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Red Hawks Athletic Director resigns

Autumn (Waite) Mattson. Phnoto by K. Alvesteffer

Autumn (Waite) Mattson. Phnoto by K. Alvesteffer

By Judy Reed

All Autumn (Waite) Mattson has ever wanted is to live and serve in the community that she grew up in—a community she loves. So it was with a heavy heart that she turned in her resignation to Cedar Springs Public Schools on February 11, after 14 years of working with kids. “I didn’t want to leave,” she said.

Mattson, a former Red Flannel Queen, attended all 12 years of school at Cedar Springs, and graduated in 1997. Except for the four years she went away to college, she has spent her entire life here. “My family has been here since 1892, and my kids are the 8th generation to attend Cedar Springs Public Schools,” she explained. “My husband and I chose to come back here to live because this is a community that cares about kids.”

When an athletic secretary position came open in July 2002, Mattson jumped at the chance. She later coached both Girls JV and Varsity basketball for several years, before becoming athletic director in July 2006. “My kids were brought up in the gym,” she said with a chuckle. “I had both of them a week after basketball season ended.”

Mattson earned two AD awards in 2014 when she was named Regional Athletic Director of the Year by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association (MIAAA), and Athletic Director of the Year by the West Michigan Officials Association.

She has also been active with the MHSAA, serving as a conference presenter on Women in Sports Leadership, and serving on various committees.

In addition to being AD, Mattson also served as Dean of Students at Cedar Springs High School for two years, until this past January. “I had some of the greatest growth of my career as Dean of Students,” she remarked. “It gave me a chance to work with other staff and students that I would not have had a chance to work with in athletics. That opportunity opened my eyes to what Cedar Springs is all about.”

Many of the students she worked with in that capacity are not happy to see her go. “Last week I had kids come up to me asking who are they going to talk to now? It really made an imprint on my heart. These are kids I wouldn’t have a had a chance to meet otherwise.”

One of her proudest accomplishments is as founder of the Athletic Leadership Council. It started out as student-lead group in 2008 with 14 members, and now has 62 high school athletes in grades 9-12. Their mission is to unite the students, staff, and community and promote Red Hawk pride. They develop leadership growth through bi-weekly meetings, doing community service projects, presentations to peers, community groups and collaboration with leadership professionals. For the second year in a row, they will be present at the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association conference, where Mattson was asked to be a presenter. She has spoken at the conference the last two years about the Athletic Leadership Council. “More schools want to know about it,” she said.

Mattson also founded the Red Hawk kids club, a weekly program that partnered with elementary administrators. The mission of the program is to have High School athletes guide elementary students to uphold the Red Hawk creed.

We have the most amazing kids,” she remarked. “They are thought provokers, listeners, inspiring. They always thank us, but they are the ones that inspired me.”

If Mattson loves her job, and the kids, and the staff, why is she leaving without having a new job to go to?

This is the third superintendent I have worked under, and a lot has happened during that time. I was able to stand behind the things that happened. I loved that we had a real culture of learning, of love, and that it was ok to think outside the box. Teaching and learning was at the center of everything we did. That culture of being able to recreate yourself every few years is not there anymore. I just didn’t feel I could be my best self anymore,” she explained.

Mattson said she noticed a shift in teaching and learning when administrator Steve Seward left, and saw a change in the system with due process, when Jennifer Harper was put on leave. “The culture was changing,” she explained. Other events impacting her decision were when the board president read the letter at the October 12 board meeting that upset many staff members, and former associate superintendent Dave Cairy leaving. Her athletic assistant Tyler Wolfe also resigned in December.

Me leaving is a way that I feel I’m standing up for kids,” she said. “I’m always trying to instill in them to stand up for themselves. I had a student tell me, ‘Not many adults have the trust and respect from the students that you have. You alone brought a united family atmosphere to CSHS and the way you have chosen to make a career change, as much as I would love to see you stay, only make me realize that putting yourself first is not selfish, but the most important thing you can do. Thank you for letting me be a part of your legacy.’ To have that come from a student is amazing.”

Leaving was tough on Mattson. She said working that last day and then leaving for the last time was the most emotional thing she’s ever done. But it wasn’t just hard on her; her family feels it, too. Her kids asked to go with her to the last ALC breakfast so they could say goodbye to the athletes.

The Mattson family has had amazing adventures in that stadium, in that gym. They made us. I’m excited to explore my passions to see what my next adventure is,” she remarked.

Mattson asked for an exit interview with the board of education, which is not routine, so was denied. She appealed that decision, and was waiting to hear from the board when this paper went to press.

In her absence, teachers Justin Harnden and Julie Weiler will run the ALC. The new baseball coach, Michael Schaub, will serve as interim Athletic Director, and Deb Williams will be athletic administrative assistant.

Cedar Springs Public Schools will be posting a position for a full-time athletic director,” said Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

We wish Ms. Autumn Mattson the very best in her new position,” said VanDuyn. “Autumn served our district for 14 years in a variety of capacities. We know that countless students, staff and families will remember her work and passion for athletics and for Cedar Springs Public Schools. She did a fine job establishing and presenting to others the Athletic Leadership Council, which many of our high school students enjoy. All our best to you, Autumn! ”

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Kent County Commissioner resigns amid CSC charges

Commissioner Gary Rolls

Commissioner Gary Rolls

A Kent County Commissioner charged with four counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct announced last week that he is resigning as of January 1, 2014.

Kent County District 4 Commissioner Gary Rolls, 47, represents the townships of Oakfield, Grattan, Cannon, Vergennes, and the City of Lowell. He was arraigned last month on the CSC charges, three of which involve a child, and one involving the victim at age 17. He is also charged with tampering with evidence and using a computer to commit a crime. Bond was set at $500,000 cash or surety, and Rolls bonded out.

