Ottawa County Administrator's Digest

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Alan G. Vanderberg, County Administrator
March 6, 2017

Digest is Back

The Digest is back after a hiatus of a few months.  Many things have changed since the last Digest in November.  We saw several outstanding officials and employees retire at the end of 2016 along with the death of Commissioner Denny Van Dam.

The new cast is doing very well including our two new County Commissioners, Frank Garcia representing Park Township and Kelly Kuiper representing the southern half of Georgetown Township.  It has been a privilege to get to know each of them and their unique backgrounds that will serve our County well. 

My goal is to make this as regular as possible this year, hopefully each week.

2017 save the date

April 28, 2017 Ottawa County Innovation and Technology Forum (Dave Hulst)

I am excited to announce our Fourth Annual Forum.  This year’s our theme Work Redefined:  Space, Culture and Technology, focuses on the changing work environment.  Haworth is sponsoring our keynote speaker:  Mr. Rex Miller.  Rex is an author, speaker and co-authored the book Change Your Space Change Your Culture.  Rex will be kicking off this year’s forum with The Culture Advantage | Creating a Workplace that Leads to Transformation and Growth.  The world surprises us weekly with new and novel challenges. Healthy and resilient cultures adapt through innovation. The most innovative organizations approach culture by design.  Our afternoon lead speaker is Mr. David Behen, Director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and CIO for the State of Michigan.  David offers an insight into the technology priorities for the State and their efforts to keep Michigan on the leading edge.  Ms. Erin Frisch, Director for DHHS and Office of Child Support along with Mr. Keegan Malone, Policy Analyst for the Office of Child Support will co-present on the Alternative Work Location Program.  We’ll also have vendors present who can provide current information on products and services to meet your immediate needs. Finally, we’ll wrap up the day with Phil Bertolini, CIO and Deputy County Executive for Oakland County, who is back by popular demand, to bring technology in the public sector to a level you can appreciate addressing the day-to-day challenges we all face.  The registration site is open.  I’ve provided the link for more information and to register.  I hope to see you there.

Register here!

Gail Harrison Retirement


We were surprised recently to learn that Gail Harrison, Executive Director of LEDA, will retire later this year.  Gail has been the sparkplug that attracted large regional support for an agency that has become best in form not only here in West Michigan but as far away as California where Gail has been helping to set up a similar organization.

We look forward to participating in Gail’s final Summit on Race & Inclusion on May 23rd and wish her the very best in retirement.

Founder of Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance To Retire

Monday, March 06, 2017 8:35 a.m. EST by Mary Ellen Murphy

Gail Harrison of Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (photo courtesy of Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance)

Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance logo (courtesy of Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance)

HOLLAND, MI (WHTC) - The founder and Executive Director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is retiring after being at the helm for over 20 years.

Gail Harrison founded the organization in 1996 in response to a hate crime committed in the Grand Haven area and since then the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance  Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance has been instrumental in advancing racial equity through signature, research-based programs such as Calling All Colors, the Summit on Race and Inclusion, Migrant Mentoring, Talking to Kids about Race, and Racial Equity Institutes.

 Harrison is working close with the Board Of Directors to ensure that the transition will be smooth for the organization and community. She will retire at the end of July. 

The impact of their programs has been significant across the region including the participation of nearly 8,500 middle and high school students in the Calling All Colors program, over 30 community Spanish courses, and countless volunteers engaged in the migrant mentoring program. The nonprofit has also been the recipient of several W. K. Kellogg Foundation grants and has been recognized as a nationwide model. 

Keith Van Beek Named President of MME

We are all proud of Keith’s accomplishment of being named President of the Michigan Municipal Executives, the professional association of professional public managers, city, county and township.  Keith is the second assistant/deputy manager and third county government official to serve in as president in the history of the organization.  The MME serves to build professional expertise, advocate for the public management profession and many other valuable functions for those who manager and administer our local governments. 

The MME was originally founded as the Michigan City Management Association (MCMA) sometime between 1927 and 1930.  At that time, professional managers were almost completely exclusive to city government and most had civil engineering backgrounds as most city services related to water and sewer services, streets, sidewalks, parks, etc.  With the growth of urban issues in cities and a huge amount of federal and some state legislation relating to how government work is done, much more complexity entered the local government management world and professional management began to spread to county and township governments as well.  In recognition of this, the MCMA formally changed its name to the Michigan Local Government Management Association (MLGMA) in 1999 and was known by that name until last year.  The president at that time was Doug Thomas, Alma City Manager, who had spent many years as Assistant City Manager of Grand Haven.  The Association conducted a thorough rebranding effort and landed on Michigan Municipal Executives (MME) as an exciting new brand to lead the profession into the future.

Ottawa has had three presidents of this organization (who were president while serving within Ottawa County) that I am aware of and each was president when the organization had a different name.  Eric DeLong, then Spring Lake Village Manager (now Deputy City Manager of Grand Rapids) was President of the MCMA in 1993.  I was President of the MLGMA in 2010 and now Keith is President of MME at this current time in 2017. 

