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Tag Archive | "Village of Sand Lake"

Recall petition approved for Sand Lake trustee


by Judy Reed

A petition to recall Village of Sand Lake trustee Rachel Gokey was approved Wednesday, and a special election called by Kent County Clerk Lisa Lyons for November 2.

Candidates who wish to challenge Gokey on the ballot, should file within the next week. According to Kent County Elections Director Gerrid Uzarski, any interested candidates for this position on the ballot will have until September 3rd to file with the Nelson Township Clerk.

This seat will be for a partial term, ending in 2022.

The recall language, which was filed by Jack Christensen, reads: “Trustee Gokey refused to sign the social media policy that was passed by the Village Council on February 15, 2021 and is the only member of Council that has refused to sign and follow the policy; Trustee Gokey was censured by the Village Council on May 17, 2021.”

Gokey appealed but lost the decision. In June, she told the Post, “I am fine to appear on the ballot again and talk with voters about the steps I have taken to hold the Council accountable.”

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Recall petition filed for Sand Lake trustee


By Judy Reed

Village of Sand Lake trustee Rachel Gokey may have to fight for her seat on the Village Council this fall. 

According to Kent County Deputy Clerk Robert Macomber, a petition was filed by Village resident Jack Christensen on May 24 to recall Gokey. A hearing to consider the petition language was held on Friday, June 3, and the clarity of the language was approved. The petition reads:

“Trustee Gokey refused to sign the social media policy that was passed by the Village Council on February 15, 2021 and is the only member of Council that has refused to sign and follow the policy; Trustee Gokey was censured by the Village Council on May 17, 2021.”

The Post contacted Christensen on the matter, but he didn’t have any comments he wished to make at this time regarding the recall.

Signatures for the petition will now need to be gathered from residents. The number of signatures required is 25 percent of the number of votes for Governor in the most recent election. Since 190 votes were cast in Sand Lake, 48 signatures will be needed. The last day the recall petition with sufficient valid signatures can be filed and still appear on the ballot for the November 2021 election is July 30, 2021, at 5 p.m. The petition itself is valid until November 30.

If the signatures are determined to be valid and the petition is approved, a special recall election will be scheduled on the next general election date where other candidates may challenge the incumbent for the seat.

The Post contacted Gokey to get her thoughts on the petition. “I’m planning to appeal the findings of the election commission,” she said. “However, I am fine to appear on the ballot again and talk with voters about the steps I have taken to hold the Council accountable.”

Without the recall, Gokey’s term is due to end in 2022. 

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Dancing under the stars


Dancing under the stars became a reality at the prom for CSHS and CTA last Friday. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

We’ve often heard the phrase “it takes a village…” And sometimes, it even takes a neighboring village. 

That saying was put to the test last Friday evening, May 21, when the Village of Sand Lake closed off Lake Street for several hours and hosted a prom outdoors for both Cedar Springs High School and Creative Technologies Academy.

“I was so glad to be able to do something for the kids,” said Mollie Doerr, President of the Village of Sand Lake. “I’d hate for them to have to go another year without one.”

And by all accounts, the kids really seemed to enjoy themselves. “I’m really glad they could pull it off,” said senior Sarah Chenowith.

“This is awesome,” said another student, when asked what they thought of the prom.

According to organizer Katy Austin, the Nelson Township treasurer and mother of a senior at Cedar Springs this year, she wanted to do something to help the students get a prom this year, since last year’s was canceled due to Covid-19. She said she reached out to school officials in February to find out if they would be able to have one. She said that at the time, the place the school had booked only had a capacity of 25 percent, so it looked like a no go. So she began to plan one herself, starting in March. She got the idea to have it outdoors, where the capacity could be greater. But she also wanted to bring business to the struggling restaurants. “I just thought we could pack these restaurants full,” she explained.

Austin said she talked to the City of Cedar Springs, but they couldn’t shut down Main Street, and if they held it in the Heart of Cedar Springs, it would need to be a public event. So she approached the Village of Sand Lake. Skinner Field officials also offered but ultimately, Austin opted for Dancing Under the Stars on Main Street in Sand Lake. “Both the Village and the Cedar Springs Chamber approached me and asked me to please consider Sand Lake,” she said. “They really wanted to do it.”

 So Austin and three others—Heidi Greenland, Tami Elliston, and Shannon Cooper—got to work. Donations came pouring in from both private citizens and businesses to make the event happen. Tickets were $10 each. For that $10, the teens got a $6 voucher for Rosie’s, and a booklet is being bought to give to the students with memories of the night. 

About 300 attended the event. 

