapids over the past few years.

Mayor of Grand Rapids, Rosalynn Bliss, gave a speech during the party thanking Sundstrom for his service and leading the City through a difficult time.

“A strongly held belief by some many of us in this room is that we want to leave the world a little bit better than what we found it,” Bliss said, speaking to Sundstrom, “and I can tell you, you have left our city better than you found it.”

She expressed how she, and many others who work for the city, are glad that Sundstrom is now finding time to relax and take care of himself.

“I’m glad you are moving onto this next chapter and that you'll be able to enjoy all the things that I know you have sacrificed and not been able to do over these last nine years.”

A gift was given to Sundstrom at the end of the party by the Mayor and the City Commission of a paid trip for two for a jazz performance of his choosing. He was also given a framed portrait of the Grand River, commissioned by an ArtPrize artist.  

Others spoke on his behalf at the party, including former mayor of Grand Rapids, George Heartwell. He described the relationship between a mayor and a city manager, stressing how working together is important to the success of the city. He said he told Sundstrom that at times he felt they were “joined at the hip.”

“I can't imagine anybody that it would of been better for me to work with than Greg Sundstrom,” Heartwell said. “I just think the world of Greg and his abilities as a manager.”

Sundstrom said the biggest thing he is looking forward to in retirement is being able to do nothing for as long as he can.

“It does get old after a while to be in constant duty,” Sundstrom said. “So I look forward to ignoring the world to some degree.”

He said the thing he will miss most about his job is the people he worked with.

“There are great people who have committed their adult lives to service here in Grand Rapids, and I think it's quite honorable I got to work with them.”

Sundstrom’s last official day as city manager is February 2, 2018.


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