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A Life of public service

Cedar Springs Mayor Gerald Hall retires

By Sue Wolfe

October continues to be a significant month in the life of Jerry Hall as he completes his seventh year as Mayor for the City of Cedar Springs and eighth year as a City Councilor. Mr. Hall’s last council meeting took place on October 14, 2021, and his term as City Council member ends on his birthday. 

Hall’s life began on October 20, 1948, as the son of Lorian and Junior Hall, when he was born at Metropolitan Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI. Following his graduation from Cedar Springs Public Schools in 1966, Hall worked installing guard rails, fencing, and sod along the new I-94 highway. In 1968, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an Airframe Repairman specializing in helicopters. His three years of service included a one-year tour in Vietnam as part of the 1968 Tet Offensive. After a 3-year break from active duty, he continued serving in the Michigan National Guard (MNG) for another 23 years, earning a spot on the State Rifle Team. While in the MNG, he traveled around the state training guards for weapons readiness and certification. 

Hall describes himself as someone who enjoys opportunities to work outside with his hands. Never shying away from physical labor, Hall first joined the ranks of city employees in 1977 as a Department of Public Works (DPW) staff installing pipes to carry city water to the east side of town. Jim Haynes was the city’s DPW Director at the time. Hall devised a way to increase the pipes installed per day from three 80-foot sections to eight sections a day, almost tripling the daily progress. Hall also cut grass and stood ready to assist wherever needed. 

Hall’s experience prepared him to assume the role as DPW Director after Hayne’s retirement in 1987. One of his largest city projects was the construction of the Wastewater Plant. This required a great deal of time researching materials, equipment, and facility designs. Hall wanted the new plant to be as maintenance-free as possible while at the same time provide safety and assurance to city residents. Twenty-five years later, the water plant has successfully accomplished those goals. Hall maintained the demanding role of DPW director for 23 years retiring in 2010. 

However, this was not the end of his service to the City of Cedar Springs. Residents asked Hall to run for a seat on city council in 2013, believing his years of experience working for the city could lend itself toward being an effective council member. His successful election quickly presented him with making many difficult decisions. He explained, “I would ask myself what is the best thing for our community to help us move forward? What will bring our community together?”

Dr. Danette Martin, DDS commented, “As a previous downtown business owner and health care provider, I was grateful for Mr. Hall’s willingness to answer my questions and provide additional information as to why the city policies and/or procedures were being implemented. I found these details and explanations immensely helpful. He was always kind and patient with me which I greatly appreciated.” 

Hall was committed to ending the rift between the Red Flannel Festival (RFF) Board and City Council which existed when Hall was elected. Hall’s leadership did improve relations with community members, businesses, and organizations. One such partnership built between the council and the Community Building Development Team (CBDT) brought about a new community library and amphitheater without using any taxpayer funds. 

CBDT President Kurt Marie shared, “It is people like Jerry Hall that have made Cedar Springs such a special place. Not only does he give of his time but even more importantly, he gives from his heart!” 

Throughout his 44 years of public service, Hall has served 17 years on the Planning Commission, six years on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and 16 years with the Cedar Springs Fire Department. He was on the council during the construction of the new fire station put into operation earlier this year. 

Over his lifetime in Cedar Springs, Hall has assumed numerous servant roles within our community. He fondly remembers joining Rotary in 1987 which led to opportunities of “Service Above Self,” the Rotary motto. Within Rotary he served as club president and board member. Some of his most memorable Rotarian roles included serving as Boy Scout Master and Charter Representative for the Scouts. While he himself only made it through Cub Scouts, he had become aware of the rewards offered through the Boy Scouts. He helped the organization climb from two scouts to 30-plus scouts a year in 2010. He oversaw the distinguished Eagle Scout awards and the renovation of the scout cabin located in Morley Park. 

Rotary’s traditional chicken dinner fundraiser was both hard work and fun. The annual chicken dinners sold on Red Flannel Day have come a long way from the when the club first started.

“A few years ago, it was a 2-day process when Rotarians parboiled the chicken and then maned the grill on the day of sale. We worked under supervision of the certified school kitchen staff, and it was extremely hard work. Today, the Sparta Lions Club purchases and grills the chicken for the annual event as a fund raiser for their charitable organization. They maintain the food license and are better equipped. It is a solution where both Rotary and Lions benefit,” explained Hall, who along with the late Milo Houghton, oversaw the long day process of grilling for several years. 

While in Rotary, Hall served as the Chair of the Exchange Student Program which quickly led to also hosting nine inbound students from around the world. Stories and pictures of his extended family still bring Hall joy. He stays in touch with many of the students reinforcing his belief the Exchange Student Program builds personal friendships which in turn lends itself to global peace and understanding. 

City Council was not his only elected position. After being appointed by the Cedar Springs Board of Education to temporarily fill a vacancy, Hall decided to run for a permanent seat where he served six years to include positions as Vice President and Treasurer. Once on the board, he served on the Construction Committee for the new middle school. He was committed to overseeing responsible spending for both the new construction and operational budget. “I wanted the taxpayer to get a worthy return on their tax dollar,” he said. 

Hall’s marksmanship skills led him to join the Cedar Springs Rod and Gun Club where he has maintained membership since high school. For the past 25 years he has served as the Hunter Safety Instructor training young people to become certified to own and shoot a gun. He still enjoys the traditional Red Flannel Queen and Court Shoot Day which happens the day after Red Flannel Day. Royalty is given the opportunity to safely shoot a gun. 

The outdoors provides Hall’s with his safe place. “I have been able to rest and rejuvenate through hunting, fishing, and spending time at one of my two cabins located in Michigan,” Hall shared. “Being out in nature and challenging myself there while surrounded by family and friends have kept me grounded,” he continued. 

Jerry has been married to Amy Jo for 15 years come April. Between the two of them, they have five children, 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandson. “I will be spending more time with Amy Jo and taking my grandchildren out in the woods to learn all about the beauty of nature,” said Hall. 

When asked why Hall ran for a second term on city council, he responded by saying the additional time allowed him to work with his fellow councilors on finishing projects started four years earlier. 

“I believe the council will continue to focus on what is good for the community,” said Hall. 

Amy Jo described Jerry as a visionary and one who encourages others. “He has amazing leadership skills and a selfless spirit. He is one of the kindest people I have ever known,” said Amy Jo. 

City Manager Mike Womack said, “For the last 5 years I have worked closely with Mayor Hall as the City navigated and managed a wide panoply of difficulties and successes. For 5 years with me and 44 years in total, Mayor Hall has distinguished himself as a stalwart servant, proponent, and leader for the City of Cedar Springs. Gerald Hall has been instrumental in the growth and development of the city that he loves so much, and his quiet behind-the-scenes leadership style has helped to renew the spirit of honorable public service in the city. I can’t say that we will miss him after his retirement (because we’ll find some way to rope him into a volunteer board position) but as the mantle of mayor passes to the next person, now is the time for us all to say, ‘Thank you Jerry Hall’ for everything that he has done.” 

During Hall’s last city council meeting in October, community members, business officials, past and current city staff, and council members expressed their deep appreciate for Hall’s service. CBDT members presented Hall a Certificate of Appreciation that read “This certificate is awarded to Mayor Gerald Hall in recognition of valuable contributions to the Cedar Springs Community. Your hands-on and ready-to-serve leadership over the last 44 years is immeasurable. You have left a positive and permanent footprint in the foundation of the Cedar Springs Community! Thank you!” 

Upon concluding this interview with Jerry, his parting words were “Have a good day!” He smiled and said, “You know, every day is a good day, some are just a little better than others.” 

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