Main Street was beautifully decorated with lights, a tent, balloons, and various spots to get photographs taken. There was a vintage truck from Dean’s Excavating; Phil Harrison donated a vintage car for kids to take pictures in; a flower wall; a starry night backdrop with 8 foot moon; and a balloon garland in the VFW hall. Kids were also able to get free pizza thanks to generous businesses. They also had a DJ to play music.

Austin said people came out in droves to help set up, including the Village employees and their families; the Sand Lake Chamber and their families; the Sand Lake Fire Department and families, and their own families as well.

Austin was overwhelmed at the generosity. “Thank you to everyone,” she said. “It truly takes a a village. I could not have done it without everyone’s help.”

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Update on Sand Lake Village candidate


William Rau

Last week, we ran an article on the candidates running for election in the Village of Sand Lake. While compiling the information, we found that one of the candidates, William Rau, was listed at Kent County as a write in for the full four-year term but was campaigning for the two-year term. We brought that to the attention of Kent County elections, and they said they would contact him about it. In the meantime, we had to list him under the heading he had officially petitioned for.

We were notified earlier this week that Rau had withdrawn his petition for the four-year trustee seat, and is instead running as a write-in for the partial two-year term. 

Stacy Rudicil is also running for that position and is listed on the ballot.

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Businesses benefit from farmers market and novelty food event


A farmer’s market and novelty food trucks offered great food during the Sand Lake community give back event the weekend of June 5. Courtesy photos.

During the weekend of June 5, the Village of Sand Lake became the intersection between novelty foods, a farmer’s market and community give back. 

Big Red’s BBQ, based out of Howard City, was on hand to dish up great smells and awesome grilled dishes; the farmer’s market vendors offered honey, fresh produce, flowers, and clothing; and Big Mike’s Kettle Corn served amazing kettle corn and fresh squeezed lemonade.  

The Sand Lake Trading Company was one of several businesses benefitting from the community give back. Courtesy photo.

At a time in America when finances are shaky and business owners are suffering, the Village of Sand Lake partnered with Big Red’s BBQ for the community give back event.  Big Red’s BBQ donated 10 percent of its weekend profits to the Village of Sand Lake.  In turn, the Village of Sand Lake gave the entire $600 back to local businesses, who suffered during the COVID19 pandemic.  

“We had seven businesses that were directly impacted, either through mandated closure or through ‘carry out’ only,” said Village President Tracy Quinlan.

The Village of Sand Lake intends to expand on community give back by bringing food trucks to the first annual Food Cruise, July 10–12, 2020, hosted by the Village and the Sand Lake Chamber of Commerce. 

“We are super excited about doing some new things this year!” remarked Quinlan.

“If you have a food truck or know of someone who does, please contact the Village of Sand Lake for an application. You will get some great exposure to your business while serving up delightful cuisine. Please plan on attending the Food Cruise!”

The farmer’s market, open every Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., is looking for vendors.  Currently, the vendor spaces are free. Come enjoy local tastes and support local farmers and artisans. Please send an email to:  bfeenstra@grar.com, if you are interested in providing home-grown flavors.

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Sand Lake sets up giving table and little library


Giving table in Sand Lake outside of the Village offices.

The Village of Sand Lake is reaching out to the community to make things a little stressful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our first priority here in the Village of Sand Lake is to help our residents in as many small ways we can,” said Village President Tracy Quinlan. “One of the ways we are doing this is through a Giving Table and a Little Library.”

“Giving Tables are inspired out of the passion people feel to help each other. The Village of Sand Lake is passionate about helping others. Born out of this passion and caring, the Village of Sand Lake has established a Giving Table. The Giving Table is located outside the main doors of the Village offices. Anyone can come to the Giving Table to either donate items or take items they need during this time,” she explained.

Anyone can take a book from the Little Library outside Sand Lake Village offices.

Quinlan said the idea of the Little Library was presented by a local 8-year-old, Bentley Monroe, who recently visited an airport library while traveling with his family. “Bentley sent us a message with his idea along with his donation of some of his books,” she said. “Amazing!”  

The Little Library is set up just like an airport library: grab a book to go or leave a book for someone else. The books at Sand Lake’s Little Library are organized by age levels.  Everyone is encouraged to grab a book to read when they drop off or pick up items from the Giving Table.

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Don’t forget to vote on November 6


By Judy Reed

This week we continue our election coverage with candidates for the Village of Sand Lake, the area senate and representative seats, and Kent County Commissioner.

Village of Sand Lake

The Village of Sand Lake has several seats to fill, including Village President and three trustees. However, your ballot will look rather empty and includes a name of a person no longer running. Listed below are your candidates. Some of them you must write in.

