Tag Archives: Mayor Stephen Kepley

Kentwood 50: City recognizes establishments that have been part of the community for 50 years or more

Mayor Stephen Kepley with the founder of Kentwood Plumbing and Heating John VanderWeide and his family.

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma



It was Bill Hoeneveld , the owner of the former Avon Hotel, who recommended to John VanderWeide that he might want to snap up the name Kentwood Plumbing and Heating.


“I was doing plumbing work for Avon Hotel at the time,” VanderWeide said. “It was 1967 and the city had just incorporated. Bill was like you might want to grab the name before someone else does.”


He did and just a month after the city had its first meeting in February, Kentwood Heating and Plumbing was born.


Kentwood 50 breakfast honoring local establishments who have been in the city since its incorporation in 1967.

Almost fifty years from its start, VanderWeide, along with several other business owners and leaders representing around 23 Kentwood companies were recognized at a 50th anniversary breakfast Thursday morning at the  KDL Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Library. The breakfast honored local establishments who have been in business since the city incorporated in 1967.


“When you succeed, we all succeed,” said Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley, who added that the city never wants to be a hindrance to business growth, but is here to work with its businesses. “I’m an engineer by trade and so I enjoy solving problems. If you see one or feel you have one, please contact me and we’ll sit down and work on it together.”


The 23 businesses that were recognized at the breakfast include Advance Packaging Corporation; Animal Hospital of Kentwood; Born Clinic, PC; Casa Via Motel; Christian Schools International; Consumers Energy; DTE Energy; Henry A. Fox Sales, Inc.; JC Penney Corporation; Kamminga and Roedvoets, Inc.; Kentwood Plumbing and Heating; Kentwood Fun Spot; Knoll, Inc.; Penning Plumbing; Plastic MoldTechnologies; Sears Roebuck & Co.; Siegel Jewelers; Spencer Gifts; Tubergen Saw & Cutter; Turner Industries; Velting Contractors; Woodland Shopping Center; and Zales Jewelry.


“It is an awesome thing you have done here,” said Bob O’Callaghan, president and CEO of Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce, which along with the Kentwood Economic Development Corporation, sponsored the breakfast. “I just want to say thank you for staying in Kentwood and for helping to make the city what it is today.”


Each business received a special 50th anniversary clock statute featuring the anniversary logo. As part of its Kentwood 50 coverage, WKTV will be featuring each business on its news website, now.wktv.org, during the next several months.



“This is really an honor to be able to see some of the faces who helped shape this area,” said Joey Jacobson, a long time resident to the area who recently started working at Spencer Gifts, located in Woodland Mall. “To be able to start my career by being at this 50th anniversary event is a real honor and a cool transition as one generation starts to take over for the next.”


Spencer Gifts Store Manager Megan LaClair and Assistant Store Manager Joey Jacobson.

Specner Gifts Store Manager Megan LaClair said many people do not realize the company has such a long history. Spencer Gifts started in 1947 in Easton, Penn. Its first location in Grand Rapids was at the North Kent Mall and it moved to Woodland Mall shortly after the mall opened.


“We have played musical store fronts at the mall, but have been then since its inception,” LaClair said, adding that she has only been with the company for four years and was pleasantly surprised to learn of Spencer Gifts history with the city and honored to receive the award for the store.

City of Kentwood seeks candidate to fill commission seat

The City of Kentwood is seeking applications from residents to fill a vacant position on the City Commission.

Applicants must be a Kentwood resident and registered voter.  The selected candidate will complete the vacant Commissioner-At-Large term, which expires in November 2019.

“A Kentwood City Commissioner is an important leadership position providing a unique opportunity for a resident to perform a key role in shaping our community,” said Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley. “Many exciting initiatives are being developed and implemented in the City and I encourage anyone interested to apply.”

Steven Redmond recently resigned from the Commissioner-At-Large position. The City Commission will begin receiving applications on Feb. 22 and plan to have an appointment made by early April. The City will accept applications through noon on March 10.

Residents are encourage to apply in person at the Kentwood City Clerk’s office, located at the Kentwood City Hall, 4900 Breton Rd. SE, or online at:  www.ci.kentwood.mi.us.

City of Kentwood continues to manage the bumps in the road of finances

Kentwood City officials presented its 2016 – 2017 budget to residents showing the city to be on solid financial ground.

By: Joanne Bailey-Boorsma


All budgets – whether personal or business – have challenges. The City of Kentwood’s budget is no different, however; through good planning, Kentwood officials have been able to weather many challenges leaving the city on solid financial ground.


City officials presented the City of Kentwood’s 2016 – 2017 budget last month during a special presentation to residents with WKTV scheduled to rebroadcast that presentation on the WKTV Government Comcast 26 and AT&T U-verse WKTV Government 99 at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, June 8 and 10, and noon Sunday, June 11.


Or to see the entire program, click here.


Kentwood Finance Director Tom Chase said the city has a strong track record for being financially well run with city officials being good stewards of the city’s money. By planning ahead, officials have been able to keep good on promises to its citizens while balancing the always changing financial environment.


