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NRI, Sam Singh elected mayor of university town of East Lansing, Michigan

Michigan, East Lansingn Nov 30, 2005
Ranbir Shergill

NRI (non-resident Indian), Sam Singh, 34, elected as mayor of East Lansing. East Lansing City Council unanimously voted him the city's mayor for the next two years. Singh took over the gavel from former Mayor Mark Meadows. Meadows served as mayor for eight years and will remain on the council, but is also running for the 69th District in Michigan's House of Representatives.

Singh, a graduate in history from Michigan State University, has been on the city council for the last 10 years. He has served as mayor pro-tem for the last eight years before being elected Nov 16 by the council to be mayor for the next two years.

Singh is president and CEO of the Michigan Non-profit Association (MNA), a 750-member organization dedicated to promoting an effective non- profit sector by convening key organizations and encouraging voluntary giving and service.

Before joining MNA, Singh worked at several other non- profit organizations, including the Volunteer Centers of Michigan, the Michigan Community Service Commission and the Points of Light Foundation.

He currently serves on the board of directors for the Points of Light Foundation, the Capital Area Transit Authority (CATA), the Michigan Association of United Ways, and the Capital Regional Community Foundation...

Singh lives in East Lansing, where he was re-elected to serve a four-year term on the city council.

The council members are virtual volunteers, evident from their pay, which is $7,260 for the year. As mayor, Singh will receive a raise of sorts, his stipend going up to $8,470 annually.

East Lansing is a university town and, though a part of Lansing, Michigan, it has its own mayor, city manager and a council. Its government is made up of a city manager, who carries out the day-to-day operations of the city, and the mayor, who has a more ceremonious position along with representing the city in most forums.

Students have occasionally served on the East Lansing city council and are members of several of the city's other administrative bodies such as housing and planning commissions.

Sam Singh said the issues facing the community are "very complex and complicated" and that taking care of them is his priority. "Because we're a university community we have some lifestyle issues like housing and noise," he said. "As a community, we'll have to grapple with these issues."

City Council votes within itself to elect a member as mayor, but that could change with a proposal to give the power to voters. In October, the council reviewed the proposal which was drafted by City Attorney Dennis McGinty at Meadows' request.

Sam Singh said the council-manager form of government is beneficial to function efficiently and to run daily operations.

"The city manager knows the ins and outs to run public works as well as dealing with financial matters," he said. "That allows the council to focus on policy direction and issues that are in the bigger picture."

Singh said the size of the city's budget and population do not warrant a form of government where the mayor acts as the chief executive officer.

"Larger cities have a strong-mayor system, and that's the right approach," he said. "There are more resources available because of the larger tax base, and you still want to have people that have a good understanding to meet the city's technical needs. I've found this an effective way to govern a city of our size."

Planning and Community Development Director Jim van Ravensway, who has worked under a council-manager form of government for 30 years, said it creates a more professional type of working environment for the city staff.

"When you have an elected mayor, like Lansing, it tends to politicize the work that you do," he said. "I don't have to worry about the politics behind the job. What residents are getting from me is a professional opinion, not a political opinion. My boss is not a politician, and that's a big difference."


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NRI, Sam Singh elected mayor