Portage Mayor Peter Strazdas looks back at his six terms in office

Portage Mayor Peter Strazdas is stepping down after six terms in office. (WWMT)

Among the cities choosing new leaders Tuesday, Portage voters are electing a new mayor.

After six terms, Mayor Peter Strazdas has decided not to run for re-election, but he said he might not be done with public service.

Mayor Strazdas revealed to Newschannel 3 that he has a form of cancer he is fighting right now, and he discussed his health, his legacy, and how he hopes to return to a role serving the people of Portage.

The last time Portage had a mayor other than Strazdas, the first iPhone wasn't even released yet.

"A great ride, a great 12 years, a great 16 years on the council,” Strazdas said.

Strazdas said the community that elected him to six consecutive terms as mayor has taught him a lot about getting work done.

"The most important thing I learned is, continue to work with people and try to be humble. I think there's so many things that have to happen and we have to work with people to make things happen,” Strazdas said.

That came in handy while fighting to improve infrastructure. Strazdas calls the work that's been done to I-94 over the years his greatest accomplishment.

"All those bridges in that corridor were a full court press not just by Portage and me, there was probably a lot of people in Southwest Michigan, a lot of trips to Washington D.C. It's an opportunity for big business like Pfizer or Stryker or any of the others in Portage to get easy-on, easy-off on the interstate, as well as for our citizens, if they want to travel somewhere quick."

He also recalled the immense pressure to heal the divide between Portage and Kalamazoo that he faced when he first took office in 2005.

"Encore Magazine (April 2006) did a cover story about The 'Tale of Two Cities'," Strazdas said. "Portage and Kalamazoo had new mayors and city managers all at the same time. It was a first and quite frankly, a time to settle the historical dispute between Kalamazoo and Portage that seemed to drive a wedge between both cities for decades. As I reflect on my long tenure, the dispute ended on my watch and both cities have become supportive of each other."

Strazdas said he's happy he has been able to leave Portage in such good shape financially and economically, and that he's been humbled by his time as a public servant.

"I take little credit for many great things that have happened in Portage," Strazdas. "It was a team effort by many people and I was glad to be a part of some of the greatest moments in Portage history."

But Strazdas said he's going to focus on his family and his health in the near future.

"I've had a little health scare a few months ago, I have a form of cancer I'm working through. With that, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on life, reflect on family,” Strazdas said.

Looking back on 30 years of public service, and 12 years as mayor, Strazdas said he believes he's left the city in great standing.

“It's a great time maybe to exit when things are good, but if I can get through this health issue and get back on the horse again and do something else. I love this community; I love Portage; and I'd like to continue giving back,” Strazdas said.

Two candidates are vying to take over for Strazdas. Patricia Randall, who has spent nine years on the Portage City Council and is the current Mayor Pro-Tem of Portage, and a seven-year council member Nasim Ansari.

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