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New Alpena County administrator settling in to role

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena County Administrator Mary Catherine Hannah works at her desk at the Alpena County Courthouse on Thursday.

ALPENA — Before applying for the Alpena County administrator position, Mary Catherine Hannah had never visited Alpena and knew little about it.

Since county commissioners hired her and she moved here, she has developed an affinity for the region and said she’s eager to learn more about the area and to work for and with the residents who are now her neighbors.

Commissioners offered Hannah the job in late August and she began work officially on Sept. 30. She has relocated from Harbor Springs, where her husband and two children will remain for the balance of the school year. She moved into an apartment until she can purchase a home for the whole family to live in.

Hannah said Alpena has many similarities to the west side of the state, such as bountiful natural resources, but some of the things she learned since becoming a resident have surprised her.

“I had hardly come over to this side (of the state), and that is too bad, because it is beautiful over here,” she said. “It is so interesting, fun, and cool. Thus far, I have found the people to be incredibly welcoming, which is really nice.”

Once she gets settled into her new role running day-to-day operations for the county, Hannah said, she intends to be active and engaged in the community. She said she is excited to play an active role with other residents for worthy causes.

“I was very engaged in Harbor Springs, and I can see myself being very engaged over here,” Hannah said. “That is the best way to get to know the community, the people that are in it, and what they are interested in and what they want for their own future.”

Since her first day of work, Hannah has been busy running to and from meetings, getting to know county staff, and working side-by-side with commissioners on county business.

She begins her job at what is perhaps the busiest and most important time of the year for the county, as the budget process and union negotiations have begun.

“There was no gentle lead-up to this,” she said. “I jumped right in, feet first, and am stepping right into the fire. My learning curve has been very steep, but I think that has been really good, because you aren’t dwelling on things and you’re taking things on as they come and putting them in perspective.”

Being in the middle of budgeting and negotiations provides Hannah an early opportunity to become more familiar with county department heads and employees. She said she believes she has integrated well with the county’s elected officials and employees.

“So far, so good,” Hannah said. “They have been very welcoming, very open to thinking about new ways of doing things while honoring the traditions that are here.”

During her free time, Hannah said, she enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading, hiking, swimming, fishing, and skiing. She said she already has visited the Plaza Pool, which is owned by the county.

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