Todd Bruggema to lead Evart DDA

City manager: "Shows great compassion for community’

After 10  month without a director, the Evart Downtown Development Association has hired Todd Bruggema for the position. Bruggema grew up in Evart and recently moved back following his retirement after 35 years in education.

After 10  month without a director, the Evart Downtown Development Association has hired Todd Bruggema for the position. Bruggema grew up in Evart and recently moved back following his retirement after 35 years in education.

Submitted photo

EVART — Ten months after the previous director of the Evart Downtown Development Association resigned, the organization has a hired new director. Todd Bruggema was offered the position by the DDA board recently and has accepted. 

Bruggema is a resident of Evart and is currently a facilities manager and safety coordinator for Avon Protection Systems in Cadillac. He will be leaving that position at the end of the month as he transitions into his new position as DDA director.

He worked for the Cadillac school system for many years, serving in multiple roles, including classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal.

Bruggema said he is happy to be back in Evart and looks forward to being part of the community.

“I grew up in Evart and lived here for the first 22 years of my life until I graduated from college and my career took me away,” he said. “I have always had family here and have been coming back to the area. I have always loved the town.

“Two years ago, I moved back to the area, and I wanted to get involved in the community,” he continued. "This opportunity became available to try to help continue the progress that has been made over the past few years, and to try to do some positive things for the town, which I have always called home.”

Bruggema said that when he begins his position as DDA director, he will first take time to figure out where the DDA board and the city council are at and where they want to go from here, using his listening skills he developed over his 35 years in education.

“I will be ears and eyes to hear what they want to do and what they want to see in the community, and help be a leader in accomplishing those visions that they have,” he said. “I am going to lean on the downtown business owners to help me find out what their ideas are and expand on those, and develop some goals to accomplish those things."

In addition to connecting with local business owners and business leaders, Bruggema plans to reach out to former DDA director Eric Kehoe and other DDA directors in towns with a similar demographic.

“The first year will definitely be a learning curve,” Bruggema said. “I will be reaching out to others and use them to get ideas about what they have done and what we might be able to do. I will reach out to Eric Kehoe and see what he was doing and where he was trying to go and build off of that. I plan to network a lot and get input from a lot of different people.”

One of his main goals, he said, is to reach out to local business owners and find out where they want to see the city grow, as well as to larger employers to see how he can help them recruit and retain workers.

“I would like to see the downtown stores all filled, and for the downtown to be more vibrant and busy, with more people out and about, walking around and interacting with the city,” he said.

He also plans to continue to follow through with the Sustainable Built Environment Initiative with Michigan State University, he said.

“They have some really good ideas, and I plan to reach out to them and expand on what they have planned for the community,” he said.

“I am very excited about moving back to the area and about getting involved, and hopefully making a positive difference in the growth of downtown,” he added. “I am excited about getting to know store owners and getting involved with a new generation of Evart. Whatever I can do to keep the young people in town and keep the town thriving, I will try to do.”

The Evart city council approved Bruggema's contract for the DDA director position during its meeting last week. The contract, effective March 1 through Feb. 29, 2024, sets the annual salary at $62,000.

Council member Matt Hildebrand noted that the contract reflects a significant salary increase and asked if the DDA budget would support that. 

DDA president Alan Bengry said since the DDA has been without a director for 10 months, those funds are still available.  

“The current budget will support the difference in salary for two years,” he said. “Future budgets will reflect the increase.”

Kehoe, who became the DDA director in August 2020, resigned his position in May 2021 to accept an offer with Michigan community Capital. The position has been vacant since that time.