NOTE: Nyha French is on the ballot for Village President. She is no longer a candidate since she moved out of the area.

Danielle Hardenburg is a write-in candidate for Village President, which is a two-year term. She currently serves on the Village Council as a trustee. Hardenburg is 33 years old, and grew up in Cedar Springs where she was raised and attended school. “For the past seven years, my family of six children and spouse have lived in Sand Lake. It is in Sand Lake where I currently hold a seat as a Village Council Member, Fire Fighter, and Medical Responder for the Sand Lake fire department over the past three years. I work in the nursing field as a Nurse Technician at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital. Currently, I am seeking my Registered Nurse Degree with hopes of continuing my line of work on the Ortho Trauma floor.”

Hardenburg said she is running as a write-in for Sand Lake Village President because there is a serious need there for positive change. 

Besides serving on the Village Council, prior leadership experience includes teaching CPR, assisting on the AYSO board for a brief time, providing assistance on request for a committee where candidates were reviewed for work programs through Michigan Works, and chairing a seat in the neighborhood watch program for the Rockford area.

What strength can she bring to the Village President position? “Besides a fresh start with new ideas and an eagerness to learn, I feel that my passion for the place I raise my family provides all the strength I need. What is best for my family and our community is my driving force. While I may make mistakes its an opportunity to learn and grow.” 

What does she think is Sand Lake’s biggest challenge? “There are many challenges here in Sand Lake. I believe once our annual audit is complete we can really dig in to analyze where and what our biggest issues are that we face.”

Sand Lake Village trustee 

There are three people running for three seats. This is a four-year term. You will only see one name on the ballot, and must write in the other two.

Marcia Helton will show up on the ballot. Helton grew up in Cedar Springs and graduated from Cedar Springs High School. She has lived in Sand Lake, Nelson Township for 30 years after with her husband, Marty Helton. “We have 6 children and 9 grandchildren. Our children attended Tri-County. My husband Marty was the Sand Lake Village DPW Supervisor for 13 years. I am the Custodian for the Sand Lake Village/Nelson Municipal Hall, Library and also at Algoma Township hall.” 

Why is Helton running for a seat? “We have great people that live in Sand Lake and I want to see what I can do, along with our board to help us as Village Residents work together. We’re a small town, but I believe we have big hearts!”

What other leadership has she had? “I served on the Sand Lake Chamber for many years of helping out in many areas, along with being the Secretary after awhile. Linda Misner and myself co-directed, bringing an Easter Egg Hunt to the Village for many years. Also, did the Santa Claus arrival for a few years. Sand Lake is a community that enjoys their children.”

What strength can she bring to the board? “I have been going to the Village meetings for awhile and see there is a need for help in different areas that if I can help, I would like to. We all have opinions, which is good and we need to respect each other’s opinions then work out a compromise. The Village of Sand Lake and Nelson Township can work together to help each other out and accomplish more. 

“I will do the best I can to help out as a Village Trustee to help the residents.”

Rachel Gokey is running as a write-in for Village trustee. She is currently serving as an appointee to the board. “I was born and raised in Lakeview, Michigan before heading to GVSU to obtain my BBA in Management and Marketing. I have lived in the Village of Sand Lake since July 2005. I am married with 3 children. Currently I am a stay at home mom that also substitute teaches in my spare time.”

What is her reason for running? I decided to run because our Village needs some TLC. There is quite a bit of moving forward and working together as a team that needs to be done to get everything accomplished. I do not plan on leaving Sand Lake any time soon. I plan on raising my kids in the community and would love to help our Village anyway I can.

What prior leadership experience does she have? I am currently the President of our Preschool board for Resurrection Lutheran Church in Sand Lake. I spent over 16 years in customer service and management and was happy to serve on various committees through the years from event planning, education planning and more. I enjoy problem solving and brainstorming to help create forward movement and well thought out decisions.

What is the main strength she can bring to the board? The main strength I feel I am bringing to the Village of Sand Lake Council is my determination. I firmly believe that where there is a will there is a way. I love to make things happen! There is nothing better than setting goals and accomplishing them.”

What is the major challenge Sand Lake faces? “I feel like the major challenge our Village is facing is unity. The last few years have been bumpy. My hope is that I can help open positive lines of communication between all Village councils and boards, as well as Nelson Township boards and councils. If we all work together we can head in the right direction of positive change for our entire community.”

Thomas Gore is also a write-in for Village trustee. He is currently serving as an appointee. He did not respond to emails or messages from the Post requesting information.

