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The Michigan Townships Association (MTA) announces that after nearly four decades of service, Executive Director Larry Merrill will retire at the end of June.

MTA recognized Merrill for his dedication and contributions to the Association and Michigan’s 1,240 townships with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTA Banquet, held April 3, during the Association’s Annual Educational Conference & Expo in Grand Rapids.

Merrill first joined the Association in 1980 as education director and became deputy executive director in 1985. Prior to joining MTA, Merrill worked at Clinton and Montcalm Counties, performing policy and administration functions. He also served as a county emergency management director and emergency medical services director. 

“It has been an honor to serve Michigan township government for virtually the entirety of my professional career,” Merrill said. “Township officials are sincere, dedicated public servants who are eager to do their jobs well and to be effective advocates for local democracy. For 39 years, the Michigan Townships Association has given me the opportunity to provide thousands of these outstanding local leaders the essential skills, knowledge and laws to make their communities stronger, their services more efficient and effective, and a voice in statewide issues that will continue to restore Michigan’s prosperity.”

During his MTA career, Merrill has earned a reputation as an expert on organization governance and administration, public finance, public safety services and land use regulations. He served as president of the National Center for Small Communities and was 2012-2013 president of the National Association of Towns and Townships. Merrill also served on the Governor’s Land Use Leadership Council, and on many state policy task forces.  

Merrill has written several of MTA’s publications, including On-Call Fire Departments, Building a Better Budget, and the Trustee’s Guide to Township Government. He also wrote Political Implications of Intergovernmental Cooperation for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and co-wrote Survival Guide for Local Elected Leaders, published by the National Association of Towns and Townships.

Merrill will continue to serve as MTA executive director until June 30. His successor, Neil Sheridan, was introduced to MTA members at the Conference’s General Session on April 2.

Sheridan comes to MTA with a rich background in local government, beginning as a teenager and for the last 12 years as a member of the Groveland Township (Oakland Co.) Planning Commission and its Board of Review. He has helped lead numerous Michigan efforts focused on regional economic development. Sheridan co-authored an economic strategy with Public Sector Consultants for the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) called “Accelerating Growth,” which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer later said she would use in her administration. Previously, he led a group of 80 townships, cities, nonprofits, businesses and governments to produce a comprehensive economic development game plan for coordination with the state and federal governments.

“Michigan’s townships provide outstanding quality of life, excellent public services by responsible officials and truly advance local democracy for our residents,” Sheridan said. “The Michigan Townships Association has long supported great local government by educating our officials, advocating to protect townships’ needs and interests and providing expert insights on legal, financial and other issues. I am honored to join our staff and to work with our Board and many volunteers on this critical mission.”

Sheridan is president of SVPI, an advisory and management services corporation active internationally. He has worked with hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, foundations, governments and small businesses on strategy, innovation and performance improvement initiatives. He sits on the SBAM board of directors and led an SBAM Legislative Action Committee task force for four years. Additionally, he’s served on healthcare, community development, cultural and foundation boards for many years.

Sheridan is also a researcher on leadership and innovation. He has taught workshops and courses at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and others on strategy, marketing, management and entrepreneurship.