Matthew S. Collier
|Matthew S. Collier|
|88th / 3rd (strong) executive Mayor of the City of Flint|
|Preceded by||James A. Sharp, Jr.|
|Succeeded by||Woodrow Stanley|
|Alma mater||United States Military Academy
West Point, Harvard University
Matthew S. Collier is a business executive, entrepreneur, speaker and politician. He is best known as the youngest big city “strong” mayor in the United States while serving as the popularly-elected Chief Executive of his hometown of Flint, Michigan from 1987 to 1991. Collier was first elected at the age of 29.
Matt Collier was born on November 15, 1957 in Flint, Michigan as the fourth of five sons of Florence and Charles Collier. Collier grew up on Flint’s Northwest side. In his youth, Collier attended Luke M. Powers High School, where he was a co-captain of the hockey team and President of the student government. Collier then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he played hockey and earned a BS in general engineering in 1979.
Following his graduation from West Point, Collier achieved airborne-ranger status, and served as an officer in the U.S. Army for six years. As a Captain, in his final military assignment at the High Technology Test Bed in Fort Lewis, Washington, Collier became the youngest program manager in the Army. He then returned to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where he served as the District Chief of Staff for US Congressman Dale E. Kildee for two years before announcing he would seek the office of Mayor of Flint.
Collier has four brothers. Two of them, Mark Collier (USMA '73) and Craig Collier (USMA '86) also graduated from West Point and served as Infantry officers in the U.S. Army. Craig and Mark are career soldiers and have frequently served in combat locations.
Term as Mayor
The First Day in Office
Collier was elected with 54 percent of the vote. His “eventful” first day on the job as the Mayor of Flint occurred on November 9, 1987. After only a few hours in office, Collier fired the entire City of Flint executive staff that remained from the previous administration. Collier received word of a major oil spill on the Flint River; attended a previously planned (by the previous administration) press conference with the then-Governor of Michigan, James Blanchard; discovered that the news media had received the first “news leak” of his administration; and attended a dinner party with the private knowledge of a death-threat phoned into his office against him. At the end of his eventful first day, Collier watched the local evening news and learned of a politically motivated recall effort initiated against him. The first day had proved to be baptism by fire for the former Army officer
Flint Events During Collier’s Term
During his time as Flint's mayor, Collier was focused on reducing crime, balancing the city's budget to avoid bankruptcy, and restoring the Flint economy. Major achievements during Collier’s term include
- The retiring of a $4 million deficit inherited from prior administrations. Collier and his staff achieved a balanced budget each year of his term.
- The city partnered with General Motors to convert a soon to be closed automobile plant into GM’s $110 million, 1.25 million ft2 “Great Lakes Technology Center.” This business-government venture is estimated to have resulted in over 7,000 new private sector jobs for Flint.
- Unemployment in the city of Flint dropped from a high of 23% in 1988 to 11.3% by December 1990, according to Michigan Employment Security Commission statistics. The Flint Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment dropped to 7.7% in September 1990 according to the U.S. Department of Labor
- Collier instituted the Mayor’s Handicapped Parking Enforcement Team, enforcing the parking rights of the handicapped
- The National Civic League’s All-American City Award program, which recognizes U.S. city government efforts to tackle serious community problems, chose the city of Flint as an All-America City finalist
- The Michigan Jaycees honored Collier as one of five outstanding young people in Michigan in 1990
- According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the value building permits in the City of Flint increased by over 149% in 1989. This jump was the largest of any of America’s 202 major cities
Criticisms During Collier’s Term
- Prior to his election, and early in his term, Collier was often viewed as a “young whippersnapper” without enough experience to be mayor
- There was a sentiment that while the conditions in Flint had improved under Collier’s leadership, that the improvement wasn’t enough. Some felt that the city was still far removed from the more favorable conditions of Collier’s youth in the 60’s
In 1989, midway through Collier’s four-year term in office, Michael Moore’s movie, Roger & Me, premiered nationally. The film described the effects of General Motors’ cutbacks on Flint during the 1970s and ‘80’s. According to Collier, the film "crippled the city’s self-image and demoralized Flint as a whole.” Collier stated that “the film ultimately made it increasingly difficult for him and his administration to champion the city’s successes.” Collier's administration starting receiving the sympathy of the nation and his administration was getting phone calls offering to donate literally $1 at a time to the city.
While Collier had been interviewed by Michael Moore during his mayoral campaign as the movie was being filmed, Collier did not appear in the movie. Nor did his administration have any reason to believe the film would gain any significant attention.
- While Roger &Me did not directly criticize Collier's performance as mayor (the events portrayed in the movie had occurred prior to his taking office), the administration fought against the portrayal of Flint in Roger & Me and Collier was quoted in newspapers and magazines through the US, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and TIME Magazine, and Collier was featured on ABC-TV's PrimeTime Live, and other national television programs, challenging the accuracy of the movie. The film did not directly criticize Collier's mayoral performance and the events portrayed in the film took place just prior to and up to the very first few months of, his term.
In September 1995, Collier became the Vice President of Engineering for Sensors, Inc., Saline, Michigan - a producer of auto-emission testing sensors. Prior to his stint at Sensors, Collier worked as the US Distributor Sales Manager for a UK-based labeling and coding equipment manufacturer, Willett America, with its US base of operations in Atlanta, GA.
In 1997, Collier became the President (and later, part owner) of SAFER Systems, a Camarillo, California-based software company that graphically depicts 3D gas plumes in the aftermath of a hazardous material spill. The software is primarily used to help guide clean-up and evacuation procedures.
- "List of Flint City Mayors". Political Graveyards.com. Lawrence (Larry) Kestenbaum. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
- David Miller, The Flint Journal. “Ex-Flint Mayor Collier on Software Roll.” January 14, 2001
- “Matthew S. Collier: Mayor, City of Flint”. Biography page published by Allied Printing in 1990.</a>
- By Doug Sanders, The Flint Journal. “Evolution of a Mayor.” November 15, 1987.
- By Ron Fonger, The Flint Journal. “Techno-crat? Former Flint Mayor Playing Role in Outthinking Terrorists.” November 23, 2001
- By John Foren and Teri Banas, The Filnt Journal. “Collier Elected Mayor” November 4, 1987
- By John Foren, The Journal. “Collier Recalls 1st ay as Mayor Started Badly, Went Downhill” October 13, 1988
- By Beata Mostafavi, The Flint Journal. "Flint native believes U.S. making a difference in Iraq." January 12, 2008.
- By John Foren, The Flint Journal. “What next? Brimming with success, ex-Mayor Collier looks back at defeat.” July 7, 1996
- By Cathy Snyder, The Detroit News. “Crime tops list of Flint issues.” October 25, 1987.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Flint Data
- By Robert Trojanoqicz, FootPrints: The Community Policing Newsletter. City administrators need to see what CP can do for them'.” Fall 1989.
- Flint Journal. “Confusion over absentee ballots seems to leave Genesee County races unchanged.” November 3, 2010
- By David Harris, The Flint Journal. “Software Company Hires Former Mayor.” February 11, 2009.