 

Kent County Commissioner 3rd District

Roger Morgan, of Courtland Township, is running for another term as County Commissioner of the 3rd District. He is running unopposed. It will be his 9th two-year term representing the residents of the City of Cedar Springs; the Villages of Casnovia, Kent City, and Sand Lake; and the townships of Courtland, Nelson, Solon, Spencer, and Tyrone. He is a member of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Board, and was chair of that board from 2013-2018; is CEO of Rockford Ambulance; is a member of the Kent County Fire Commission and the Kent County 911 board; and a past member of several others. 

Senator – 29th District

There are three candidates running for State Senator in the 29th District: incumbent Peter MacGregor (R), Craig Beach (D), and Nathan Hewer (Lib).

Peter MacGregor is running as a Republican and is seeking another four-year term as our state senator in the 29th district. He and his wife, Christine, have been married for 27 years. They have three sons, Patrick (24), John (22) and Matthew (20). “Our family attends Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford. I have lived in Kent County Since 1991 and in the senate district for 21 years. I grew up in SE Michigan. Prior to serving as your current State Senator, I owned a small business for 14 years, employing 12-14 employees.” 

Why is he running for office? “My children are why I ran for office. In 2010 when I first decided to run for the legislature, and as a parent of three school-aged children, we were terrified there would not be opportunities in Michigan when they graduated from school. In 2010, our state was the worst state in the country. I wanted to help create an economic environment so that all Michigan residents can thrive. Our state has made an amazing turnaround with unemployment rate at its lowest level since 2000, and personal income rates are up. Michigan is out of the crisis mode and today, because revenues are up, we are investing more in early childhood, career tech education, K-12 education is funded higher than ever before, the roads are being fixed, and our State’s debt has been reduced by $20 Billion. The investment has begun to pay for itself through a stronger, healthier economy. We still have much more to do and I want to continue this amazing transformation of our state over the next 4 years.”

What other experience does he bring to the position? “Prior to joining the State Senate, I served 4-years in the Michigan House of Representatives. From 1997 through 2010, I also served as a Cannon Township Planning Commissioner, Township Trustee and Township Supervisor.  I’m a member of the Rockford Lions Club – serving as the club’s President from 2007-2008. I volunteer as a board member with “Finish the Mission” Veterans Relief Fund, helping veterans and their spouses during critical times in their lives. For the last 2-years I have been pinning Vietnam Veterans with a 50-year commemorative lapel pin – thanking them for their service and properly welcoming these veterans’ home. I am also one of the founding chairmen of “Volley for Mitchell” – a charity volleyball tournament to raise funds for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy.”

What strength does he bring to the position? “My past experiences in both the private sector, running a successful business with 12-14 employees, and in the public sector as a local township official, are where my core strengths come from. I believe we should apply business ‘best practices’ to local and state government, attempting to find efficiencies, cut red tape and demand more accountability. I have the practical experience that helps me lead. When times were tough, early in my legislative serve, I cut my own pay and increased my healthcare co-pays. I have led by example. My commitment is to fight for working taxpayers, so that you will have the secure future that you deserve. I respect that you work hard for your paycheck, and that’s why I want to make sure you keep more of what you earn.” 

What does he feel are the major challenges facing our district? The three major challenges facing our district are 1) Continuing the investment in our infrastructure—not only for roads and bridges, but also water, sewer, storm water, and broadband. 2) Developing a sustainable plan for school mental health and school safety initiatives. 3) Creating a working environment for public/private partnerships for skilled trades training and talent initiatives. 

Craig Beach is the Democratic challenger for state senator in the 29th District. “I have lived in the Rockford area for 20 years. I have been married to my wife Laura, for 29 years and together we have been blessed with three children, each working their way through college. Our family has also welcomed numerous refugee foster children into our home, helping us to experience the world from a larger perspective. These young people are now in college, college graduates, and even business owners. I have taught in public schools for 32 years, 30 years at Rockford High School, teaching Economics, History of World Religions and Advanced Placement European History. My wife, Laura has taught at the elementary level at Rockford Public Schools for 31 years.  

What is his primary reason to run for office? “My main platform issues include: Restoring funding and the respect for education in Lansing. The current political structure has done everything it can to discourage and denigrate the teaching profession, which has scared off our best and brightest young people from pursuing a career in the classroom. This is an ominous issue for the future of our children and grandchildren.

Restoring Michigan’s middle class. The Michigan Association of United Way estimates that close to 50% of Michigan families have an income stream that does not allow them to cover all necessities, plan for retirement and help their children fund post-secondary training. Through my educational plan we will develop in our young people the talent to capture not just a job, but a lifelong career that provides a level of income that creates a stable and sustainable middle class.

