Ingrid Sheldon, who served as mayor of Ann Arbor from 1993 until this past November, said she recalls the transition from former University President James Duderstadt to current President Lee Bollinger as a smooth one in terms of cooperation between the University and the city.
“Each entity has its own goals it needs to follow and they don”t interface that often,” Sheldon said. “And each person has their own personality and goals.”
Sheldon said interim President Homer Neal and his commitment to communication greatly aided the transition.
“Homer Neal bridged the gap between Duderstadt and the new president,” Sheldon said. “He had a firm commitment to ensure that both institutions worked together.”
Sheldon added that Duderstadt had a commitment to a physical plan, including facilities, while Bollinger looked at learning and the environment differently.
“We always had a good relationship,” Sheldon said. “Bollinger took it to the next step to include the community as part of the next forum. He made an effort to go out and meet with the community.”
Jim Kosteva, the University”s director of community relations, said Bollinger”s initiative to undertake a plan geared towards the community helped improve already solid relations. “His initiative has provided an opportunity to have more dialogue with the community of the intentions for construction projects that weren”t there for the previous administration,” Kosteva said.
The University and city have cooperated on a number of “mutually beneficial” programs, the biggest being the renovation of the Forest Street parking structure, Kosteva said.
“We”ve had a good recent history of shared projects where the city and University cooperate,” Kosteva said.
The new president will need to work with the city on issues such as parking and the upcoming State Street Area renovation.
State representative Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor), a city council member during the Duderstadt-Bollinger transition, said that Bollinger was very “engaging,” and the relations he helped create would be difficult to erase.
“The University is so engaged with the city and community that it would make it hard to pull back even with a new administration,” Kolb said.
Mayor John Hieftje said he plans to welcome the new president, whoever it may be.
“We are very interested in forming a great relationship,” Hieftje said. “We”ll be there with a hand out to the new president and a warm handshake.”
City Administrator Neil Berlin shared Hieftje”s sentiments and said the current relationship between the city and the University was a very good one and sees no reason why they wouldn”t continue under a new president.
Of Bollinger leaving, Berlin said, “He lived in the community and was very committed to it. He had a sense of the community and his relations are reflected in that.”