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Kalamazoo's early retirement offers save city roughly $7 million

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Monday night's city commission meeting was more of a party with balloons, munchies and cake.

The city government in Kalamazoo is working through the final stages of a major transition.

Kalamazoo is wrapping up an early retirement incentive it first offered city workers a couple years ago.

“I think we will be affected by this early retirement initiative for a long time to come,” Mayor Bobby Hopewell said.

Hopewell says the incentives will save $7 million dollars, a million more than they expected. But he says the city will still be challenged to cut costs.

215 employees took the deal, including city manager Ken Collard, the person who came up with the plan to avoid major layoffs this year.  

Hopewell got a little emotional thanking Collard for his service.

“Ken has a good heart. And I’m attracted to people that really care and are empathetic and hardworking,” Hopewell said, “Sometimes I need advice and sometimes I need a big brother and he’s been that at times.”

Collard started his public service career in his hometown of Flint.

Jim Ritsema, the former city manager of Battle Creek, replaces Collard as Kalamazoo city manager.

Kalamazoo is only the 16th biggest city in the state, but it’s the largest in Southwest Michigan. Many know it as the home of Western Michigan University.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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