Longtime City Council member retires
Posted on 11/05/2019
Council Member Nancy Darga accepts a plaque from Mayor Ken Roth.Once you meet Nancy Darga, you are not likely to forget her. She says what’s on her mind and asks probing questions when considering a matter before City Council, a role she has served in for 12 years before choosing not to run in 2019. Her approach to problem-solving includes a deep dive into details and talking to people – on both sides of an issue.

She has taken on tough challenges to keep Northville unique, historic and well-run as a City government during her years on City Council and 20 years serving the Parks and Recreation Department in advisory capacities, primarily as a board member. If you want to get her goat, ask her about the bruising she took over soccer fields. (Back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, parents involved with the Parks Dept. wanted additional soccer fields, but Darga was adamant that funds be used to create fields for for other sports.)

She’s got a good grasp on matters pertaining to infrastructure – roads, sewage and storm sewers – due to a long career as a licensed landscape architect in the Wayne County Parks Dept. and the (former) Wayne County Road Commission. Plus, her husband Mike is a civil engineer who was good counsel as she reviewed voluminous detail about the City’s engineering plans and contracts.

She was amazed that she won her first election to City Council as a newcomer. She attributes that to having been actively involved in the community – something that people value and remember.

She is proud of many things accomplished while in office. When she first arrived on Council, she asked for more details about the bidding process in engineering contracts. She recommended creating a matrix that showed cost comparisons and quality features among the bidders. That made the contracts more transparent to the Council and citizens, and enhanced decisions regarding infrastructure improvements.

As an advocate for Mill Race Village and its mission, she took special interest in helping craft a special events policy for the City’s rental of Ford Field that took into consideration the village’s weekend weddings. The new policy was triggered by a highly promoted and well-attended weekend event in 2016 that brought in out-of-town food vendors, high-volume bands and a monster truck show. Darga was instrumental in developing a plan where the promoter held off with the bands and truck show during the weddings – to keep the noise down - and resumed those activities later at night. Soon after, City Council created a special use agreement for Ford Field that coordinates dates with Mill Race Village in advance.

Darga says, “Mill Race Village is part of our heritage and we must preserve that over what a commercial vendor brings to the City for a weekend event.”

Her heart beats in harmony with Northville yet she has also spread that energy and determination to matters that affect other organizations.

She retired as executive director of the Ford Piquette Historic Plant in April, and has become more active in the “Save Hines Park” initiative to prevent the sale of parkland to developers. She didn’t want the City to face any consequences from her avid volunteer involvement in opposing Wayne County over the park situation, which is why she didn’t run for re-election.

One of the biggest challenges facing the City today, she notes, is redevelopment of the Northville Downs property. “Property owners have all the rights in America,” Darga said. “When City officials deal with them, we’re trying to create a win-win solution. The best thing is to serve the community at large. The only way to control that is through the Master Plan and zoning. One of the things that we want is to open up the river and create some greenspace. We will have to work hard to come up with a development agreement that offers something to both sides.”

She says that issue is in good hands. “We are blessed with some of the most skilled and talented people serving on the Planning Commission. We have people who do this for a living. They are dealing with a difficult task. It’s not every day that you get 50 acres being developed in a city the size of ours. People need to work together. Go in with a spirit of cooperation and come back with something that works for Northville.”

Darga is a strong supporter of the Historic District, noting that it “protects and enhances the taproots of the community.” She believes that despite the inevitable development, it’s vital to keep the context of Northville.

“If any tree is going to bear fruit, you have to protect its roots. It’s the same with communities. You need to protect your heritage,” she said. “Northville has a unique, strong and profound history.”

Figuring things out is Darga’s strong suit. “I’ve always been interested in ‘How did it get to this point?’ I like to build things. I like to know how things come together.”

She is a firm believer in getting people together to discuss issues. Her method at Council meetings was to share information during “Council Communications” and invite citizens to participate in meetings, events and even rallies for a cause. “Bringing people together and encouraging them to talk about things keeps a community strong,” she said.

Among her prodigious community involvement, she is a founding member of Friends of the Rouge and a founding member of Motor City National Heritage Area, which is part of the National Park System. She has been a board member of the Art House since its inception, and will continue to serve on the board, this time as treasurer. The City-managed entity plans to become a 501 ( c ) 3 organization. Darga’s success as a fundraiser for various causes will boost the Art House’s efforts to establish an endowment.

Of leaving, she said, “I’m at ease. We have a lot of talent with the City manager and directors. The City is in good hands. The mayor and City Council members are leaders in the community.

She and her husband have two adult children, Anna and Alex, and everyone helped with the housework, laundry, dishes and cooking during Darga’s tenure on Council.

Watch Nancy Darga’s farewell address to citizens and special recognition given by Mayor Ken Roth and City Council members at the Oct. 21 meeting. Her last board meeting was on Nov. 4.