Protect our water and natural resources

PFAS, Line 5, and the Nestle water withdrawal are symptoms of a state government that fails our citizens. Michigan receives 10% of the material that flows through Line 5.  Our tourism industry generates $27 billion in economic benefit.  The risk of Line 5 dwarfs our benefit.  The health of our citizens and our economy have been threatened by the failure of the current administrations leveraging of our natural resources to corporate interests. Together we can put people above profits and return government to the citizens who elect it.

Restore governmental accountability and transparency

Unfortunately, our state government is rated last (50th) in the United States and given a “F” grade in terms of governmental accountability and transparency.  This shows a troubling disregard for the citizens who elect our legislators. I will restore governmental transparency so that citizens have confidence that their voices carry as much weight as “dark money” donors.

What other leadership experience does he bring? “I have served on the Otisco Township as a township board trustee and on the zoning board.”

What is the main strength he brings to the position? “I believe an effective education is the key to the success of our state. As someone who has taught for 32 years I believe I bring practical knowledge to this foundational issue. If we can develop our young people’s talent, talent will provide them the tools to capture a career, not just a job and a career will create a sustainable, thriving middle class. I will end our divisive political culture by working with all stakeholders.  Our state will become more prosperous and vibrant when we put people above politics.

What does he see as the major challenge facing our district? Creating an educational system that ensures our young people will have the talent to have a sustainable standard of living; one that covers family necessities, health care, retirement and post-secondary training for their children.

Protecting the health of our citizens through greater governmental oversight of our water and natural resources. We need to put people first and preserve the beauty of our wonderful state.

Addressing our dismal governmental transparency and accountability issues.

Nathan Hewer is the Libertarian candidate for state senator in the 29th District. Hewer grew up in Reed City, a small town about an hour north of Grand Rapids, but has lived in Cannonsburg Township for the last five years. “I went to college at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Construction management and 2 associates degrees, one in Business and one in Building Trades Management. While at college, my wife Amanda and I started our family very early, when I was 18 years old, with my son Ayden (now 14 years old), followed by Charlie (13), Emma (11) and Ella (6). I paid my way through college by working 2-3 jobs until I started a small contracting business and was able to support my family through that job alone. After college graduation I worked across the country as a superintendent and project manager for large industrial and mining construction projects. In 2013 I was able to move back to Michigan. I now work for Meijer in the corporate office managing construction.” 

Why is he for running for office? “I have a deeply held conviction that people should be allowed to run their own lives without government interference. I believe in the liberty of the individual to make their own choices. I believe in true free markets without corporate welfare and government kickbacks. I believe people should have the right to keep the money they earn. I believe individuals should be allowed to chase their dreams without the government protecting big businesses though unnecessary licensing, red tape and bureaucracy. And I believe that individuals have a second amendment right to protect themselves and those rights in the manner they see fit. It became apparent to me at the end of the 2016 election cycle that without a third party both parties will continue to erode our freedoms campaigning as the lesser of two evils. I decided I could no longer sit on the sidelines and watch both Democrats and Republicans trample these rights. We need a strong third party to force politicians to campaign on their convictions and not just demonize the opposition. Libertarians are the best voice for freedom and liberty. As your state senator I can help keep the government out of your wallet, bedroom, health care system, and your markets.”

What other leadership experience does he have? “I was involved with the Republican party for many years. I was a Precinct Delegate and a poll watcher in 2004 and 2008 involved in campaigning for them in Northern Michigan. Most recently I was a Precinct Delegate in the 2016 election. This experience showed me that as long as we only have 2 choices no one will campaign on any principles. They will simply find a demographic to cater to and offer to use their power to their advantage at the expense of others. I joined the Libertarian Party in 2016 and have worked in various committees within the party since.” 

What is the main strength he would bring to the position? “Tenacity, independence and conviction. My wife and I had three kids by the age of 21. I was able to finance my own education while supporting my family and I was an MMA fighter for 10 years. I know how to stretch a dollar and I have the tenacity and grit to fight for a cause. People don’t want to be taxed more; they want their existing taxes to be used for their intended purpose. If you want someone to defend your personal freedoms, make better use of existing funding and protect your paycheck, elect the fighter to take the politicians, lobbyists and special interests to the mat for your liberty.”

What does he see as the major challenge facing our district? 

“The challenges that face my district are largely the same as those facing the state and the country. Democrats are attacking half of the constituent’s freedoms and Republicans are attacking the other half. Both take your money and spend it on their pet projects. They both have marketed for years that you only have two choices. They know they can steam roll half of their constituents as long as they can claim they are better than the other guy. We need an independent voice for the people in Lansing that says it is the people’s individual right to make their own choices to pursue life liberty and happiness, and they must be allowed to keep the money they earn to spend as they see fit.” 

