Long settles in as city manager
GLADSTONE — It has been a few weeks since Darcy Long took his place as the new city manager of Gladstone, but even as he begins working on the city’s toughest issues, there’s nothing the seasoned city manager sees as a more rewarding career.
“There’s nothing I’d want to do more. I’ll tell you, there are some points in my life there have been people that said, ‘You ought to do something else’ and I’ve had a few people say in Gladstone, ‘Man, that’s a tough job,’ and I said, ‘But I’m not new to this. I’ve been doing this for 17 years,'” he said.
Most recently, Long served as the city and zoning administrator for the city of Amery, Wis., a position he held for nine years. Prior to his time in Amery, Long served as the manager of cities in Indiana, Lower Michigan, and Texas, but moving to the Upper Peninsula has always been a goal.
“I’ve always (wanted) to come back to the Upper Peninsula and I did try to stay here after graduate school,” said Long, who received his masters of public administration from Northern Michigan University and his bachelors degree from Lake Superior State University.
Long’s wife, an NMU graduate herself, shared in the dream of returning to the Upper Peninsula someday, but due to the small number of communities in the peninsula, city management positions have been scarce. When both Gladstone and Escanaba found themselves in need of a city manager, Long threw his hat in the ring, only bowing out of the running for the Escanaba position after receiving an offer of employment in Gladstone.
After being offered the position, Long set out to find a home in Gladstone that met the needs of his family. With a wife, three children ages 17 years to 10 months, and three cats, finding a home was a challenge, but Long attacked it with gusto.
“That’s my other full-time job,” he joked, not long after taking the position with the city.
He also hit the ground running at the office, scheduling meetings with city staff and city commissioners and participating in a meet and greet event with community members to learn the ins and outs of what makes Gladstone unique.
Scheduling one-on-one meetings with commission members was high on his priority list. These meetings allowed Long to get to the heart of what each commissioner saw as the direction of the city and any concerns that the commissioners might have about moving the city forward.
“Some of them are up for election but, you know what? They’re here today, and they’re the policy-makers, and I need to know what their thoughts are, and what they think of the needs of the organization (are), and when they see some things that are issues,” he said.
While Long wants the city staff to learn from his expertise, he believes that it is equally important for him to learn what skills city staff have to offer and how those skills can be used to make Gladstone a better place for residents. So far, he has been pleased with the wide range of knowledge the Gladstone’s staff can provide.
“You’ve got to use the staff’s skills and abilities that are there, and so I’ve learned that there’s some really good staff and really good department heads and (we need to) capitalize on their abilities,” he said. “They’re a resource. They’re a resource, and me as a city manager, needs to use that.”
Long also thinks it’s important to be accessible, and to allow members of the community an opportunity to speak about the issues that are important to them.
“A lot of people want to come down and see me; a lot of people want to just say hello. That takes up time, but I try to have an open door policy, so if people come in, and I’m not with somebody or I’m not in a meeting, I try to be open with them, say ‘come on in,’ and have a cup of coffee with them,” he said.
Even when Long is busy, he does his best to set up appointments so he can still meet with residents who wish to speak with him.
“They took the time to come, and I try to be as flexible as possible,” he said.