Meet the Most Feared Man in Ferndale: Parking Attendant Mike Potts
Parking attendant Mike Potts opens up about the violations and motivations of his job.
Mike Potts is ready for war.
His battle gear is brown uniform with perfect creasing.
His shield is small, metallic and embossed with the city of Ferndale's logo.
His battlefield — the streets of Ferndale.
After a quick stop at the local city 7-Eleven at 805 E. Nine Mile Rd. for a Coke (diet to watch his blood sugar), Potts, armed with his ticket pad and a ball-point pen, is ready for his day as the most feared man in Ferndale — the city parking attendant.
The legend of the parking attendant
Parking attendants are the reason nickels and dimes are still relevant in our economy and why so many people would rather be the passenger than the driver on a trip downtown.
Parking attendants are referred to by a wide selection of popularized
nicknames: meter maids, parking fairies, ticket reapers and a couple we can’t name, but most people know them as a type of demonic force that hands out tickets — on purpose!
“Satan,” said Ferndale resident Rachel Howes, 32, laughing about her view of the city’s parking attendant. “Since I’ve started working here (Ferndale), I’ve gotten at least one every couple of weeks. I always pay them right away.”
Howes is a stylist at Dye Salon and said that while she understands that the parking attendants are just doing their jobs, she is just trying to do hers, too.
“Some people, depending on what job they are doing, can’t run to the meters,” said Howes. “It’s a little hard to be in the middle of cutting someone’s hair and have to run out to the meter.”
Ferndale resident Nick Kelly, 28, put off paying his ticket when he moved out of state. When he came back, it still needed paying — and then some.
"I just got a notice for a warrant out for my arrest," he said.
Tyler Hemmingsen, 29, a Ferndale resident and employee at Signature Tattoo, said the parking attendant is malicious.
"They just sit back there, I swear," he said. "I am not saying start handing out parking passes, but cut a dude a break in a (crappy) economy."
The site of Potts often garners from many downtown patrons shouts of, “Hey, that’s my car!” and “No no, no!” but occasionally, Potts gets a "good morning” — and that is what he said makes it all worth the effort.
The man behind the tickets
“(The) best part about the job is being out and interacting with people. You get to meet so many nice people,” said Potts. “Hard to believe, but you do.”
Potts, 62, said he got into the business of ticket writing by chance after he retired from the post office at the age of 55. After nine years working for the city of Ferndale, he said it is the best job he's ever had.
Potts is one of two parking attendants who work for the city of Ferndale, usually on the morning patrol shift from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Receiving a parking ticket can sometimes be the cherry on top of an already wonderfully terrible day. And although on these days it may seem like the world, particularly the city, is out to get you, Potts wants you to know he is not.
“I’m not out for blood like some other cities,” said Potts, who explained that he wants people to have a good shopping experience in downtown Ferndale and come back. “(Being out for blood), that’s not what Ferndale wants. The nicer you are to the people, the sooner they come back. We just want you to pay the meter."
Potts added that he is not given a quota by the city for a certain amount of tickets he must write and is advised in certain circumstances to use his own discretion.
"If you are just running in for change, leave me a note or flag me down to let me know," said Potts. "Once a ticket is written, it cannot be thrown out."
And when it comes to downtown businesses, Potts sympathizes with the employees.
"I think all businesses should buy their employees parking passes," he said.
Although Potts explained that most people take their tickets in stride and understand his presence in the city, there are still those who try to get out of paying anything at all.
“There are some people who try to cheat the system. It’s more non-Ferndale residents who try to get out of paying the ticket (than Ferndale residents)," he said. "Some people jam the meters to try and get one up.”
Where does your money go when you pay for a ticket?
The ticket price for running out of time on your meter in the city of Ferndale will cost $10, but only $4 of that fee goes into the auto parking fund; the remaining $6 goes into the city's general fund, which pays for general government operations such as police, fire and City Hall.
According to the Ferndale Development Authority, the city generates about $250,000 a year off of parking tickets. This does not include the money added on when tickets go into default, which can be an additional $165,000, or the money collected from the meters.
Of course, those on the receiving end of the tickets don't like the sound of that.
"I understand they have to make some type of revenue for the city," said Hemmingsen. "But the deadlines they give you is a crock."
"Interest should not build, it's not Visa," said Kelly.
What is the best way to avoid a visit from Potts at your car?
Potts advises patrons to come downtown with a parking pass, quarters or a greener car.
Parking passes can be purchased at City Hall for the long-term parking meters at $40 for one month, $80 for three months and $240 dollars for a year.
The high-mileage permit can also be picked up at City Hall and is for automobiles that can be classified as "green." This pass is free and will also help you avoid running to the meters.
As for any additional advice on handling tickets, Potts said he would not know. "I've never gotten a ticket in my life."