KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — Like most of the residents in Portage, Pete Strazdas will be tuning into the election coverage Tuesday night to see who will succeed him as mayor. He’s been on the job for over a decade and was told he was the city’s longest-serving mayor. Now, since he’s battling cancer, he’s stepping down to focus on his health and spend time with his family.
“It is sinking in,” said Strazdas about leaving. “But when I reflect back on 30 years of public service it gives me great pride and joy that I had some small part to do with the progress of the city of Portage.”
The Boston-native said throughout his tenure he’s served on several boards, been a councilman and spent the last 12 years as mayor. He and his team have been effective in making Portage a better place, he said. They’ve lowered the millage, invested in roads and reduced the city’s $100,000,000 debt significantly. He considered it to be one of his proudest achievements.
“We’ve eliminated $40,000,000 of that in eight years,” said Strazdas during an interview at Western Michigan University where he works during the day. “If you do the math, if the future council does their job, 12 years from now the city of portage will be debt-free.”
He said if it happens Portage would become one of the few cities in Michigan, if not the only one, that will have eliminated all of its debt. He hopes who ever takes his place — council members Nasim Ansari or Patricia Randall — will continue to work toward a debt-free Portage. Their work begins on November 21 when the winner is sworn in. As for him, he's going to continue to be active in the Portage community.
“It’s been a labor of love," said Strazdas.