Farmington Hills city council members on Sunday appointed life-long resident and custom home builder Matthew Strickfaden to fill an open seat.
Over the weekend, officials interviewed 22 of 24 applicants via Zoom. Strickfaden will serve through this year, completing the term of Samantha Steckloff. She’s now serving in the state House of Representatives.
All officials commented on what Mayor Vicki Barnett called “an excellent pool of candidates.”
“This has been a mind-blowing two days,” she said.
Council members started their deliberations Sunday afternoon by naming their top six choices. Strickfaden and Nathaniel McClure, whose company recently signed a contract to bring esports to The Hawk community center, each initially received four votes.
Officials saw both men as a good fit for the position. Council member Ken Massey said Strickfaden was “incredibly well prepared” and had a great view of the parks system and focus on quality of life issues.
“He encouraged conversations with our residents, which is very important to me,” council member Michael Bridges said. “He talked about advocating for our residents.”
“I thought he had a good grasp on budget and finance, but what I really loved was his creativity for reimagining the city,” council member Valerie Knol said. “He seemed like a real consensus builder… someone who could work with everyone.”
A second ballot ended with four votes for Strickfaden and two for McClure. Officials unanimously supported the appointment.
North Farmington alum, gymnastics coach
Born and raised in Farmington Hills, Strickfaden graduated from North Farmington High School. He said he opened his custom home building and remodeling business in 1983 and has coached gymnastics for 28 years at Farmington Gymnastics Center.
During his interview, he suggested improving the city’s parks system and website, and preparing not only for the worst of a post-pandemic world, but also a “post-COVID renaissance”.
Strickfaden suggested reimagining ways to convert empty office buildings into mixed-use residential and retail, with large parking lots becoming green spaces and activity centers. City council members could create a “clear path” for developers willing to take on those projects, he said.
The city’s biggest challenge, Strickfaden said, is “enhancing the livability and enjoyability for existing and future residents.” He talked about redeveloping and improving Heritage Park “and the entire downtown Farmington and Farmington Hills experience.”
On a personal note, Strickfaden said he wants his legacy “to somehow include helping others, and as a councilman for the City of Farmington Hills, I can make a difference.” He also plans to run for a full term in November.
“I am more than ready to take on whatever’s involved in a rigorous campaign. I’m doing this because I think I can help not just for the 11 months, but as far into the future as I can see,” he said.
The new council member will be sworn in during Monday’s council meeting. Watch all the interviews on the City of Farmington Hills YouTube channel.