Joel VanSlambrouck has been a Portland City Council member for the past twelve years and currently is Mayor Pro-Tem. Prior to when he first got involved with City Council in 2007, he says, “There were a lot of great ideas being promoted but there were not a lot of products or results.” VanSlambrouck who spent 23 years in the Army, retiring in 2000 as a First Sergeant, said, “I had a lot of skills focused on getting things done and a gift of steadiness that others thought would be helpful if I were on the City Council”. “I still have a fresh perspective and continue to work on Portland’s economic development, aimed at small business development, that helps maintain the quality of life here.
What I like most about Portland
“The family orientation of the community and the services. I wake up after a blizzard and the roads are clean. The River Trail is awesome. There are no wires interfering with looking at the City scenery.
“The City Council employs a city manager. The Council takes full responsibility for the city manager and provides guidance to the city manager. It is Council’s role to develop a path and guide things including annual budget development and then staying within the budget.”
View on Civility and Solving Disagreements
“You need to hear all sides of any situation whether it be about parking ordinances or safe routes to school. Good ideas come from hearing citizen’s perspectives. Council cannot come up with every idea. If people are heard, their ideas can turn into agreements that work.”
“Public Safety in Portland is very strong. We have a 24/7 police department and fire and ambulance services. I feel safe and secure as a resident here.”
Maintaining and Improving City Infrastructure
“We have high quality at the best prices, like our Electrical Co-op purchases. Our roads and streets are in great shape. Council’s philosophy is that if we do it right, we save money in the long run. We also have people who work for the city, that love the city. Our water is very important. We always want to make sure that we have quality water and we are continuously testing for PFAS as a preventative measure. The City is well-oiled right now, but we may need to hire at DPW as retirements occur. Maintaining our labor force is important. A new bridge on Divine at Grand River is definitely something that needs to happen, but it may be several years away. The Fire Authority (PAMA) and planning for a potential new Emergency Services Building are definitely signs of progress.”
1% City Income Tax
“The City Council takes seriously the amounts of money that our citizens pay in taxes. The 1% City income tax is some of the most helpful tax money that can be put to work. It is not sent to Washington or Lansing. It stays here and by being dedicated to roads and streets it allows us to use general funds for infrastructure and to help maintain the River Trail and city parks.
“The DDA and Tina have done a wonderful job. The DDA is ready to roll on projects to benefit downtown and the city overall. They have a plan and are working their plan. The city of Portland will continue to benefit from their work. We can make growth easy and attainable and we should welcome it and make it possible. The new Sparrow building on Cutler/Hyland Drive will no doubt be a springboard for further economic development.”
Most Pressing Issues Facing Portland in the next 3-5 Years
“A continuous focus on water quality. This also includes making sure that the capacity of our wastewater treatment plant meets the demands of the City’s residents and businesses. I also think that we need to continue proper and sustainable growth that focuses on bringing head-of-household type jobs to Portland, like Sparrow and The Brook.”
Personal and Professional Background
VanSlambrouk is a retired Army First Sergeant. He spent 23 years in the Army serving in Nuremburg, Germany with the 2nd Armored Cavalry. He was also stationed for several years at West Point Military Academy as an Engineer. He served as an Army Recruiter in San Antonio, Mt. Clemens, Jackson and East Lansing. He finished the last 2 ½ years of his military service serving as an ROTC instructor at MSU.
VanSlambrouck moved to Portland in 2005 with his wife, Michelle (Teachout) VanSlambrouck when she opened Portland’s popular Cheeky Monkey coffee shop at Kent Street. Michelle is now a major force in Backpacks for Bellies, a non-profit food program, that serves many Portland children and families. Joel and Michelle have four adult children. Joel holds an associate degree in Business from Lansing Community College and is a partner in G&B Pools located in Portland. VanSlambrouck’s father was a long-time county clerk in Monroe so he is no stranger to politics.
This profile was written by Robert Lathers, Beacon Contributing Writer. It is the fourth of four profiles of 2019 Portland City Council candidates.