The Michigan Municipal League is supported by a strategic and passionate Board of Trustees who are a critical part of the League’s organizational structure. This 19-member Board guides the League’s internal workings and public policy with support from five legislative committees.
Barbara A. Ziarko has been a Sterling Heights resident for the last 42 years and an active member of the Sterling Heights City Council since 2001. She holds an associate degree from Macomb Community College and is a retiree after 27 years combined working experience as an administrative assistant to the principal of St. Anne School in Warren and as a bookkeeper for St. Blasé Church in Sterling Heights. She has been active in the community having served as a volunteer at Pope Francis Center in Detroit, a Friend of the Sterling Heights Library, a member of the American Polish Century Club Ladies Auxiliary, vice president of Regina High School board of directors for seven years, and a coordinator for bible school, MCREST, and Relay for Life. She also takes every opportunity to immerse herself in the city by actively participating in programs such as the civilian police and fire academies and Sterling Heights Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Her term expires in 2023.
Robert Clark has served as mayor of the City of Monroe since 2010, and previously as a councilmember. He serves on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Development Authority, and Monroe City Employee Pension and Post-Retirement Health Care board of trustees. Active within the community, he serves on the Monroe County Business Development Corporation, River Raisin National Battlefield Foundation board, and the River Raisin Watershed Council. Prior to elected office, Clark served on the City of Monroe Citizens Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. He is a member delegate of SEMCOG, serving on the Budget and Finance Committee and past SEMCOG chairperson. He is on his fourth term as a member of the MML Liability & Property Pool board of directors and has served as its chairperson. Clark is a graduate of William Penn College, Iowa, and earned BA degrees in sociology and psychology. He completed 30 years of service with the Michigan State Police, retired at the rank of major, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. His term expires in 2024.
Michigan Municipal League Trustees
Joshua Atwood has served as a commissioner for the City of Lapeer since 2015. He is the youngest commissioner elected since Lapeer was established as a city in 1869. Atwood co-established the cities first-ever Youth Council. Under his leadership, the Youth Council established the cities first volunteer group, Lapeer City Superheroes. The volunteer group is very proactive in doing city cleanups, planting flowers, and lending a helping hand whenever possible. As a public servant, Atwood is not afraid to get dirty as he leads from the front. He can be seen planting city flowers one day, picking up garbage and sweeping up cigarette butts downtown the next day. Atwood holds a monthly event, “coffee with a commish” that has been very instrumental for public engagement. He has even hosted, “coffee with a commish teen edition” targeting the next generation of leaders, business owners, and residents. He has been a leader in the growth of ecotourism in the city and an important part of the growth and success of downtown Lapeer. His term expires in 2025.
Rebecca Chamberlain-Creanga was elected to Troy City Council in 2020. As an economic anthropologist, her career has spanned philanthropy, academia and international development. Born and raised in northern Michigan, Chamberlain-Creanga previously worked for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow. She was also named a U.S. Department of State Title VIII Research Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, where she briefed U.S. government officials as a recognized expert on social change and development. In 2014, Chamberlain-Creanga joined The Kresge Foundation, using her anthropology and development background in service of Kresge’s mission to expand opportunity in America’s cities. Prior to joining Troy City Council, she was a member of the Global Troy Advisory Committee and Troy Downtown Development Authority, where she oversaw the approval of the Quality Development Initiative to help promote a vibrant streetscape and high-quality amenities along Troy’s Big Beaver Corridor. Chamberlain-Creanga holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. As a Marshall Scholar, she earned a Master of Science from the London School of Economics and a Master of Arts from University College London. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College in Norton, MA. The author of numerous practitioner and scholarly studies, Chamberlain-Creanga has taught at the London School of Economics and Oakland University. In 2017-2019, she taught performance metrics as part of a nonprofit management program at Oakland University. She is also a member of Leadership Oakland Class XXIX, a program for regional leaders that focuses on creating awareness of key issues affecting the metro Detroit region. Her term expires in 2025.
Peter Dame has more than 25 years of experience as a municipal official. He has been the city manager for the City of Grosse Pointe since 2006. A native of Portage, MI, Dame graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in History. He developed his interest in getting things done at the local level while serving as a Congressional aide for his hometown U.S. Representative. While in the nation’s capital, Dame obtained a master’s degree in Public Administration from George Washington University. He then worked for the Village of Oak Park, IL for more than 12 years in administration and served on the West Central (Cook County) Municipal Conference Intergovernmental Committee before returning to Michigan. Dame is a member of the Michigan Municipal Executives (MME) where he had served on its Ethics Committee, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and he has served on the Municipal League’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for at least a decade. His term expires in 2023.
