Several New County Commissioners Make Waves At First Full Board Meeting

Andrew Trzaska | January 16, 2011

Several new commissioners were elected to the Muskegon County Board in November of 2011.  At the first full board meeting this Thursday, the new members were already making waves in different ways.

District 2 Commissioner Alan Jager, voted against several resolutions at the meeting, including the hiring of a nutrition specialist by the Public Health Department and an expansion of funding for programs involving juveniles with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.  Both resolutions passed, with Jager as the sole no vote on each.

Jager reiterated several times during the meeting that his campaign platform was to stop the expansion of government, and voting for the resolutions would lead to expansion.

Part of the meeting involved a vote on position of board vice-chair.  At the board’s organizational meeting earlier this month, District 3 commissioner John Snider was elected by secret ballot.  However, certain organizational rules noted that the position must be elected publicly, so a revote on the choice of Snider was in order.

District 9 commissioner Rillastine Wilkins spoke up about the selection of Snider.  While nominations were closed and she could not be nominated to challenge him, Wilkins spoke of her experience in local government and the limited representation by women on the board in the County’s existence.

Other new board members spoke their mind on Snider’s election and Wilkins’ statement.

Jager saw Snider’s election as a good way to “equalize” the board and limit partisanship.
“We need a non-partisan board to solve the problems we are facing.”

Anthony Longmire, commissioner for the County’s 8th district, stated that his previous vote for Snider for vice-chair was based on the experience Snider brought to the board, not on demographics.

“We only have 2 years to serve together and we have 100,000 people to work for… It doesn’t make a difference to me if you’re black, white, man, woman, Democrat or Republican.”

District 7 commissioner Scott Plummer also spoke up ahead of the vice-chair revote, expressing distaste for the secrecy of the original vote.

Additionally, Plummer had impact on another board vote concerning the extension of the bike path that runs around most of Muskegon Lake.

The City of North Muskegon hopes to extend the existing path that ends near the causeway up Lake Avenue toward the Four Corners intersection.  By terms of the resolution brought to the meeting, the City would have had to pay about $1,500 to put part of the path on County property.

Plummer stated the bike path is important to the County and said that instead of paying the County, those dollars should be put right into building it.

A new motion was developed off of Plummer’s idea and unanimously passed, allowing North Muskegon to pay the County only one dollar in compensation with a stipulation that the rest of the planned payment go right into building the path.

All of these happenings at Thursday’s meetings impressed District 11 commissioner Bob Scolnik.

“I can tell [this board] is going to be way more interesting than previous years. I applaud today’s outcome.  It could have turned partisan, but didn’t.”

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst