Don Richards retiring from New Era Village Council after 48 years.

December 3, 2021

Don Richards retiring from New Era Village Council after 48 years.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

NEW ERA — Don Richards will attend his last meeting as the New Era village president next Thursday, Dec. 9, after serving on the council for 48 years.

Richards, 76, has been the village president for 37 years.

“It’s time to step back and let someone else do it. I’ve got one more meeting — I’ll be sitting here one more time,” he said as he sat at the village council table during a recent interview with OCP.

He was appointed as a trustee in 1974 to fill a vacancy on the seven-member board.

He and his family moved to New Era from the White Cloud area in 1970. Don and his wife Sally have three grown children and one granddaughter.

Richards worked for what is now District Health Department #10 for 36 years until his retirement as environmental health director in 2003. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental health from Ferris State University. He also served in the US Army National Guard for six years. 

His education and professional background have helped him with his responsibilities as the village president. “It has been a good fit for me to move into this job. Back in 1974, New Era was having a lot of problems with sewage.” After eight years of “jumping through hoops” to get funding, a municipal sewage system was installed. “That was installed in 1985, I believe. It was a big change.”

A downtown streetscape in the early 2000s with new sidewalks, curbs, gutters and an underground electrical system was constructed. “I worked on that with the engineers for a couple years. 

“We built a new ballfield about three years ago. We put in a small pickle ball court and a little basketball court alongside it.”

The new village hall was installed under his leadership in 2004. The building is the former municipal garage that housed the village police department’s patrol vehicles.

The village, which has a population of about 420, has a police department that includes five part-time officers. 

“We have never raised tax rates here in the village — never — and we don’t charge an administrative fee on our property taxes either. We have been financially very sound. We try to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars.”

A future challenge that he sees for the village is attracting businesses downtown, which is an issue for most communities. 

An avid hunter, Richards plans to spend much of his free time making more improvements to his log cabin near Big Rapids. 

“Just talking with the community and meeting with people” are what he will miss most about being the village president. 

“Everybody’s been so cooperative that there weren’t really any struggles or challenges. Every council I have ever worked with has been very cooperative, and I thank them for all of the support. Any decisions that were made were made for the good of the village.”

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