Carla J. Filkins was elected as the first female mayor in the history of the City of Cadillac in 2013. In addition to her role on the council, she also serves on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Cadillac Planning Commission. Born and raised in the Cadillac area, she is involved with several community organizations including the Cadillac Area Women’s Giving Circle, the Cadillac Rotary, the Cadillac Mayor’s Youth Council, the Mayor’s Fit City Challenge, and has many others. She holds an MBA in Marketing, a Bachelor of Business Leadership, and is a graduate of the Cadillac Leadership program. She holds certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt in process improvement, and is a recipient of the Athena Leadership Award. Filkins works for Munson Healthcare as the Director of Regional Materials & Logistics, and this is her 39th year in Northern Michigan’s Healthcare Supply Chain. Her term expires in 2023.
Don Gerrie served as a Sault Ste. Marie City Commissioner from 2007 to 2019, at which time he was elected mayor. A native of the city, he graduated from Sault Area High School and Skill Center, received his B.A. in Business Administration/Accounting from Alma College, and attended MBA courses at Lake Superior State University. After twelve years in banking, Gerrie began a career at USDA Rural Development, where he is now area director. An advocate for community service, his personal philosophy is “service is the price you pay for the space you occupy.” Gerrie has volunteered to serve and held leadership positions on the board of directors for many local organizations that have a positive impact on our community, including Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of the EUP, Sault Historic Sites, Northern Transitions, Presbyterian Church Trustees, and the Sault Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. His term expires in 2025.
Stephen Kepley has served the citizens of Kentwood as mayor and head administrator since 2013. He gained much of his valuable experience while working for Kentwood as the director of engineering and inspections/city engineer for 11 years, along with an additional 15 years in the private manufacturing design and construction sector. Kepley serves on various boards including The RAPID (former chair and vice-chair), Grand Valley Metro Council’s executive board, and the Kentwood Community Foundation (president). He holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Virginia Tech and is certified by the State of Michigan in multiple vocations. Kepley has always loved working with people to solve problems, encourage growth, and serve the common good of those around him. His term expires in 2025.
Valerie Kindle has served as mayor of Harper Woods since 2020, and on the city council since 2012. She is the current president of the Michigan Women in Municipal Government and a board member of the Friends of the Harper Woods Library and the Harper Woods Lions Club. Kindle is a member of the Harper Woods Planning Commission and Ordinance Committee, a board member and second vice president for the Grosse Pointes & Harper Woods NAACP, and a board member and program committee chair for The League of Women Voters Grosse Pointe. She is a member and volunteer for New Life Ministries Worldwide (Harper Woods, MI), a retired State of Michigan delinquency worker, and a case manager with Michigan Works. Kindle has a bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University in criminal justice and is a graduate of Wayne State University Labor College and WCCCD. Her term expires in 2025.
Robert La Fave serves as the village manager for the Village of L’Anse. In his 11 years of service to the community, he has worked with multiple community stakeholders (Village Council, DDA, Chamber of Commerce, Baraga County EDC, Planning Commission, and citizen groups) to engage in placemaking and downtown revitalization efforts to improve the quality of life of local residents and to help make the community more attractive to visitors and business alike. LaFave has served on the Michigan Municipal Executives board, MSU Extension Statewide Board, is currently on the Baraga County EDC, and various other community boards. He holds a Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University, holds a Citizen Planner Certification from MSU Extension, and is currently a PhD. student in Michigan Technological University’s Environmental and Energy Policy Program. His term expires in 2024.
Raylon Leaks-May has been a Ferndale resident for over 30 years, has been a member of the Ferndale City Council since 2015 and served as the mayor pro tem from 2019 through 2021. She serves on the Board of Zoning and Appeals, as well as the Ferndale Accessibility and Inclusion Commission. She is an active volunteer in the community and is a proud mother of five beautiful children. She is an information and referral specialist by profession, at the Area Agency on Aging 1-B and serves as board president for The Elected Officials Academy. She holds a B.A. through Madonna University and has an (AA) and (AS) from Oakland Community College. Her term expires in 2025.
Joshua Meringa has served on the Grandville City Council since 2007. He is passionate about public service and is driven toward having a positive impact by improving quality of life for residents and supporting economic development in his community. Meringa currently serves on the Grandville Parks & Recreation Board and Business Relations Committee. Soon after being elected, he became actively involved with the League, and has served on many legislative committees and helped Grandville’s Clean Water Plant win the Community Excellence Award in 2012. Meringa has served several terms on the MML Elected Officials Academy Board, including five years as president, and is an EOA Level 4 graduate. He has also been recognized twice as a ‘40 Under Forty’ Business Leader by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. A registered nurse, Meringa works in nursing professional development for Spectrum Health West Michigan. In addition to public service, he is active in his profession, serving on the Board of Directors for the American Nurses Association – Michigan, and served two terms on the Michigan Board of Nursing, including seven years as chair. A native of West Michigan, Meringa earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Calvin College (now University), and master’s degrees from Grand Valley State University in Public, Health, and Business Administration. His term expires in 2025.
