Get to Know the Candidates: Office of Mayor, Traverse City

This fall, the Traverse City City Commission has a total of five seats open on the seven-member council. The fives seats are spread across three separate races. There is the race for Office of Mayor, which is a two-year term and the race for three four-year City Commissioner seats. Additionally, this year there is a special election for a partial two-year term to replace a City Commissioner who recently stepped down.

This week Norte offered the 10 candidates for the five open seats an opportunity to speak to the Norte community. We begin with the two candidates for the Office of Mayor, followed tomorrow by the two candidates for the partial term race, and on Wednesday with the six candidates running for the three four-year seats.

Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 450 characters. All answers were published as submitted, unedited, and without annotation in the order responses were received.

Office of Mayor, City of Traverse City (Two-Year Term)

To start, please describe the most memorable walk, or most memorable bike ride, that you have experienced. This could have been anywhere in the world, for any duration, for any purpose. What made it so memorable?

Shea M. O’Brien: The most memorable ride I have ever had was a Traverse City slow roll as a child. My dad, sister and I all left from our home in the Traverse Heights neighborhood, rode through Old Town and into the Central Neighborhood to visit the public library. It was a pure and simple ride. It’s burned into my memory because it was such a care-free and safe ride. People driving their vehicles gave us plenty of room and waved as they passed by us.

Jim Carruthers: My hike along the Inca Trail in Peru. Hopped of the train along the Urubamba River and traversed Mt Machu Picchu through the Intipata ruins, “the place of the sun,” to the Sun Gate of the iconic city of ruins. Spectacular views of the river valley below and mountains in the distance, with colorful butterflies fluttering everywhere. The history and wonderment of a past civilization highlighted the tranquil scenery of this mountain.

Please define effective leadership in the local context. Provide in your answer, a specific example of leadership that has impacted your willingness to serve as an elected official.

Shea M. O’Brien: I would say effective leadership is listening to those who speak but also recognizing that what they say is not the only perspective of the issues. You have to make the right decisions knowing that it may upset people. During my grandfather’s career as a Traverse City Realtor he often had to make decisions that he knew may upset the community but would help Traverse City thrive in the long run.

Jim Carruthers: As a leader I have persevered scrutiny and ridicule for supporting a more progressive and connected community through diversity as a gay man. Ive worked on several referendums and 4 successful campaigns myself, gaining value in communicating with our citizens while passing a controversial nondiscrimination ordinance. This has ultimately made TC a much more welcoming community for everyone and a place I’m proud to be the Mayor.

How is a Traverse City of the future, one that is stronger, better connected, and more walk and bike-friendly different than the Traverse City of today?

Shea M. O’Brien:The TC for Tomorrow is a population diverse in ages and incomes. A place where people can begin their lives and build equity in attainable housing. A place where we are connected to our community through neighborhood sidewalks, safe bike paths, a civic square and activated parks. Density in neighborhoods that are near transit, bike paths and business corridors to mitigate the need for a vehicle. We must grow responsibly.

Jim Carruthers: Having worked for almost 30 years on renewable energy policy, planning and building of the regional multimodal system of trails, streets and sidewalks and developing a smart growth and traffic calming network, I’ve help create the foundation for a strong future in TC. Let’s keep up the momentum and continue making TC better for tomorrow.

The City of Traverse City will soon complete a dramatic reconstruction of 8th Street from Boardman Ave. to Woodmere Ave. What is your first response to the new 8th Street? What do you hope that the city can learn from the process and the design?

Shea M. O’Brien: My first response to the new 8th Street is, it will be a place for all to enjoy. I’m also impressed with how quickly the project has moved along and I’m looking forward to walking and biking to the future businesses. I know the city has learned that we value feeling safe while biking and walking, I’m hopeful that the city has learned that we value those willing to take action.

Jim Carruthers: My first response is Wow! Look what we as a community can do, together, with outreach, planning and bring groups together to build a better street where everyone can feel safe. What we have learned is that a community like ours, can change status-quo options and think outside the box, to provide a street that shows a sense of community that is comfortable and safe for all users. Let’s work together more to create great streets in TC!

Finally, what are you for?

Shea M. O’Brien: I’m running for mayor because I was raised here by two loving parents. I grew up on Fern Street, I attended Traverse Heights Elementary and Central High School. I work in this community, I volunteer in this community and I want to give my children and other people’s children the opportunity to thrive in this community. I want to work with city staff, other elected officials, area shareholders and the citizens to create a TC for Tomorrow.

Jim Carruthers: I’m for better understanding of all things. Better communication to help get things accomplished and continuing our great efforts at making our city, Traverse City, a better place for everyone.


Part I | Part II | Part III

Election Details

Election Day is officially on November 5. Many voters have already started casting ballots via no excuse absentee ballots. The candidates receiving the most votes in their individual races will be sworn into office on November 11, 2019, at 7 p.m. You can check the Michigan Secretary of State website to double check that you’re registered.