73rd District Representative

There are two candidates running for state representative of the 73rd District: Lynn Afendoulis (R) and Bill Saxton (D).

Lynn Afendoulis is running as a Republican and is seeking a two-year term as state representative. “I was born in 1958 in Grand Rapids, Mich. My mother was an elementary school teacher; my father owned a restaurant. I am part of a large, extended family that includes my second cousin and the current state representative for the 73rd District, Chris Afendoulis. I started my career as a newspaper reporter. For 25 years, I have worked in various capacities for Universal Forest Products; for last 15 years I have been director of corporate communications. I have lived in the area most of my life. Today, am a resident of Grand Rapids Township. Most importantly, I am the mother of two– a daughter who is a junior in college and a son who is a senior in high school.”

What is the main reason she is running for office? “I love this state and I have been pleased with many of the accomplishments of the current legislature. I want to continue the Michigan Comeback and improve upon it to make sure it is meaningful to all. Importantly, I believe holding office is an honorable vocation and want to demonstrate that to my children and their friends so they might see it as a worthy opportunity for people of integrity, and so that they might understand the work and commitment behind a healthy, successful republic.”

What other leadership experience does she have? “I sit on the boards of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. I resigned a few seats to run for office: my church’s parish council and the Michigan Transportation Commission, to which I was appointed in 2013 by Gov. Snyder. I have had the honor of serving on many other boards, including the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation (which serves Grand Rapids Public Schools and which I chaired for a number of years), Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth (now the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids), Opera Grand Rapids, Circle Theatre and others.”

What is the main strength she would bring to the position? “I bring to the table conservative principles, 35 years of business experience and communication expertise, a history of public service and a passion for respect, accountability and results. From that combination of experience springs an ability to make thoughtful, sound decisions based in facts and not emotion, a commitment to working with integrity and toward results, and a perspective of someone who hasn’t worked in politics, but understand what it takes to get a job done.” 

What does she see as the major challenge facing our district?  “The 73rd district, like all others, needs improvements in education and training for today’s jobs, better roads and infrastructure, and a more efficient and understandable government, but at the top of the list of issues is the quality of our water. This is a basic human need for which the government is responsible. I was heartened by the legislature’s current allocation for addressing PFAS, but how and when that money is spent is critical. It must reach communities and people in the form of solid solutions. As your legislator, I will stay on top of the entities and individuals responsible; I will listen to and learn from local officials to make sure they are satisfied with the response. I will listen to residents and I won’t rest until they feel that the water they use for their families, pets, crops, homes and recreation is safe. We must make sure that water in our state is protected from PFAS and other threats; this abundant Michigan resource is our treasure and our responsibility.  

One other issue critical to making sure anything in politics gets done in Michigan—and everywhere—is practicing respect, even for those with whom we disagree. I will do that. Those who call for incivility harm the republic and model dangerous behavior for our next generations. We must show that we are bigger than our differences through thoughtful, respectful communication and action and by doing what we are sent to Lansing to do: listen to the taxpayers and work together to get things done for them as responsible public servants.” 

Bill Saxton is running as the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 73rd District. “I’m Bill Saxton and I’m 40 years-old, currently residing in East Grand Rapids. I’m a small-business owner, an engineer, and married with 3 young children. My wife and I are raising our kids in the Grand Rapids area because of the great schools, the tight-knit communities, and shared Midwest values. We are members of Central Reformed Church and our oldest attends preschool at Grand Rapids Christian.”

What is the main reason he is running for office? “Every family should have access to safe, clean drinking water, every child deserves a high-quality education, and everyone, regardless of age, deserves affordable healthcare and prescription drugs.  Over the last 8 years, our government has prioritized polluting industries over the environment, has left our public-school system severely underfunded, and has done nothing to rein in the costs of health insurance and the price-gouging of pharmaceutical companies. I’m running because we need someone new representing us in Lansing who will work to solve these problems, for us and our children. As an engineer, I have the problem-solving abilities we need to think creatively and get real solutions.”  

What other leadership experience does he have? “I’ve been focused on providing for my 3 young children and coaching their t-ball teams. But, when I saw how under-funded our schools were and the multiple crises our environment was facing, my family and I felt compelled to act. This is not the time to elect a typical politician.”