The victim, who is now 28, was reportedly a former neighbor of Rolls, who he began assaulting when she was nine or ten, and it continued for 13 years. She filed a restraining order against him in 2012, which brought the crime to light.

In his resignation letter, Rolls thanked the citizens of Kent County for allowing him to serve them. “I will use this time to prepare for trial and prove my absolute and complete innocence,” he added.

Dan Koorndyk, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said they accepted his resignation. “We appreciate that he recognizes it is better for the

Board of Commissioners to select a new member who can represent District 4 without distraction.”

The Board of Commissioners has 30 days from the effective date of resignation to select an individual to replace Rolls through the rest of his term. The person selected for that seat will hold it through December 2014. Those seeking the appointment to District 4 to replace Rolls should send a letter and resume to the Board of Commissioners Office, 300 Monroe Avenue, NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, by January 6, 2014.

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Cedar Springs city counselor resigns

Raymond Huckleberry

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs City Councilor Raymond Huckleberry bid the council and public a tearful farewell last Thursday evening when he announced during council comments that it would be his last city council meeting. His term does not expire until November.
“This was one of the most painful and agonizing decisions I’ve ever made. I am doing so for family and financial reasons,” said Huckleberry.
He noted that when he was elected four years ago, he was seemingly a successful businessperson with a wife, kids, a house and a dog. He said he’s now weathered the failing of his business (Stein Bros pizza), criminal charges, a bankruptcy and divorce. As part of the bankruptcy, his home is being foreclosed on and he is moving out next week. His wife is moving also, and he said that in order to successfully continue to co-parent his children, he would be moving to Greenville.
He stated that the charge of larceny he stood trial for and was convicted of by Judge Servaas last year did not factor into his decision. “For anyone that has any idea that this has anything to do with the criminal charges that were also brought upon me, (that I still believe I’m innocent of and am still currently appealing), they do not…NOTHING.  This is strictly for the continued successful co-parenting of my children and our long term financial security,” he remarked.
Huckleberry was convicted last year for selling goods that were left in the upstairs of the building that Huckleberry leased from Doug Stein. Huckleberry’s defense was that their agreement stated that Stein had to remove the goods within 30 days, but Judge Servaas said he believed that he had a verbal agreement with Doug Stein that he could leave the items there as long as he needed to. Huckleberry is currently appealing that decision.
Huckleberry thanked the community for their tremendous support for some of the darkest times in his life. “The pats on the back, the cards in the mail from citizens, the words of support in the grocery stores, etc. was really much of what got me through it all. You have no idea what they meant to me…. More than you will ever know,” he said.
He noted that regardless of his mailing address, Cedar Springs would always be  his hometown.
Huckleberry was humbled by the response to his resignation. “I was deeply moved by all the comments the councilors and manager made after my resignation, and the hugs that followed the meeting,” he noted. “I was touched that everyone said they understood and respected my decision knowing I was thinking about me and my boys.”
The Cedar Springs City Council now needs to find a replacement for Huckleberry, and is accepting letters of interest and resumes until March 25. All resumes will be distributed at their special meeting on March 28. “They hope to do interviews prior to the April meeting so they can have someone appointed on April 14,” explained City Manager Christine Burns. The person will fulfill the remainder of the term, which expires in November. For details, see the legal ad on page 16.
For Huckleberry’s complete letter as read to the city council, see below:

Raymond Huckleberry resignation letter March 10, 2011
“It is with the most sincere sadness and regret that I must announce my resignation from this council effective at the end of this meeting. This was one of the most painful and agonizing decisions I’ve ever made. I am doing so for family and financial reasons.
The last few years, while I have served on the council, has been a torrent of life altering occurrences and they have now combined not to force but definitely push my hand into this. When I was elected, I was seemingly a successful business person with a wife, kids, a house and a dog. I’ve now weathered the failing of my business, criminal charges, a bankruptcy and divorce. Due to multiple factors, I included my home in the bankruptcy and my move out date from the foreclosure is in the next week or so. My ex-wife is needing to move at some point, making our full joint custody and successful coparenting together with her very difficult if I stay here. So looking at the picture as a whole I am moving to Greenville.
For anyone that has any idea that this has anything to do with the criminal charges that were also brought upon me, that I still believe I’m innocent of and am still currently appealing, they do not….NOTHING. This is strictly for the continued successful coparenting of my children and our long term financial security.
I must take this time to thank this body and community for the tremendous support it has given me through some of the darkest chapters of my life. The pats on the back, the cards in the mail from citizens, the words of support in the grocery stores, etc. was really much of what got me through it all. You have no idea what they meant to me…. More than you will ever know.
I could not be more proud to have served with such a wonderful group of dedicated public servants and employees. “A great place to live, work, and play” is more than a slogan it is a simple truth about this community.
I apologize with every ounce of my being to the public that elected me that I am unable to completely fulfill my term. This was not a decision that came easily or I took lightly, I am sorry.
I will miss serving you, the public, and working towards a continual improvement of this great community. I have seen so many wonderful things come to fruition in my term it pains me that I wont be able to be a part of what is to come…
Again I am so sorry that I must leave you, I could not imagine being part of a better more dedicated team. This city is so fortunate to be served by each and every one of you here (at the meeting) the elected officials, department heads and staff.
With that I leave you, and I wish you all and this community the very best. Regardless of my mailing address Cedar Springs will always proudly and unwaiveringly be my home town.
Thank you all for everything, I’m sorry.

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