Grand Rapids names new deputy city manager

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Kate Berens. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

City Manager Mark Washington earlier this month named Kate Berens as deputy city manager. She will begin her new role Wednesday, March 9.

Mary (Kate) Berens, a Midland native and current deputy city manager for Bellevue, Washington, will replace former Deputy City Manger Eric DeLong when he retires. To ensure a smooth transition, DeLong agreed to assist Berens as she steps into his former role.

Washington said Berens is an exceptional leader who will complement the city’s administrative staff.

“We are indeed fortunate to attract someone with Ms. Berens’ experience and expertise to serve as our next deputy,” Washington said. “While it will be impossible to initially replace the breadth of institutional knowledge and experience that Mr. DeLong has, Kate is a welcomed addition and is well-positioned to continue building on the positive momentum we’ve seen over the past few years.”

Similar to Grand Rapids, Bellevue is a growing community with the second largest city center in the state of Washington. It also is the third-largest city in the Seattle metropolitan area and is home to companies such as T-Mobile, Paccar and Valve.

Berens brings nearly 25 years of municipal administration and law experience to the position and has served as Bellevue’s deputy city manager since May 2014. Prior to her current position, she served as the city’s deputy city attorney for nine years. She is responsible for strategic initiatives and provides oversight of Bellevue’s community development, economic development services, finance and asset management, and transportation developments.

She has worked in a wide range of community initiatives, including regional homelessness response, affordable housing and long-range municipal financial strategy, and brings knowledge in real estate, land use, negotiation and drafting development agreements, and experience with complex real estate transactions.

Other prior experience includes serving as a legal planner for the Bellevue Planning and Community Development Department and serving as an associate attorney in a law firm specializing in real estate and land use law.

“Through my years in local government, I’ve developed as a leader adept at identifying common ground among stakeholders with sometimes dramatically different objectives,” Berens said. “My strength is defining a big picture objective, then building the steps — including inclusive civic engagement — necessary to get there. What excites me about working in local government is knowing how local policy decisions impact people daily. The work that we do, at its best, creates a stable platform for all our residents to pursue their dreams.”

Berens received her Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan and her Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and wildland resources from the University of Washington.

The city expects her experience and background will aid in her work as she helps to coordinate policy and direction for economic and community development, planning, mobility, public works and infrastructure services, as well as any future leadership roles in many of the city’s strategic initiatives.

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