The path George Lahanas has followed to his new position as city manager of Northville has been anything but typical.
Fascinating, for sure, but not ordinary.
Born and raised in New York City’s borough of Queens, Lahanas relocated to Marquette, Michigan, when he was 18 years old to pursue a degree in law enforcement at Northern Michigan University.
“My high school had a computer program that basically told you where you should go to college based on the part of the country you wanted to live in, the size of the town you wanted to live in, the school’s best majors, costs — all the way through,” Lahanas recounted. “Every university in the country was in the data base. After I inputted all of the information, out popped Northern Michigan University. I did some research on Marquette and the university and thought it looked great.
“When I was a student at Northern and someone would find out I was from Queens, they’d ask me, ‘What are you doing here!?’ But I loved everything about it … except there weren’t a lot of jobs up there.”
New direction in life
While completing an internship with the City of Marquette as he worked toward a master’s degree in public administration, Lahanas became fascinated with the city manager/city council form of local government.
“I made an appointment with Marquette’s city manager to hear more about it and from that point forward I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” Lahanas said, just hours before his Monday night swearing-in ceremony.
Lahanas comes to Northville fresh off an 11-year-plus stint as the city manager of East Lansing, where he routinely earned stellar marks for performance before reaching a separation agreement with the City in January.
He hit the brakes on his nationwide search for a new job when he learned of the city manager opportunity in Northville. Following a series of interviews, visits and due diligence, he agreed to a contract in February.
“I love Michigan, first of all,” he said, when asked about the appeal of the Northville job. “I really love the seasons, the lakes, the climate. After 35 years here, I did not want to leave.
“I knew from my visits here that Northville had something special in its downtown. I love its walkability, its livability, the fact that it offered a downtown where you can shop, eat and recreate — you can do it all. The vibrancy of the downtown and the nearby neighborhoods is something special. All that combined with the Downs development really piqued my interest in the job.”
Downs development: ‘Very exciting’
Lahanas called the variety of housing options that will become available with the Downs development “very exciting”.
“From townhouses, to apartments to single-family homes, it’s the type of development that you rarely see directly next to a downtown; it’s usually more of a suburban thing,” he said. “The fact that the development’s residents will be within walking distance to a first-class downtown is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
In his free time, Lahanas said he enjoys exercise, walking and spending time in the outdoors.
“One of my favorite things to do in East Lansing was walk from my neighborhood to downtown and back, meeting people, stopping at the unique shops,” he said. “A couple weeks ago I walked around Northville and discovered how amazing this city is. There were a lot of people in the restaurants, everybody was friendly. What’s not to love?”
Lahanas and his wife Shelley, who is a registered nurse at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital, are the proud parents of two teenaged daughters, Eleni and Marina, both of whom attend Lansing Catholic Central High School.
In a bio on the Northville City website, he noted his management style is “one of empowerment and encouragement, with listening being an important skill.” His work on complex developments in East Lansing through public/private partnerships made this experience attractive to Northville City Council members, the bio explained, as new mixed-use developments are being built adjacent to downtown Northville.