And his resignation hit like a bolt from the blue, overwhelming some Metro Council members.
“I was so stunned. I was totally in shock,” said GVMC Chairman Jim Buck, also mayor of Grandville.
Buck said Felix told him of his decision following a meeting of the Executive Committee on Feb. 20. In December, GVMC members gave Felix a very favorable job rating and a 6-percent pay hike.
“It just dumbfounded me. I was just completely dumbfounded,” said Buck.
Felix told the Business Journal that it was hard to leave the post he has held since March 17, 1995, a span that easily made him the longest-serving director of the nearly 13-year-old agency. Felix is leaving the council for a position with Clinton Realty Companies Inc., a commercial and industrial real estate developer in Grandville.
Gary Geenan and Henry Vander Werp head Clinton Realty, which has been in business since 1965. A few of the firm’s properties include the Eaglecrest Office Park, the Edgewater Business Center, The Marketplace Shoppes and Grandville West.
“They don’t do a lot of listings. They do a lot of their own work. So I think there is an opportunity there. They’ve said they’ve been busier than ever and they need some help. They contacted me and said how about joining us,” said Felix.
Rockford City Manager Michael Young will chair the search committee charged to find a replacement. Joining Young on that panel will be Buck, Cindy Heinbeck, Cy Moore and Kurt Kimball. An interim director will not be named and the search process will begin after Thursday’s regular meeting. Buck said the council hopes to have a new director in place before summer officially arrives.
The difficulty the Metro Council faces in replacing Felix is the agency doesn’t have an assistant director who can jump into the post on a temporary basis. So it’s likely that department heads will take on greater responsibilities until a new director comes aboard.
Another issue facing the organization is that 32 members will have to come to terms on a new director. When Felix replaced Jean Laug-Carroll as the top executive, only 14 had to approve his hiring.
“This is a challenge, one tremendous challenge,” said Buck.
Felix will leave the Metro Council on April 4 and he plans to start at Clinton Realty the following Monday. He will be involved with selling, leasing, and managing projects.
“Whether they’re building condos and apartments, or new industrial buildings, or industrial parks, just a variety of issues of new construction and leasing of existing buildings,” he said.
Felix said one highlight of his tenure was seeing an increase in regional cooperation. He also felt the council’s impact on Lansing politics grew stronger during his term.
But, in his typical manner, he refused to take all the credit for those achievements.
“I don’t know if these are my accomplishments, but these happened while I was here,” he said. “Good people made these happen.”
Felix said he didn’t recommend a replacement.
“I felt that he had done an excellent job over the years. I cherished our relationship and I certainly wish him well in his new endeavor,” said Buck, who has become close to Felix.
“Having said that, this is very difficult for us because there are a lot of projects out there,” he added. “But there probably is never a good time for someone to make a move. It probably would have been just as difficult six months from now.”