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Posted on Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

Fairy tale ending: Ann Arbor DDA bids farewell to 2 board members

By Ryan J. Stanton


Longtime DDA board member Leah Gunn stands outside the DDA offices on Fifth Avenue last summer.

Ryan J. Stanton |

After more than two decades on the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's governing board, Leah Gunn is stepping down.

Gunn, a former county commissioner who says she's ready to retire from public service, has been on the DDA board since 1991 and served as chairwoman in 1995-96 and 2012-13.


DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay presented longtime board member Leah Gunn with a gift on Wednesday — her very own "fairy door," at right, for her backyard. That will complement another fairy door, at left, installed at the Fourth and Washington parking garage. The thinking, Pollay said, is the fairies of popular Ann Arbor folklore will be able to "teleport" between Gunn's house and the downtown.

Ryan J. Stanton |

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay read aloud resolutions Wednesday afternoon thanking both Gunn and another outgoing DDA board member — Newcombe Clark — for their service.

Clark, a recent MBA graduate from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, is leaving his hometown of Ann Arbor for a career opportunity in Chicago. A longtime downtown resident, Clark has served on the DDA's governing board since 2009.

Gunn is a close political ally of Mayor John Hieftje. Her long tenure on the DDA board became a point of contention earlier this year during the debate over the DDA's growing budget. City Council Members Stephen Kunselman and Sumi Kailasapathy have pushed for term limits so future DDA board members could only serve up to two four-year terms.

In recognition of Gunn's "magical time" on the DDA, Pollay presented the outgoing chairwoman with a gift on Wednesday — her very own "fairy door" for her backyard. That will complement a fairy door installed at the Fourth and Washington parking garage.

The thinking, Pollay said, is the fairies of popular Ann Arbor folklore will be able to "teleport" between Gunn's house and the downtown. Gunn was appreciative of the whimsical gesture.

Pollay gave Gunn credit for working to solve a multimillion-dollar deterioration problem in downtown parking garages, for creating partnerships with the city, county and nonprofit agencies, and for pursuing projects such as the two-way traffic transition in the State Street area, the Fifth and Division improvement project, and the new Library Lane underground parking garage.

"Leah Gunn's remarkable passion for the DDA and its work will be sorely missed," Pollay said, adding Gunn's strength of character, decisiveness and willingness to do the work necessary to overcome challenges made her an invaluable leader and board member.

"And her commitment to the downtown and community is an inspiration to all who have had the good fortune to work beside her," she said.


Newcombe Clark, left, listens as Pollay reads a resolution thanking him for his service on the DDA board on Wednesday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Pollay also gave thanks to Clark, saying he participated in many important projects throughout his tenure on the DDA, including the Connecting William Street Plan and the creation of a DDA brownfield policy that includes criteria for doling out grants like the $650,000 the DDA is giving for streetscape improvements in conjunction with the 618 South Main apartments project.

Clark brought great knowledge and insight to the DDA from his many years as a real estate professional and as a longtime downtown resident, Pollay said.

Gunn received another gift on Wednesday — a framed Cat in the Hat poster with a Dr. Seuss quote that DDA officials said fits Gunn, who has a reputation for telling it like it is: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

Gunn said her proudest accomplishment on the DDA board was hiring Pollay, whom she called a "remarkable and wonderful executive director."

The DDA board named former City Council Member Sandi Smith of Trillium Real Estate and the Jim Toy Community Center as its new chairwoman to replace Gunn. John Mouat is now vice chairman, Keith Orr is secretary and Roger Hewitt remains the board's treasurer.

The board also appointed four of its members to serve on a new joint committee of the DDA and the City Council — Bob Guenzel, Joan Lowenstein, Smith and Hewitt.

Previous story: Leah Gunn on the role of the Ann Arbor DDA: 'We've made it attractive to businesses to be downtown'

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 7:04 a.m.

Ms. Gunn was a case study in conflict of interest with her position as a a county commissioner and appointment on the DDA. Why citizens allowed that type of governance is beyond me. Ann Arbor is infected with conflict of interests in its local politics. It seems to be the accepted form of politics.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

Abolish the DDA. Ann Arbor does not need an unelected shadow government appointed by the mayor and responsible only to him.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

"Long career in public service" can be read multiple ways. To wit: "I could never get anyone in the private sector to hire me." "I got a little taste of power backed by no accountability, and who would want to give that up?"