A quick survey around the County shows that MME members come from all quadrants:

Gordon Gallagher, Spring Lake Township Manager

Craig Bessinger, Ferrysburg City Manager

Chris Burns, Spring Lake Village Manager

Pat McGinnis, Grand Haven City Manager

Vester Davis, Jr. Grand Haven Assistant City Manager

Bill Cargo, Grand Haven Charter Township Manager

Steve Patrick, Coopersville City Manager

Jonathan Seyferth, Coopersville Assistant City Manager

Patrick Waterman, Hudsonville City Manager

Dan Carlton, Georgetown Charter Township Manager

Rod Weersing, Georgetown Charter Township Assistant Manager

Tim Klunder, Zeeland City Manager

Ryan Cotton, Holland City Manager

Combatting the Wooley Adelgid

Ottawa County Parks recently spearheaded a task force to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid, a pest that has killed many of the hemlock trees on the East Coast and recently showed up in Park Township and is beginning to spread throughout West Michigan.  Left unchecked, it will result in the loss of hemlocks throughout the state with tremendous economic and water quality impacts.  County Parks worked with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC) to apply for a $600,000 GLRI grant to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) here in West Michigan.  This grant is critical to any chance we have of stopping the spread of HWA in Michigan and currently appears to be on the federal chopping block.  More on this devastating pest below:

Fighting the Spread of Hemlock Wooly AdelgidIn 2016, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) was determined to be established in the Upper Midwest for the first time.  This invasive forest pest has devastated forests along the East Coast of the United States.  Within Michigan, there are an estimated 170 million hemlock trees that are at risk of dying from this pest.  However, the loss of hemlock within our forests is just the beginning.  Long-term studies from along the east coasts have documented extensive negative effects caused by the loss of hemlock within natural communities.  These changes affect the ecology and economy of the infested areas.  For example, when hemlock trees are lost along riparian areas, there is an increase in water temperature; decrease in dissolved oxygen and an increase in the water’s pH.  If this happens within Michigan’s rivers and streams, it will significantly reduce the trout fisheries, an important source of tourism revenue.

Ottawa County Honors Employees for Customer Service

Tom Camburn

On Monday the office is cold. Call maintenance. On Tuesday the office is hot. Call maintenance. On Wednesday, John says the office is hot and Jane says the office is cold. Call maintenance. Surely it takes a special personality to successfully carry out the role of Maintenance Technician at West Olive's Fillmore Complex, serving hundreds of demanding customers. Meet Tom Camburn.

Similarly, a unique demeanor is required to fill the role of Environmental Health Food Service Specialist. Inspections are required to ensure that food service establishments are adhering to safety standards designed to protect public health. As you can imagine, not every food service employee is delighted to see an inspector walk through the front door. Some inspectors, however, have just the finesse it takes to balance educating and inspecting. Those who have this skill put their customers running busy, past paced kitchens at ease. Meet Jessica Voglewede.

Voglewede and Camburn, along with other Ottawa County employees are trained to present a friendly, professional demeanor treating customers with integrity and respect. This behavior is what earned both Camburn and Voglewede each Outstanding Customer Service Awards from leaders in Ottawa County.  

You can read the nominations which earned each recipient an award plus learn more about them at

"Tom daily demonstrates the power of a cheerful smile, a positive outlook, dedication to his craft and a sincere joy of working with the many customers he serves. Tom Camburn truly exemplifies the Ottawa County Way,” said John Borgerding, Buildings and Grounds Supervisor.

"Jessica always maintains a patient and empathetic attitude and a high level of professionalism. Jessica has been nominated approximately 20 times for this award which further demonstrates how outstanding her customer service is," said Spencer Ballard, Environmental Health Team Supervisor.

Implemented in 2012, the Customer Service initiative is one of the County’s Four C’s, along with Communication, Cultural Intelligence and Creativity. Customers can nominate an Ottawa County employee for an Outstanding Customer Service award at

Jessica Voglewede

Quarterly Road Commission Meeting Notes (Keith Van Beek)

Attendees: Al, Keith, Paul, Greg, Don, Brett, Tom Bird and Jim

Road Commission member on Planning Commission - discussion and plan to change Planning Commission bylaws to make the Road Commission a full voting member instead of an ad-hoc member and to add an additional member to get the Commission to nine members.

Snow Fences - Don passed on article from NACO that highlighted a program to keep corn rows up to serve as snow fence along roads.

Road Commission/County Combination - at a recent county planning commission there was discussion about the status of combination options and the current sunset option that expires in 2018.  County will send the report to commissioners as we have new members that would benefit from that information, and also provide an update on the recommendations from that report.  The group does not see situations changing from the original report that did not recommend a combination.

Bike Path on North Cedar Drive - Greg asked for an update on Road Commission status on amount of road ROW and where path might go.  OCRC Board approved several path location deviation requests from the Parks Department at the OCRC Board meeting on March 2.

Seasonal Load Restrictions - Paul asked about seasonal load restrictions and statewide process for agricultural approval for weight restrictions.  OCRC is using the recommended standard from and process that is used statewide.  Brett and Paul will share that information so a common understanding and education can be reached.

32nd Avenue - there had been discussion about the County trying to arrange a meeting on 32nd Avenue with MDOT, OCRC, City of Hudsonville, GVSU, and townships about possible needs and issues relating to 32nd Avenue and 48th Avenue interchange at I-196.  More recently the request to have this meeting was cancelled.

Utilities - Brett discussed working with the townships to better coordinate road construction projects with the utilities that have to be relocated to accommodate road improvements. The primary focus is to provide incentives for the utilities to efficiently coordinate the relocation of their infrastructure.  Townships are involved because of the franchise agreements that the townships have with the utilities.

Leonard Street - improvements planned in 2017 along Leonard Street from 148th Avenue to 130th Avenue have been delayed for a year as Planning Department and OCRC is applying for a TAP grant to add a four foot paved shoulder.  OCRC will commit 100% engineering/administration and 20% towards this TAP Grant project, but the remaining 80% and/or other items of work required above the normal paved shoulder will have to be found through grants and other funding.

Reports - Brett distributed and reviewed standard reports; Michigan Transportation Fund which is beginning to show additional revenue from State funding increases, winter and salt budgets show that pending weather they expect to come in under budget, reviewed 2017 programming for primary roads, countywide millage, local roads, local township, bridge, drainage and gravel roads. 


Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator Rebrands as ACRE AgTech (Becky Huttenga)

As regular readers of Al’s Digest, most of you are probably aware that a business incubator operates out of the Ottawa County Administrative Complex.  For those of you who frequent the halls of the complex out here on Fillmore Street, maybe you have noticed the new temporary signs directing you to incubator! This organization, formerly known as the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator, has just been rebranded as ACRE AgTech!  What is ACRE?  AgTech Resources and Connections for Entrepreneurs. The board and staff of ACRE AgTech are very excited about this new identity which better represents our organization, its mission, and its services. 

ACRE AgTech, which was originally started in 2014 by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners then spun-off as its own non-profit corporation, will continue providing the same customized start-up services to help clients overcome hurdles, connect with opportunities, and access needed expertise in order to develop new ag-tech innovations into viable business opportunities.

If you want to learn more about ACRE AgTech, visit us at or @ACREAgTech.  Or, better yet, stop in to Room 260 and say hello in person!

Farms - Food - Forever Fundraising Campaign (Linda Falstad)

The Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board is pleased to announce the results from its recently released Farms - Food - Forever fundraising campaign. To-date, $26,125 has been donated in support of farmland preservation in Ottawa County. 

The Board’s short-term goal is to raise a total of $36,000 in order to help permanently preserve its second local farm.  The more money that is raised, however, will allow more local farming operations to be preserved.

The PDR Program is funded through individual and corporate donations, as well as contributions from foundations and federal grant awards. Without these sources, the Program would not be able to continue to preserve and protect local farmland. 

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Fund, contributions can be made online at The Fund is managed by The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.

Ottawa Conservation District Updates, Winter 2016-17 (Carla Kocher)


What’s happening at Ottawa Conservation District

  • Bass River Deer Creek Restoration Project (BRDC) held a free cover crops workshop at Grand Ravines County Park lodge on December 13, 2016. Keynote speakers were Youssef Darwich, Farm Manager for GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project, and Dean Baas, Sustainable Agriculture Educator for MSU Extension. Through this grant, funds are available to provide cost share for planting cover crops in the Bass River and Deer Creek watersheds.
  • Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is working with several farms to conduct MAEAP verifications and reverifications.  This process can be conducted any time of year, and winter is often more convenient for farmers. This free, confidential program allows farmers to work with a MAEAP specialist to identify and manage risks on the farm.
  • West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (WMCISMA) wrapped up field work for the year. During the 2016 season, this project provided invasive species vegetation management services on 200 properties in Ottawa County. Winter months are being used for records and reporting, securing grants for the future work of this project, equipment maintenance, and preparing for the coming field season.
  • Critical Dune Information and Education (CDIE) provided critical dunes information and education for over 750 people in 2016. Now, events and workshops are being planned and scheduled for 2017. Ottawa Conservation District provides interactive presentations for all ages that explain the importance of plants and trees for stabilizing and preventing erosion in the dunes.
  • Hunting Access Program (HAP) is continuing outreach to landowners in Ottawa County, offering DNR-funded lease payments of up to $25 per acre to allow public hunting on private land. When enrolling, landowners decide which types of hunting they will permit on their land, and the option to limit access certain days of the week or year. Landowners can increase income generated from their properties while increasing public hunting opportunities in the county.
  • Forestry Assistance Program (FAP)’s Conservation District Forester makes site visits year-round, and this winter is no exception. The forester, who serves Allegan, Barry and Ottawa Conservation Districts, meets with landowners to offer suggestions, resources and technical information about forests of any size. The forester is also available to work with the landowner to develop a forest management plan for the property. There is no charge for this service.

For more information on any of these programs or services, contact Ottawa Conservation District at (616) 842-5852 Ext. 5, or visit 


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