Scott MacInnes says goodbye as Houghton manager

HOUGHTON – Houghton City Manager Scott MacInnes will stay on with the city as an employee for the rest of the year. He’ll still be city manager until Feb. 3. But Wednesday did mark a milestone – his final City Council meeting.

MacInnes delivered a farewell address at Wednesday’s meeting, reflecting on 40 years as an employee of the city.

When MacInnes began working for the city, the area was still in the post-mining doldrums. There were signs of hope coming from the growth at Michigan Technological University. Just after he started, the city had to drill an emergency well at the Isle Royale Sands and pump water to Tech to meet demand.

“The city had to hurry up and catch up because the infrastructure, especially the water system, could not handle any increase,” he said.

The historic downtown buildings’ facades were in the style of the ’50s and ’60s. The waterfront had the ruins of mining-era docks. The future Ray Kestner Waterfront Park was a “swamp.” And M-26 was deserted beyond Maggie’s Spa.

MacInnes remembered then-City Manager Ray Kestner giving him a copy of the city’s master plan, developed the year before.

“He told me we were going to follow the plan and get this town moving again,” he said. “My first impression was this is going to take one heck of a lot of effort, and an astronomical amount of money to accomplish this.”

MacInnes had planned to stay with the city for no more than a year or two. But he stayed on as things picked up in the city, including millions of dollars in grants.

“I got hooked on where we were headed, and all the projects I was helping with,” he said.

The water and sewer system was upgraded. New subdivisions opened. Businesses started sprouting along M-26 – although it had the side effect of hurting downtown.

In the early 1980s, the city put work into a major streetscape project, building a large parking deck and connecting stores with interior walkways.

The city did even more work on Shelden Avenue over the past decade. Seventeen downtown facades have been renovated to restore their historic appearance. There was a state Signature Building Grant to renovate the building now housing Rhythm. The street surface was paved with brick.

“Our historic downtown is now structurally and visibly ready for the 21st century,” he said.

The waterfront has also been developed for recreation, including a waterfront park running the length of the city, waterfront parks and new docks.

MacInnes remembered other highlights, including the celebration of the 100th anniversary of professional hockey, which brought the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Team and legend Gordie Howe. He is also proud of the accomplishments of the MTEC SmartZone.

“I am truly grateful to be part of the team that created all this success for Houghton,” he said. “I never dreamed that I would spend my working career with city government, no less staying in one community.”

MacInnes thanked his wife, friends, city employees, Council members, state and federal agencies.

“It’s been an honor and privilege to serve the residents of Houghton,” he said. “We accomplished a lot and had a lot of fun on the way.”

MacInnes said he is leaving the city in good hands: the “outstanding new manager” Eric Waara; a new master plan; an A-plus bond rating, and a good relationship with the city of Hancock.

“My father always told his players before a game that all he could ask was to give 110 percent,” he said. “I think we’ve done that, thus creating the success.”