GRAND RAPIDS — Two senior officials are planning to leave the city’s planning and development departments for new opportunities, MiBiz has learned.
Suzanne Schulz, managing director of design, development and community engagement, recently informed the city manager that she is leaving after more than 19 years at the city. Schulz confirmed to MiBiz that her last day is Sept. 6. She intends to move to a position in the private sector.
As well, Courtney Magaluk, senior project manager in the Planning Department, recently accepted the city manager position in Scottville, near Ludington. Magaluk has worked for Grand Rapids for about two and a half years and will depart for her new role on July 1.
Schulz became a planner in Grand Rapids in 1999, when she oversaw the master plan that she has implemented throughout her tenure at the city. She currently oversees the city’s Development Center and a Planning Department with an almost $8 million budget and 42 positions.
The current role has put Schulz in a powerful position to oversee development projects throughout the city in what has become a period of strong growth in the years after the Great Recession.
For Schulz, departing after 20 years with the city was an opportunity to come full circle, as staff will soon begin a new master planning process.
“When I look at the arc of my career at the city, it started with the master plan, and we’ve implemented so much with that plan,” Schulz told MiBiz.
That master plan spurred growth and change throughout Schulz’s time with the city, as did other projects she helped to implement, including Green Grand Rapids and the Michigan Street Corridor Plan. She is currently working with the Planning Department to wrap up a South Division Corridor Plan, which focuses partly on equitable development, which Schulz describes as one of her passions.
Schulz said she also has appreciated the opportunity to work on special projects, like affordable housing and medical marijuana, as well as Complete Streets and other initiatives to help the city become financially stronger.
The city’s Vital Streets Plan, a project Schulz managed, received a national planning achievement award last year from the American Planning Association. Schulz also has worked with the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Association of Planning on policy issues at the state level.
Schulz is planning to work as a consultant related to planning and urban design, but declined to offer any specifics. She expects to announce more in the coming weeks, noting she plans to stay in Grand Rapids.
Schulz said she has been fortunate to work with an “amazing” team at the city.
“The people I work with, the level of trust that we have and the professionalism is something I have really appreciated,” Schulz said, also citing “the autonomy that management has given me over the years to do the projects that I thought were needed.”
Schulz said she also appreciated “the community to trust in the process and to see over time the amount of implementation that can happen when people are really engaged and invested.” Meanwhile, Magaluk also highlighted the community engagement process she participated in throughout her two and a half years in the Planning Department, specifically in long-range planning.
“(Suzanne’s) willingness to let us push the envelope on community engagement, try new things and push for better all the time has been fantastic,” she said.
At the city, Magaluk led long-range planning initiatives and area specific planning, most recently leading the neighborhood through the South Division Corridor Plan.
She sees city management as a natural transition after about 20 years of planning work.
“I kind of touched all the little pieces of it, and I think one of the things I really loved is when my role as a planner was working with all the other departments and getting out in the community and working on the bigger picture issues,” she said.