ROCKFORD, Mich. (WZZM) – It is a tight community, and news City Manager Michael Young was dead spread quickly in Rockford Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a sad day here in Rockford,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Southwick. “We’ve lost our leader.”

Michael Young, 48, was an athlete who always appeared strong and a picture of health.

He had a stroke on Monday. He died in the hospital on Wednesday.

“The Chamber office was bombarded by calls,” said Southwick. “People coming in, sitting and just reminiscing about Michael. It’s going to be very difficult to fill his shoes here.”

Young was hired as city manager 20 years ago, when he was only 28.

Over the years he refused offers to relocate to bigger cities for higher pay.

“This community is unique and something special,” explained Southwick. “This community is part of him. This is where he belonged.”

Whatever the issues, whatever the challenges, Southwick says Young dealt with them.

“Bring it on, let’s take care of the problem and move on,” is how Southwick says Young approached the job. “He was very kind hearted and had empathy for people.”

Young’s wife and three children issued a statement saying:

“We mourn the sudden passing of our devoted husband, dedicated father and loyal friend. Michael was a passionate cheerleader for our community.”

“He was a visionary,” recalled Southwick. “He wanted what was best for the community. It feels very empty without him.”