What is the main strength he would bring to the position? “As an engineer and small business owner, our district could use a problem-solver with my real-world experience, rather than another partisan politician. I will also work across the aisle to find solutions to our State’s issues.  In business, you don’t ask your employees or customers what their political affiliation is—you establish relationships based upon mutual respect and trust. My family has both Democrats and Republicans and most of us work to find common ground with one another.”

What does he see as the major challenge facing our district? “Although the government is, belatedly, dealing with the groundwater contamination issues across the district, many of the people I’m talking to are still not drinking their tap-water even if their water considered safe—people simply do not trust the government, particularly after the Flint water crisis. We need to work on getting that credibility back or we’re simply wasting millions of dollars on these cleanup efforts. I think more transparency in the process and more community involvement will go a long way.”

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Taking fire truck put people at risk


 

I am not a resident of the Village of Sand Lake, but I am in the area serviced by the Sand Lake Fire and Rescue. I was appalled when I read the recent article about one of the units being taken to a parade in an area not even served by Sand Lake when back-up is needed. Just thinking about the risk this created for those of us who often work in fields and woods not accessible to the big, heavy, awkward vehicles gave me a horrible sense of abandonment. Is there no common sense in politicians?

The Unit Being taken: probably Wrong

The Unit Being taken without the knowledge and consent of the Fire Chief, Ed Holtzlander; definitely WRONG.

The Unit Being taken and used to support a politician; NO BRAINER. Again I ask, Is there NO common sense in politicians?

Sincerely,

Karen Hayden, Ensley Township

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Missing fire truck sparks controversy in Sand Lake


By Judy Reed

Some tempers are flying hot again in the Village of Sand Lake after Village President Tom Norton took a Sand Lake Fire Department grass fire/medical truck without discussing it with the Fire Chief and allowed someone in the Curt Benson for Judge campaign to drive it in the Pulaski Days parade last Saturday, October 6.

The Post got a tip about it from someone earlier this week, and then called Fire Chief Ed Holtzlander to verify what had happened. 

According to Holtzlander, he went into the fire station Saturday and saw it was missing. “We already had engines 6 and 7 reserved to go to Cedar Springs for the Red Flannel parade and now this one was missing. We use it for grass fires but it’s also our second medical truck,” explained Holtzlander. 

He said he found out that Norton had spoken with a DPW taking the truck. When Holtzlander saw it was missing, he immediately called Norton. 

“I told him to he had 20 minutes to get it back here or I’d report it stolen,” said Holtzlander. “He told me he didn’t need permission to take it.”

The pickup did arrive back at the building about 20 minutes later. But none of the firefighters recognized the guys who brought it back.

The Post spoke to Norton about it, and he verified that he did take the truck without calling Holtzlander. “The Chief doesn’t run the fire department, the President of the Village does,” stated Norton. 

When the Post asked why he didn’t call him and let him know, Norton responded, “The Chief never calls me back anyway.” He also said he had a new phone and didn’t have everyone’s phone number in it.

He assured the Post that it was completely legal. “Under a general law village, a president can do that.” 

“We were asked by someone to send a truck to the parade. An email was sent out on Friday evening to the Chief and Council,” he said. “I got no response. People have smart phones with emails popping up all the time. There’s no reason not to see it.”

The email was reportedly sent at 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“One of the reasons I delayed the email was to see if we were going to have rain,” explained Norton. “We’d had three days of rain so knew we wouldn’t need it. The only time it’s used is during a grassfire so this is a complete non-issue.”

But Holtzlander said that’s not the case. It’s also a four-wheel drive vehicle with medical supplies and they just recently used it to get back to where someone had fallen out of a tree stand.

But who was driving it in the parade? Norton said he swore a guy into the village so that he would be covered by the village insurance and legally be able to drive it.

In the email that was sent out (which Norton read to the Post over the phone) it was mentioned that doing this would help with grants by making other community’s parades look bigger. The Post spoke with some other Village sources (not Sand Lake) who said that they knew of nothing like that. Instead, they said they don’t allow the use of Village property for political purposes to avoid the look of impropriety.

“I’m appalled,” said Sand Lake Village Council member Danielle Hardenburg. “I did some investigating and don’t like what I found out at all,” she said. 

Hardenburg is also a firefighter and said she understands Holtzlander’s frustration. “We don’t even know the drivers, or if they were certified to drive the vehicle. I had to take a course, and then a test, and then a driving test, and then an annual test every year just to be able to drive it. The fire chief also signs off on who drives it.”

Hardenburg said the vehicle should only be used for when the village is responding to a call. “We just had a conversation recently about who can use village property,” she said. She also doesn’t think it should be used to endorse a candidate. “We should try to stay neutral.”

