Ottawa County will have 11 Commissioners
Grand Haven Tribune
West Olive-Two county commissioners will be left out in the cold in November 2002 as the number of commissioners districts went from 13 to 11 Friday afternoon. The Ottawa County Reapportionment Board voted 5-0 to make the change at a meeting at the county’s Fillmore Street Complex.
One current commissioner who is facing a potential challenge from a fellow sitting commissioner welcomed the change. Dale Mohr, of Georgetown Township, advocated cutting down the size of the board throughout the district re-drawing process carried out by the reapportionment board over the past month. A smaller executive board is more efficient, he said. That position went against the will of his party.
The Ottawa County Republican Party had called for county commissioner districts to remain a 13 for the bulk of the process. Changing its position only on Thursday night after the number was nixed as a possibility. Up against that kind of clout Mohr was betting that his view would lose out. He was wrong. “I have (won the bet),” Mohr said, “plus I may lose my seat.”
The Reapportionment board re-drew district lines based on population figures from the 2000 census. The board was also charged with deciding how many commissioners would represent the county. The reapportionment board’s unanimous vote sealed the fate of the county board of commissioners for the next ten years, though the decision was not without dissent.
Ottawa County Republican Party Chair Jack Holmes had originally voted against the map known as “11b revised 2,” but changed his vote in order to show his disagreement with the plan did not signify his lack of the ultimate support for the final decision. A motion by Holmes to approve a map with 15 commissioner districts had previously been defeated by a 3-2 vote.
County clerk Dan Krueger, county Treasurer Mary Richardson and Ottawa County Democratic Party Chair John O’Brien cast dissenting votes. Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz supported Holmes. O’Brien had been unsure which way he would vote after it was decided in a meeting Wednesday that only maps with 11or 15 commissioner districts would be considered.
The vote was a struggle for O’Brien because the maps with 15 commissioner districts offered a golden opportunity for his party. “Though we have a possibility of electing possibly two democrats (with 5 commissioner district),” he said, “I feel it violates some of my personal principles of good government”
O’Brien’s nay vote ensured an 11-commissioner board. That a democrat influenced the political course of a Republican county was important to O’Brien. “The democratic party made a difference today,” he said. At the beginning of the meeting Holmes made a last ditch effort to return to 13, asking board members who had voted against him Wednesday to reconsider. “I was rally agonized over this,” he said, “I wanted 13b real bad.”No one responded and a 13-commissioner board was put to rest until the next census.
Grand Haven Township Trustee Joanne Marcetti had mixed feeling about the result. The township will go from being represented by two commissioners to one, but she had pushed for a 15 commissioner district map which would have separated the township from the city of Grand Haven. Instead the southern and eastern area of the city will be grouped in with the township.
The downtown area of the city will be split off into a district with the city of Ferrysburg, the Village of Spring Lake, Spring Lake and Crockery townships. Robinson Township will be placed in a district with Olive and Port Sheldon townships and a portion of Park Township.
Members of the Racial Coalition for Justice, a group which called for minority representation, were satisfied with the outcome. Tino Reyes, of the group, recommended the map which was finally adopted. “We cannot get everything we want,” e said, “(though) it’s pretty close to want we wanted.”
Members of the group believe the map adopted Friday will increase the influence of minorities in south-western commissioner districts.