Mayoral Moment: Bruce Kilmer moves up Mount Pleasant City Commission ladder


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Sean Proctor/Staff Photographer Bruce Kilmer, newly appointed mayor of Mount Pleasant, poses for a portrait on Jan. 4 in his office at the Borden Building. Kilmer, formerly the vice mayor, steps in after Jim Holton made the decision to step down to focus on his business efforts. "I was humbled and thankful for the confidence the other commissioners placed in me, and I'm excited to work for this great city." Kilmer has been on the city commission for five years, and his wife, Cynthia, was on the commission for nine years, including holding the mayoral office in 2006. The pair, who met during community theatre in 2003 while playing the roles of husband and wife in the play "You Can't Take It With You," have been married for six years. It was his wife that sparked his interest in joining the city commission. Prior to this, he was an attorney for a private practice firm, a consultation firm as well as sitting on the Michigan Supreme Court in Lansing. Kilmer enjoys history and being outdoors, including activities such as golfing, bicycling and rollerblading, he also enjoys traveling, having visited Rome, Greece, Turkey and Jerusalem. He also lived in Mount Pleasant's sister city, Okaya, Japan.

After announcing his departure from the mayor’s chair at the last Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting of 2010, Jim Holton immediately turned to the man three seats to his right.

For the local businessman and city official, it was a no-brainer who should replace him at the turn of the calendar. Bruce Kilmer, the second-year vice mayor, had stepped in multiple times for Holton at events in and out of town.

The commission agreed, voting unanimously to approve Holton’s nomination of Kilmer at the new year’s first meeting.

“It was the best preparation, because I got to be in all the meetings,” Kilmer said. “I was able to watch Jim (Holton), and in the two years he was mayor, he did a wonderful job.”

Holton stepped down from the position to focus on family and business matters, including the expansion of his Mountain Town Station restaurant, 506 W. Broadway St., set to begin in the spring.

In addition to a new budget that includes some cuts to spending, Kilmer is faced with several looming decisions the city must make, including the future of the Mount Pleasant Center. The city has until April 25 to complete an assessment of the property.

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Mayor Bruce Kilmer, right, and his wife Cindy laugh with one another as they count the number of plays they have acted in together Tuesday night at their home on North University Avenue. The couple, both lawyers, met in 2002 when they played a husband and wife in the performance, "You Can't Take It with You," at the Broadway Theatre. "It's our hobby," Cindy said. "Our escape from everyday life," Mayor Kilmer said. (Photo by Paige Calamari/Staff Photographer )

“In the midst of all that, I want to keep attracting businesses and families to Mount Pleasant,” Kilmer said. “I’m excited. I think we’re going to come out of this economy well --— Mount Pleasant has weathered it a lot better than other cities.”

That feeling is shared by Kathleen Ling, who was appointed vice mayor by the commission upon Kilmer’s nomination. Ling said she hopes to further address continuing concerns in the community of making Mount Pleasant more pedestrian-friendly.

“I’m happy to have the opportunity to serve in the position,” Ling said. “I would like to see us continue to work close to CMU, especially to create the walkable, bikeable route between CMU and downtown. There are lots of advantages.”

Law and Politics

Although he has served on the City Commission for five years, Kilmer never thought of joining local government until his wife, Cynthia, urged him. Cynthia was on the commission for nine years and also served as mayor in 2006.

“I knew that some day he would become mayor,” Cynthia Kilmer said. “He’s smart and will handle it well.”

Before his tenure with the city, Bruce Kilmer was an attorney for a private practice firm.

Kilmer currently serves as a regional administrator for the Michigan Supreme Court. The new mayor spent his first week in Lansing instructing newly elected judges, but is now back in Mount Pleasant for his first full week in the position.

“I’m really looking forward to my interaction with the residents and the other officials,” Kilmer said.

Union Township Supervisor John Barker said he has always enjoyed working with the City Commission and sees that relationship continuing.

“I hope that Bruce and the new vice mayor will be as cooperative as the former mayor and vice mayor,” Barker said.

Holton will remain on board as a commissioner through 2011. He said the long hours eventually became somewhat cumbersome for him.

He said although he believes Kilmer can handle the position well given his past experience, he looks forward to offering the new mayor advice if he needs it.

“He’s a perfect fit for the job,” Holton said. “He stepped into several occasions where I just couldn’t.”


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