“This was a complete disrespecting of the head of the fire department by not asking to use the vehicle,” she added. “It shows extremely poor judgment and a complete disregard for public safety. This is a serious matter. I think he should resign and let president pro-tem Dave Dewey take over, even though he only has a month left.”

Norton’s term will be up this fall and he will soon be moving out of Sand Lake.

Hardenburg, who will run for Village President as a write-in in the November election, said she plans to call for Norton’s resignation at the next meeting.

“I feel Tom is incapable of performing his presidential duties. He’s abused his power. It’s a dishonorable service to the community. It makes our board look unhealthy and it needs to stop. I am so floored. What if we had been toned out and showed up at the station and the truck wasn’t there? What would’ve happened?”

The next Sand Lake Village Council meeting will be Monday, October 15, according to the dates posted on their website.

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Charges denied in Sand Lake threats case


By Judy Reed

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office has denied charges in the case of Nelson Township resident Scott Britton confronting Tom Norton, the President of the Village of Sand Lake. 

Britton is the husband of Robyn Britton, the Supervisor of Nelson Township. Both Robyn and Norton are running for the Nelson Supervisor seat in next Tuesday’s election, and tensions are running high in the community. 

The confrontation occurred the evening of Wednesday, July 18, after Scott Britton was made aware that someone had put used toilet paper on his wife’s office door. Nelson Township and the Village of Sand Lake share offices in a municipal building there.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 100 block of W. Lake Street sometime after 8:15 p.m. on the night of July 18, on the report of threats/assault.

Norton said he had just gotten back from Indiana that day and was at a resident’s home, speaking with him outside about an upcoming tree removal, when a vehicle pulled up and a man got out and yelled, “Are you Thomas Norton?”

“I said yes and he then violently moved towards my direction and stated, ‘I’m Scott Britton and I’m going to %$#@ kill you,” Norton later wrote in an application for a personal protection order. “He then raised his hand and pointed it toward me. I was 98 percent certain he was going to do something. He then screamed, ‘Did you S#$% paper my wife’s door Tuesday night?”

Norton said he told him no, that he was in Indiana. He said that Britton told him he didn’t believe him, that he was a liar, and stated again he was going to kill him. Norton then began to record the conversation as Britton moved away, and told him again that he was in Indiana and could prove it. Britton then yelled that Norton would need a restraining order when he proved he did it. He then left.

Norton pressed charges against Britton, saying he had concerns for the safety of his family.

Norton gave the Post a copy of a receipt showing he was in Indiana when he said he was, but Robyn Britton said she actually discovered the used toilet paper on her door the morning of July 12, not the day before the confrontation. She said her husband didn’t know when it occurred, because she didn’t tell him about it. Instead, she said someone in the office mentioned it to him on July 17, thinking he knew. Then her husband saw Norton outside on the night of July 18 and confronted him.

Robyn didn’t report the occurrence initially. She said the only people that could have done it would have needed a key—and that would mean they would have been a member of the staff of either Sand Lake or Nelson Township, the police department, or the fire department. “I was just hoping to get through all of this to the election. The date couldn’t come soon enough for me,” she said.

But after the confrontation occurred between her husband and Norton, she told one of the detectives at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office about all that had been occurring recently: the unproven accusation of her interfering in Sand Lake’s search of a Village clerk; the cease and desist letters sent by Norton’s attorney to four women, including herself, demanding that they retract statements made about him; the toilet paper on her door, etc. “I wanted them to understand why Scott had gotten so mad and I wanted it on file in case anything else happened,” she said. She also said that she couldn’t prove who put the toilet paper on her door.

Norton said he would also like to find out who did it, and would be willing to take a lie detector test to prove he didn’t do it.

On Tuesday, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker told the Post that charges in the incident between Scott Britton and Tom Norton had been denied. “From our review of the report there were no punches thrown, no physical contact, the most physical action described in the report was a ‘hand out in a pointing fashion.’ Words were exchanged, but there is not enough here to file any sort of assault charges under these circumstances,” he said.

Norton was notified by the detective on the case. “I can understand not pressing charges because they think he’ll calm down after the election, but I’m still concerned about my family,” he said. “There was enough in the report for me to get the PPO.”

He also will be glad to see the end of the election. His supporters have told him of other people demanding that they take his signs down out of their yards. “We have lost 36 signs in the last 24 hours,” he said.

Robyn Britton said she hasn’t had anything to do with that. “No one in my family has touched a Tom Norton sign. I feel bad for him about that. I know how expensive they are and wouldn’t want someone touching mine,” she said.

See results of next Tuesday’s election in next week’s Post.

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