“We have safe infrastructure, clean water and the highest rated quality-rated roads in West Michigan,” said Mayor Stephen Kepley. Add to that a AA bond rating and 96-percent funded pension plan, all of which demonstrate how well city officials have been able to navigate the challenges that over the years have impacted the city’s funding sources such as property taxes.


The city’s fiscal year starts July 1. City staff and the commission work on the budget over several months with the City Commission approving it in the spring.


The city projects to break about even with revenues coming in around $30,813,100 and expenses slightly lower at $30,786,800.


Most of the revenue generated for the city comes through taxes. The city of Kentwood levies a 9.6066 mills with two-thirds of it going towards police and fire. Since the city is mostly service oriented, most of its expenses is in personal, Kepley noted. In fact 72 percent of the city’s budget, a little more than $22 million, is on personal.


What staff has worked toward, according to Kepley, is to make sure that the millages levied cover the city’s expenses. When determining a millage, officials try to project out enough to cover expenses for several years, Kepley said. Eventually expenses will exceed what is raised by a millage, he said.


The good news for Kentwood residents is that city officials have done a good job in keeping expenses low by managing health care expenses and the city’s pension funds and through strategic staffing. In return, staff has been able to move back when the lines between millage revenue and expenses will cross.


Kentwood’s Depty Finance Director Lorna Neniarini said part of this is because the city takes a “five-by-five” approach when preparing a budget. This is a process where officials try to look into the future to see where there might be trouble and how best to help the city save.


“When we are looking at savings, we are not looking at savings in one year, but really looking at what is the savings in five years,” Kepley said. “So if you are able to save $50,000 a year that is good, but in five years that is $250,000. If we are able to save $100,000 in a given year, in five years, that is half a million.


“So we are looking at five years ahead, so that when we save money that pushes the crossing of the lines farther away. That is all we can do. That is all any municipality can do.”


Chase added that “…picture yourself driving your car. The idea is not to look at your hood ornament as you are almost certain to get into an accident, What we are trying to do is we are trying to raise our vision up so that we are looking further down the road, making sure to take in consideration what is coming at us.”

Kentwood celebrates paying off Justice Center

By: Mike DeWitt


The cake was cut and commemorative bottles were opened as the City of Kentwood celebrated paying off a 15-year, $10 million bond on the City’s Justice Center this past Friday. The celebration was led by Mayor Stephen Kepley and quickly handed off to the two men who put the plans together 15 years ago, Judge William Kelly and former Chief of Police Richard Mattice.


Justice Center GroundbreakingBefore the Justice Center was built, the Police Department and the District Court were housed in the Kentwood City Center. It was a cramped working environment that limited the productivity of both staffs.


“We were really cramped,” said Judge William Kelly. “One of our clerks in the court had to be put in the back of the courtroom, and that was also our city commission chambers.”


“Before [the Justice Center] was built, the police department used the City Center but also had two trailers that housed our detective bureau and our community services bureau,” said former Police Chief Richard Mattice. “Our locker rooms were across the street in the fire station.”


It was apparent that the court and the police department needed a new home, but how? Kentwood had never taken out a bond for a building before. For a city as fiscally conservative as Kentwood, it was a big step to take.


“The mayor promised the voters that if they approved the millage to hire more police officers, then the city would build a new facility without going to the public for another millage,” said Kelly.


Justice Center GroundbreakingSo, with that on the table, the millage was passed to hire more police officers and the city got to work on building a new facility. Planning started in August of 2000 with a groundbreaking ceremony quickly to follow on March 22, 2001.


Coming in at 60,000 square-feet, approximately 20,000 on the court side and 40,000 on the police side, the Justice Center added much-needed room for city employees to do their jobs.


“When we moved in here, we came from 5,200 square-feet to 41,000 square-feet,” said Mattice. “We had facilities to adequately meet the public which we didn’t have before.”


Kentwood Justice CenterIn the end, the Kentwood Justice Center was completed on time and on budget. 15 years later the building was paid off on time and is one of the reasons for the city’s AA+ bond rating – a rating very unusual for a city the size of Kentwood.


Another example of the City of Kentwood doing what is best for the community.

New study shows Kentwood offers a lot to your business

Kentwood sealBy: Mike DeWitt



The City of Kentwood prides itself on being business friendly. It’s a city looking for ways to create jobs, generate commerce, and offer opportunities for those looking to open a business in Kentwood.


Now Kentwood has another pitch to potential business owners: One of the best places to open a small business in America.


In a study of 1,268 small-sized cities in America, Kentwood came in at number 51.


Revised Kepley
Mayor Kepley is focused on keeping Kentwood business friendly

“The City leaders, past and present, have intentionally focused City staff and services to be ‘Open for Business’,” noted Mayor Kepley. “It is exciting to see our efforts result in a national ranking.”


The study compared cities with a population size between 25,000 and 100,000 residents across three different dimensions – business environment, access to resources, and business costs. Those three dimensions where then broken down further into 15 relevant metrics that were weighted accordingly.


Kentwood scored well enough to place itself just outside of the top-50. In fact, Kentwood sits atop the nation when it comes to inexpensive office spaces.


