By David Fleet
Groveland Twp.-On April 2, township resident Neil Sheridan, was introduced as the Michigan Township Association Executive Director during the Conference’s General Session Association’s Annual Educational Conference in Grand Rapids. Sheridan replaces MTA Executive Director Larry Merrill will retire at the end of June after nearly four decades of services.
“The MTA is a fantastic organization,” said Sheridan. “That was founded 10 years before the first real threat to township government occurred in the 1960s with the redrafting of the (Michigan) Constitution and they (MTA) have been fighting ever since. They do a wonderful job in terms of advocacy before the governor and legislators, but also educating our new township officials as well as our existing ones.”
Sheridan, who has served on the township planning commission and board of review for the past 12 years made the announcement on Monday night at the board of trustees meeting. The MTA represents 1,240 townships statewide providing advocacy before state and federal lawmakers. The MTA also provides information and education to township officials answering member questions on statutory requirements, providing advice on issues they face.
“I invite every township official or resident to contact me through the MTA,” said Sheridan, whose term begins July 1. “It’d like to visit the Atlas, Brandon and Groveland township board meetings—both to thank them for their success in making our area a great place to live and to learn about what is on their mind.
“I’ll regularly visit our region’s district meetings. MTA also organizes an annual tour by our leaders and experts that includes the Oakland area. Each year, at our annual conference, the township officials consider and vote on new and updated policy priorities.”
Sheridan is the current president of SVPI, an advisory and management services corporation active internationally. He has worked with hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, foundations, governments and small businesses on strategy, innovation and performance improvement initiatives. He sits on the Small Business Association of Michigan board of directors and led an SBAM Legislative Action Committee task force for four years. Additionally, he’s served on healthcare, community development, cultural and foundation boards for many years.
“On a local level, townships need the authority to make planning, zoning, enforcement and other actions that protect residents’ desires and priorities,” he said. “On a state level, we need to make certain that Michigan is a favorable place to start, relocate or grow a business. Balancing employment and strengthened local economies while protecting our rural quality of life is critical—we have to make sure that business plans and community priorities both factor fairly into siting, expanding, serving and taxing businesses. I’ve worked on local and state economic development matters for 20 years. As the new MTA director, I will work with our members to ensure that townships have the authority and standing to protect their community needs and interests while building prosperity for residents and businesses.”
Sheridan has helped lead numerous Michigan efforts focused on regional economic development. Sheridan co-authored an economic strategy with Public Sector Consultants for the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) called “Accelerating Growth,” which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer later said she would use in her administration. Previously, he led a group of 80 townships, cities, nonprofits, businesses and governments to produce a comprehensive economic development game plan for coordination with the state and federal governments.
“The MTA fields an outstanding and highly respected team of professionals to advocate for and advance strong local government in our townships,” he said. “As our new Executive Director, my role is to work with our board, professionals, volunteers and many partners to continue a seven-decade legacy of excellence in delivering this mission.”