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

There goes the "fairy" neighborhood. You A2 city people DO know where fairy doors come from right????


Fri, Jul 5, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

*I* do.

Janet Neary

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Surely even those of us who don't agree with all the decisions Leah Gunn has made in her long career of public service can appreciate and thank her for her honesty, intelligence, and effectiveness -- traits I wish more of our public servants had.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

When I hear that Leah Gunn is ready to retire from politics, I will worry (really!) about her health. She has been the prime force behind much of what has happened in Ann Arbor politics for the last 20 years. Among other things, she is probably responsible for John Hieftje's long tenure as mayor, and she has certainly contributed to the shape of our downtown development. She has been the kingmaker in many a campaign. Her retirement from both the DDA and the BOC shows a measure of grace, but I doubt seriously that this means a withdrawal from the theater of combat.

James Toy

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

Thanks to Leah Gunn and Newcombe Clark, and congratulations and good wishes to Sandi Smith!

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

Just a quick FYI - I tweaked the wording just a tiny bit to more accurately reflect that Leah Gunn is retiring from public service, not necessarily politics, and the fair door at Fourth and Washington I'm told already is there on the Fourth Avenue side of the parking garage.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

so, not just a "plan", but they actually did it. Integrated thoughtfully into a structure that an urban-fairy would choose to live in, right?

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

fairy* door


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 3:28 a.m.

Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on the back side. About time!:)


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Yeah, can I help 'em pack?!?!

Silent Majority

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:59 a.m.

Newcombe will be missed. He's a bright, innovative and unique man with an abundance of intelligence. I hope he'll move back to Ann Arbor after his jaunt to Chicago. We're much better with him here. Leah Gunn is a gem. She cares deeply for people, but she understands public service means getting things done, not getting everyone to like you. The DDA is losing two excellent members, despite what commenters here may say. Thanks both!


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

They are planning WHAT!? WHERE!? Shake my head. I have worked pretty hard too, and THIS!?

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

Well, we have learned all about fairies in Ann Arbor. Nothing new there. And we have learned that Newcomb Clark is leaving for mumble mumble mumble some nondescript job in Chicago. And that the opportunity way over there probably has nothing to do with his past post at the DDA. Nor the "foreign" influence of any Chicago business' in Ann Arbor political decisionmaking concerning profitable development at local taxpayer expense. Nope. No connection there. We run a top-ten clean city here folks. Nothing worth reporting. Nope.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 1:59 a.m.

("Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.") REALLY ? There could not be a more perfect phrase to justify a vote for term limits. Pay close attention and understand this phrase for what it is. Sounds like do it "My way, or hit the highway".


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

Only about a third of that quote belongs to Seuss, the rest if from Bernard Baruch.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Icky use of Dr. Seuss!


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

Term limits. Need to implement them now.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

40 years is a long time to practice psychiatry.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

Only when YOUr job is term limited, Let us all know what the number of years you are "allowed" to have a job in yoru world and EVERY person gets fired at that point. My doctor was at UM (a PUBLIC school for over 40 years. I guess he should have been term limited out because we all know new is ALWAYS better in your deluded world.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

Ms. Gunn's epitaph might be found in last year's story about parking meters accepting $35,000 a year after-hours, when the parking was free. "Not our fault if people put their money in," remarked the ever-vigilant Ms. Gunn, opposing any spending on signage improvement. Public service as you've never seen it before.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

There's a reason that the DDA members are unelected. Because nobody would ever vote for them.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 5:14 a.m.

I believe the article also stated the parking meter computers could be programed to reject after hour payments but no one on the DDA ever implemented the safeguard. It's so much easier to take money than to be honest with the citizens of AA. Spoken like a true politician. Very Sad commentary on the character of the DDA leaders.


Thu, Jul 4, 2013 : 2:25 a.m.

I would say if you are too stupid to read a parking meter, yu deserve to pay for parking. Every single meter and pay station I have been to is VERY clear about when you need to pay to park. Some people actually pay to watch television, yet you can get it for free. I guess you want a governmental agency to put up signs telling people they do not need to pay for cable, they can get some of the same stations for free? Ms Gunn is more than correct in stating it is NOT her or the DDa's fault that people are ignorant.

Colorado Sun

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

Lee Gunn is one of the strongest arguments for term limits. God bless Sumi Kailasapathy and Steve Kunselman in their quest to reform thre DDA.