The ranking doesn’t act as validation for the city but instead registers as verification that Kentwood is open and ready for business.


Other rankings of note – Wyoming comes in at 230 and Holland tops the list at number 1.

Kentwood Remembers Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King JrThe City of Kentwood will host “Kentwood Remembers MLK – Our Community Comes Together” to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 18. The celebration will take place at the KDL Kentwood Branch Library at 4950 Breton Rd SE.


The first-time event, which runs from 10:00am – 11:00am, was only an idea two years ago and will kick off with a welcome from Jessica Ann Tyson, Event Visionary, and Kentwood Resident/Kentwood Business Owner.


“We wanted to focus on making the event authentic to our community, to Kentwood,” said Tyson in an interview with Wyoming/Kentwood NOW. “There are numerous other celebrations in other communities, but ours needed to be authentic. I love that our event is for everyone and not just people of color.”

Kentwood Library


The event will feature Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech as well as a number of essays and artwork from Kentwood ARCH students that highlight what MLK means to them.


Following Dr. King’s speech, Mayor Stephen Kepley will deliver a mission moment and proclamation. “It is said where there is no vision, the people perish,” explained Kepley. “Passionate and honorable visions, goals, and dreams empower people to live their lives that benefit all. The City of Kentwood is honoring one of those persons, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who passionately declared his vision with the inner-personal courage to defend his dreams that have forever influenced our values so all may live in peace and unity.”


“Kentwood Remembers MLK” is sponsored by a number of Kentwood businesses, with all proceeds raised to benefit the ARCH after school program. The ARCH program focuses on low-income families, families of color, special education students, and English language learners.


“Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that still lives on today. As the community of Kentwood comes together to remember his legacy, I can only pray that each citizen takes to heart what this day truly symbolizes; peace, hope, and a chance for everyone to live together in unity,” said Tyson. “It’s idealistic, but why not strive for it?”


Wyoming/Kentwood NOW and WKTV will provide coverage of the inaugural event!

Kentwood’s New Dog Park Enjoyed by All

After holding off until deep in November, planet Earth decided it was finally time to switch over to winter and bring down the snow from above. While the temperature drop necessary to bring on a nice snowfall usually keeps people indoors, it didn’t stop dog owners and the City of Kentwood from opening the city’s first dog park!

On Saturday, November 21, Mayor Stephen Kepley lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new dog park located in Kelloggwoods Park at 275 Kellogg Woods Drive. What ensued was doggy heaven as the pups quickly began socializing with their new furry friends in the winter wonderland.

The park has designated off-leash areas for dogs both big and small, dog-waste bins, water spigots and benches.

Dog owners, and citizens of Kentwood, look forward to having a dog park so close to home. Pets are family members too, and watching them play is enjoyable for everyone involved.

Mayor Kepley said it best, “Our dogs can now have just as much fun in the City of Kentwood as the adults do.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself Mayor!

Four-Legged Friends will have Space to Roam and Play in Kentwood

dogparkThe City of Kentwood will officially have its first dog park this Saturday, November 21 after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m.

The park, located in Kelloggwoods Park at 275 Kellogg Woods Drive, was an idea brought by residents to the Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department. Together, the community was able to identify a need for a dog park and Kentwood Parks and Rec put together a business plan back in March to make it happen.

The park cost $15,650 and was funded through the park millage. Featured at the park are off-leash areas for both big and small dogs, dog-waste bins, water spigots and benches.

Mayor Stephen Kepley will give a speech at the grand opening. The ceremony will start at 10 a.m.

Don’t forget to bring your pooches and puppies!

Make sure to stop by the site next week to check out footage from the event.

Trader Joe’s is Open for Business in Kentwood

TraderJoesBy: Mike DeWitt

There’s a new grocery store in Kentwood and its California roots and trading market atmosphere are going to make it one of the hottest places in town.

Trader Joe’s opened this past Friday on the south side of 28th street, across from Centerpointe Mall, and is the latest of Mayor Kepley’s ‘Fun Five’ to officially open its doors in Kentwood!

The 12,500 square-foot building possesses a Hawaiian theme with employees wearing Hawaiian shirts. The shelves and product presentation throughout the store give it a feel of your local ‘neighborhood’ grocer. Over 3,000 of the items on the shelf are Trader Joe’s own personal brand and it makes up around 80% of the store’s inventory.

What makes Trader Joe’s stand out, and a destination grocery store, is its original and unique food choices that can’t be found at other grocers. Trader Joe’s also hangs their hat on providing food that is GMO free and excludes other artificial ingredients. While trying Trader Joe’s unique food choices may be a little out of your comfort zone at first, don’t worry, it can be brought back for a full refund if you don’t like what you bought!

West Michigan had been starved for a Trader Joe’s until the recent grand opening. Michigan is now home to seven locations, but six of them are on the East side of the State! Their popularity bodes well for Kentwood.

“Trader Joe’s is a destination spot,” explained an excited Mayor Kepley, “It’s a store that customers will plan a trip around to fill out their grocery lists. It will bring a lot of business to Kentwood.”

Come check out what excitement is all about! Trader Joe’s is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.