Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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December 22, 2012

New town manager says his door is always open

SHIPSHEWANA — Town Center is at the forefront of issues for Shipshewana’s new town manager Mike Sutter.

The 38,000-square-foot building is owned by the town and has no management at present.

Sutter is no stranger to large community centers owned by a municipality. He helped to get the Wexford Civic Center and Ice Arena into the black up in Cadillac, Mich., when he was county administrator.

“The first thing we need to do is get the finances in order and either make it (the center) profitable for the town or find an alternative,” he said.

Sutter’s first day on the job was Nov. 19, but he’s quite familiar with the area and its needs.

Sutter has lived in the area most of his life. He owned Michiana Laminated Products Inc. in Howe for more than 20 years. Now his son, Matt Sutter, runs the company as Mike pursues his career in public service.

Mike earned a degree in secondary education from Western Michigan University and has always enjoyed public administration. He served as a Sturgis, Mich., City Commissioner and as a St. Joseph County Commissioner in Michigan for a number of years. Recently he worked in Cadillac for three years and spent nearly a year in Sanilac County, as a county administrator.

Resigning from his current position on the LaGrange County Utility District was necessary to avoid any conflict of interest, but he retained his position as treasurer of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp.

Worrying is not on the agenda, because for Sutter, it is about solving problems. After the elections, he has two new town council members and three veteran members all ready to tackle the town business.

“This a vibrant thriving community,” Sutter said. “The citizens are involved and not hesitant to participate. We have a nice light industrial base. The majority of the businesses are privately owned and those that aren’t are good corporate citizens.”

 He lauded the work done by the Shipshewana Retail Merchants, the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Bureau and how they work in tandem. They keep things moving in a positive direction. Promoting the area and the community extensively with year-round family-friendly events and merchandizing programs, has been a key to the area’s retail success. He is also happy with the progress of the Pumpkinvine Trail and other quality public areas.

As he spoke he pointed to his open office door, saying, “That door will always be open. If someone has an issue they want clarified or an idea to share, come over and let’s discuss it. I might not have an answer for them right that minute but I will. There is nothing more frustrating than someone looking you in the eye, after you have told them your problem, and they say ‘Sorry, I can’t help you.’”

That’s not Sutter’s style.

Sutter is now living in Howe, where he is in close proximity to his family (mainly his granddaughters). He lived in Sturgis, Mich., most of his life where he raised his family.

His son Matt and his wife live in Sturgis with their two daughters. His other son, Steve, and his wife live in Mendon with their three daughters and his stepdaughter Emily lives in White Pigeon with her daughter.

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Classes at Goshen Community Schools and St. John the Evangelist Catholic School will begin the 2014-15 school year on Thursday, Aug. 7. School corporations throughout the state have been trending toward earlier start dates the past few years. When do you think school should start?

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