GRAND RAPIDS — Pam Ritsema was named acting director of Parking Services recently, becoming the first woman to head the city department. She officially takes over on July 1, the start of the city’s fiscal year.
Ritsema will replace longtime director Ted Perez until a permanent director is hired. After 28 years of service with the city, Perez decided to take advantage of the early retirement offer the city made to selected employees.
“I liked Ted because he didn’t just see parking as a place for cars,” said Jack Hoffman, chairman of the city’s Parking Commission.
“Ted saw parking as a piece of economic development,” said Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong.
“And as a piece of urban development,” added Hoffman.
Two years ago, Perez was part of a trio that captured the Business Journal Newsmaker-of-the-Year award for hammering out a transit and parking plan for the central business district. Perez shared that honor with George Heartwell and David Cassard.
Mayor John Logie said when Perez took over Parking Services, the department’s annual income was $700,000. A decade later, the mayor said, parking revenues reached $9 million.
Logie also credited Perez with increasing the number of downtown parking spaces from 3,110 to 4,665, and with creatively carving out office space in the Ottawa Fulton ramp for the department.
In return, Perez told parking commissioners that they should feel proud of what they have accomplished over the years.
“I feel that it has been a very good collaboration,” he said.
Perez started with the city in 1973 as a parking system superintendent. Two years later, he became a deputy city traffic engineer. In 1992, Perez was named director of Parking Services.
Barbara Singleton was promoted to the position of acting operations superintendent, taking over the post from Bob Bielecki, who also took the early retirement offer. Bielecki started with the department in 1971 as a seasonal booth attendant.
DeLong said the search for a permanent Parking Services director would probably take six months, and he encouraged Ritsema to apply for the position.
“You’re in good hands,” DeLong told commissioners of the interim replacements, Ritsema and Singleton. “They’re both very qualified people.”