John Logie, who left lasting mark as Grand Rapids mayor, dies at 81

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Logie, one of Grand Rapids’ longest-serving mayors, has died.

Logie died Wednesday, one week before his 82nd birthday, following a yearslong battle with Alzheimer’s, his online obituary says.

On paper, the job of mayor in Grand Rapids is more of a figurehead position. The mayor does run city commission meetings and represents the tie-breaking vote, but often, the job involves ceremonial ribbon cuttings or reading to school children.

John Logie changed that definition.

An undated courtesy photo of John Logie.

He once said 90% of his job was process.

“You’ve got to make the ordinary stuff happen, and happen correctly. But that other 10% is the visioning about where are we going? Where do we want to be?” Logie said during a 2000 interview with News 8.

A fourth-generation Grand Rapidian, Logie was born in Ann Arbor on Aug. 11, 1939. His family soon returned to Grand Rapids, where he stayed until he graduated from East Grand Rapids High. After college and five years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, Logie returned to Ann Arbor, this time as University of Michigan Law School student. After law school, it was back to Grand Rapids and the start of a long career with the law firm of Warner Norcross + Judd.

His involvement in the city began long before he took the oath of office. In the late 1960s, he became a champion for historic preservation as he helped save Heritage Hill from the wrecking ball.

But it was from 1991 through 2003 that Logie had the greatest impact on this community. He was first elected mayor in 1991. By the end of the decade, Grand Rapids was a much different city.

“I had nine years as mayor where we really had a good economy and we were trying to take advantage of the muscle that that gave us,” he said at the end of his tenure in 2003. “We focused on economic development, on keeping jobs, on holding onto jobs, on helping people expand and then bringing new jobs into this community.”

It wasn’t just new policies. Logie’s skilled use of the bully pulpit helped not only pave the way for a major revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids, but also brought people to the neighborhoods in and around downtown. While populations in most core cities dropped, Grand Rapids’ actually increased during the 1990s.

It wasn’t just the business community that benefited from Logie’s tenure. There are a number of examples, like the project that separated the water you flush down the drain and the water that runs off your lawn. The combined sewer separation project eliminated chronic rain-fed sewer backups into homes throughout the city.

“We are one of the largest, cleanest cities in the country, and I’m very proud of that, but there’s so much more to be done,” Logie said during the 2003 interview.

Logie believed in the office of mayor — so much so that in 2002, he proposed amending the City Charter, written in 1916, to create a full-time mayor position. The job of running the city would be split between the city manager and mayor.

Then, in July 2002, Logie surprised city commissioners during a Tuesday work session, telling them he would retire.

Logie believed Grand Rapids needed a full-time mayor, but wanted voters to focus on the office, not himself. His effort was in vain. The measure was defeated by voters.

Logie ended his third term as Grand Rapids’ the longest-serving mayor, a record tied by George Heartwell in 2015.

Shortly before he left office, Logie was asked how history would remember him.

“I hope that it remembers that I didn’t have a personal agenda, that the agenda was what was good for the city,” he said.

Logie leaves behind his wife Susan, son John and daughters, Susannah and Maggie, as well as two siblings and six grandchildren.

On Friday, Douglas Dozeman, the managing partner of Warner Norcross + Judd, recalled Logie as a “giant in our community and our law firm family.”

“John Logie was an attorney and then partner with Warner Norcross + Judd for nearly four decades. He served three terms as mayor of Grand Rapids, a city he loved and was honored to represent. John will be remembered as a fierce advocate for change, a respected community leader and a beloved member of our Warner family. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Susan, their children and grandchildren.”

Douglas Dozeman

Rosalynn Bliss, Grand Rapids’ current mayor, said Logie “was an exceptional leader with a servant heart who loved our city.”

“Today is a sad day in our community as we learn of the passing of Mayor John Logie. Mayor Logie was an exceptional leader with a servant heart who loved our city. He was a fierce advocate for historical preservation, local businesses, neighborhoods, drug policy reform and all things Grand Rapids. All around our community you can see the lasting legacy and impact from John Logie’s time as Mayor.

He was a friend and mentor, who I could always count on for wise counsel and advice. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to know and learn from him. He was loved by many and will be missed terribly.

My sincere condolences go to his family and friends. Please join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers during this extremely sad time.”

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss

According to his obituary, there will not be a public funeral ceremony because of coronavirus concerns. Loved ones suggested to honor him, people could enjoy his favorite drink, a Manhattan with half-and-half whiskey and vermouth, or sing The Navy Hymn, “Blue Bayou” or “Hail to the Victors.” Memorial contributions may be made to the John H. Logie Fellows Program at Grand Valley State University or to Compassion & Choices, which helps families understand end-of-life choices.

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