Deborah Stuart has served as the city manager for the City of Mason since 2016. She has over 17 years of local and state experience assisting community and economic development projects come to fruition. She recently served as the community development incentives director for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In that role, she was responsible for various Michigan incentive programs, including the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), Community Revitalization Program (CRP), Renaissance Zones, Smart Zones, and Brownfield Programs averaging over $100,000 million annually being awarded to Michigan communities. Stuart holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Central Michigan University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University. She proudly serves as a League Ambassador to both the 16/50 and SaveMICity Projects, and is the current chair of the League’s Municipal Administration and Permitting Committee. Stuart was the 2018 recipient of League’s Community Builder Award due to her work on both local and state initiatives related to Community Development. Her term expires in 2024.
Keith Van Beek currently serves as city manager for the City of Holland. His experience in public administration is extensive. He previously served as the deputy county administrator for the County of Ottawa, and as the city administrator for the City of Kentwood for 12 years. Throughout his career, Van Beek has been highly involved in professional associations. He is a credentialed manager in the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), past president and former board member of the Michigan Municipal Executives and the West Michigan Municipal Executives; and a member of the Michigan Association of County Administrative officials. He has served a number of community organizations and agencies, including as the chairperson of Community SPOKE, an alliance of the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance and Ottawa County Human Services Coordinating Council, and he is the current treasurer of the Greater Ottawa County United Way. Van Beek is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, Calvin College, and has a Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University. His term expires in 2024.
Mark Washington has served as city manager for Grand Rapids since 2018. He is committed to making Grand Rapids a city that is nationally recognized for being equitable, welcoming, innovative, and collaborative with a robust economy, safe, and healthy community, and the opportunity for a high quality of life for all. Washington has worked in local government for nearly 24 years—in Austin, TX as assistant city manager and as director of human resources and civil service, and in Fort Worth, TX, as assistant director of human resources, and street services operations program manager. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tarleton State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Amberton University, a master of arts degree and doctorate degree in education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and holds several certifications. Washington is a member of the International City/County Management Association, Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, and serves on the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Spectrum Health Community Commitment, National Forum for Black Public Administrators, Tarleton State University College of Business advisory boards, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and is a Trustee of Paul Quinn College. His term expires in 2023.
Stephanie Grimes Washington serves as the director of government affairs for the City of Detroit. She previously served as fundraiser/funding event coordinator for the campaign of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, was later appointed to Duggan’s administration as the director of scheduling and advance, and then appointed to city council liaison. With a strong media, sales management and marketing background, Washington has held a variety of media management positions within the fields of radio, television, print and social media. In her current role, she has made significant contributions through her advocacy efforts to elected officials and key stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels that have impacted Detroit’s transformation and revitalization. Washington earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Master of Public Administration with a concentration in city management with honors from Villanova University. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., a member/treasurer of the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Board, and a member of the Eight Mile/Woodward Corridor Board, and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Board. Her term expires in 2024.
Tim Wolff has served as the village manager of Lake Isabella since 2004. He has over 20 years of municipal experience in both elected and appointed positions. A native of mid-Michigan, Wolff holds a bachelor’s degree from Alma College and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. Since 2011 he has chaired the League’s Land Use & Economic Development Committee. Wolff was a 2007 recipient of the League’s Special Award of Merit and 2012 recipient of the League’s Outstanding Service Award. Wolff is a Credentialed Manager by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and holds the AICP certification from the American Planning Association (APA). In addition to his service with the League, Wolff actively serves on committees for the ICMA and the Michigan Municipal Executives (MME). His term expires in 2025.
League Executive Director and CEO
Dan Gilmartin is the executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League. Through his work with communities, Dan is recognized as a national leader in the fields of urban revitalization, placemaking, local government reform, and transportation policy.
Under Dan’s leadership, the League powers innovative programs and practices that improve communities in Michigan and beyond. He is a frequent national and international speaker. In recent years, he has given presentations internationally including in China, Sweden, Australia, and Denmark, and across the nation—from Los Angeles to D.C. to Vermont. In 2018, Dan gave highly publicized testimony before a U.S. Congress Senate Committee on behalf of local governments nationwide regarding state and local transportation infrastructure needs.
Dan is frequently quoted in state and national publications on community-related topics. He has also authored numerous opinion columns that have appeared in statewide publications, including the Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business, mlive.com, and Bridge Magazine.
In 2018, Dan added podcast host to his resume on the Economics of Place podcast, part of the League’s We Love Where You Live podcast series. He is a frequent blogger and a contributing author to the books The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People and the follow-up Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities.
He is actively engaged in the National League of Cities and previously served on the NLC’s board of directors. In 2018, he was selected to the NLC’s National Task Force on Housing and in 2015 was a member of NLC’s President Election Task Force.
Prior to his current position, Dan served for four years as the lead advocate for Michigan’s communities in Lansing and Washington, D.C., where he concentrated on a number of key issues including transportation, land use, and urban redevelopment.
Dan is a Michigan kid, a Detroit native (and booster), and currently resides in the historic downtown of Northville, Michigan with his wife, Lori, and two young sons.
Dan’s blog: Economics of Place