By Andrea Smalley
The Vicksburg Village Council regular session April 18 began with a surprising and emotional moment. Village Manager Ken Schippers announced that the Liberty Lane paving would be done in August–and so would he.
Meeting attendees expressed surprise and disbelief, but broke into applause as Schippers continued, “I’ll be around. If something happens, they can call me.” He stated that, “It’s time to enjoy life a little bit,” and reminisced about the one wintertime vacation he and his wife took to Jamaica where he called back to Vicksburg every day. Citizens and council trustees spoke about their respect and admiration for Schippers. “I speak for the council and the citizens. None of us believe there’s another person out there that can replace you,” said President Bill Adams, prompting a second round of applause.
Trustee Gail Reisterer added, “One of the things I’ve always admired about you is your honesty and your willingness to go the extra mile. You have been a very special person for this village.” Schoolcraft Township Supervisor Don Ulsh said, “This guy has done so much for Schoolcraft Township that people don’t even know about. Any time we’ve called Ken he’s never said no. He’s always said, ‘I’ll meet you out there.’” Ulsh told the council, “It’s going to take two guys to replace him.” That prompted a third round of applause which became a standing ovation.
Schippers has been with the Village of Vicksburg for 23 years. While serving as the Director of Public Works in 2013 he was appointed acting Village Manager, then Village Manager in 2014. He has retained both the DPW and manager duties since then, working with the Village Council, DDA, and other institutions on the revitalization of Vicksburg. “I like to think over the years we’ve got a lot of stuff done,” said Schippers.
Adams last week wasn’t ready to say how the Council will conduct a search to replace Schippers. At least one council member is believed to be interested in the position.
The council meeting also featured a special community meet and greet session with the Vicksburg Police Department, where Assistant Village Manager Jim Mallery and Police Chief Eric West explained the department’s 10-point plan for building community relationships based on trust, a philosophy of service, and listening to the community.
Chief West said that this involves a presence at the Vicksburg schools, customer follow-up when complaints are registered, foot patrols, canvassing the neighborhoods, business checks, using social media, and attending monthly meetings throughout the village.
Officers have already implemented many of these steps, including attending drop-off and pick-up periods at the local elementary schools. West said that students and parents were confused by the police presence at first, but officers are now getting hugs and high fives. “Think of the possible and probable impact we will have on the kids of this village” said Mallery. “The respect level moves up.”
Officers have also implemented downtown business checks, where they leave blue slips reporting successful check-ups.
Meeting attendees and officers then broke out into small groups to discuss specific resident concerns, which included illegal parking and speeding at Sunset Lake, fireworks, skateboarding on the sidewalks, loud music and texting while driving.
In other business, Angels Crossing manager Jeff Rohrstaff presented a 2016 business strategy focused on increasing revenue by significantly expanding the golf course’s food, beverage, and event offerings. Rohrstaff introduced Joe Tsui, the newly hired manager of Food and Event Services, calling him a “magician. It’s unbelievable what this guy can do with food,” said Rohrstaff. Tsui has a following in the area, stated Rohrstaff, which will help bring the community, including non-golfers, into Angels Crossing. The Village Council approved an expenditure not to exceed $24,000 for the addition of a stove, convection oven, sink, and dishwasher to improve the course’s kitchen and facilitate Rohrstaff’s proposed strategy.