Ottawa County Administrator's Digest

Bookmark and Share


Alan G. Vanderberg, County Administrator
March 22, 2017

Strong Towns Workshop – May 18, 2017 (Paul Sachs)

strong towns

Ottawa County and the City of Grand Haven have teamed up to bring nationally-acclaimed speaker Charles Marohn to Grand Haven on May 18.  Charles will explore issues relating to development patterns, infrastructure, financial resiliency, and quality placemaking practices in local communities.  The all-day workshop will open up new ways of thinking about development by examining both new concepts and old-but-forgotten concepts.

Charles “Chuck” Marohn is the author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume I) and the forthcoming Volume II.  He is also the author of A World Class Transportation System, and you can hear his voice as the host of the “Strong Towns Podcast.”  He has spoken in dozens of towns and cities across North America.

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, the cost for the workshop is $15 per person.  Workshop sponsors include the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Lakeshore Advantage, Midwest Construction Group Inc., Nederveld, Prein & Newhof, and Williams & Works.

Register Online

If you want to learn more about the Strong Towns Workshop, please contact the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department at or (616) 738-4852.

May 18
Main Event: 8:30am to 4:00pm. Lunch provided.
After-Hours Networking: 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Main Event:
Grand Haven Community Center
421 Columbus Avenue
Grand Haven, MI  49417

After-Hours Networking:  
Grand Armory Brewing
17 S. 2nd Street
Grand Haven, MI  49417

$15 per person
$25 per person after May 1
AICP continuing education credits available!
Register online.

Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission Appointment

It is an honor to be appointed to the newly created Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission by Governor Rick Snyder (click here for the Press Release from Gov. Snyder).  The Commission was formed to “continue Michigan’s fight against lead exposure from all sources.” 

This is a serious problem that many in Ottawa County face as well.  Michigan Department of Public Health data for 2013 showed that 7.7 percent of 665 children tested for lead in the 49423 Zip Code (Holland) had blood levels exceeding those in Flint.  Preliminary state data also showed that 1 in 9 Grand Rapids children faces blood poisoning due to lead. 

It is believed that other environmental factors such as lead paint have a higher causal relationship to the lead issues in places such as West Michigan.

I will represent local government on the Commission and will work along with other member’s to implement the findings of the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board which was chaired by Lt. Governor Brian Calley and monitor the State’s efforts to eliminate lead exposure in children.

Tech Forum

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!

NACo Legislative Conference

from left: Commissioner Dannenberg, Commissioner Bergman, Al Vanderberg, Congressman Huizenga, Commissioner Disselkoen & Commissioner Kuyers
from left: Commissioner Bergman, Commissioner Dannenberg, Steve Doocey, Al Vanderberg, Commissioner Disselkoen & Commissioner Kuyers

The National Association of Counties held its annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC from February 26 through March 1.  Commissioners Don Disselkoen, Phil Kuyers, Roger Bergman, Francisco Garcia, Al Dannenberg and I attended. There were excellent sessions about legacy cost (pensions and OPEB), the Opioid Crisis, economic develop, civility, mental health in jails and many other topics.

While in DC we met with Congressman Huizenga over dinner and discussed important issues to Ottawa such as the possible elimination of tax free status for municipal bonds, definition of federal waterway and possible elimination of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding.

While waiting for Congressman Huizenga, we ran into Steve Doocey of Fox News who was gracious to have his photo taken with us.

NACo has done a tremendous job with providing research materials that show, among other items, economic and fiscal stability information for all of our nation’s county governments in a format where you highlight a county on a map and can access a lot of information.  One example of this work is the report DOING MORE WITH LESS, State Revenue Limitations & Mandates on County Finances.

On February 28, President Trump issued his executive order requiring the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to “review and reconsider” the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule that greatly increased the amount and types of waterways that fall under federal regulation.  Kent County Commissioner Diane Jones informed the Grand Valley Metro Council Board that she was one of 10 county commissioners out of 2,000 attending the NACO Conference to be present with the President during the signing ceremony.

bill signing
bill signing 2

Park Township Strategic Planning

Misty Cunningham and I worked with the Supervisor Jerry Hunsburger, Manager Howard Fink and the Park Township Board of Trustees Saturday morning on building consensus on objectives and strategies to help continuously bring the Township closer to meeting its overarching goals.

The group had a lot of excellent ideas and discussion and it was a pleasure for Misty and me to work with them.

Drug Court Recognized Nationally (Shannon Felgner)

The 20th Circuit Court has given Ottawa County another reason to boast. Its Adult Drug Treatment Court, a specialty program for non-violent felony offenders with substance use disorders, has been selected as a “mentor court” by the United States Department of Justice and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. This distinction is awarded to high-performing drug courts that demonstrate exemplary practices and operate with fidelity to the drug court model. Only 9 of 3,000 courts in the US were chosen for this award.

An award ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 13 at 11AM in Courtroom 3B of the Ottawa County Grand Haven Courthouse. The ceremony is open to the public.

“With thousands of drug courts in operation across the United States, this honor really speaks to the quality and integrity of the work our drug court is doing," said Judge Mark A. Feyen. “Even more affirming is that this award comes on the heels of being nationally recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2016 in a webinar discussing how drug courts are leading the way in criminal justice reform,” said Feyen.

The drug court will hold the “mentor court” distinction for the next three years. “As a mentor court we will have the opportunity to host other drug court programs from around the United States, provide consulting and technical assistance to drug courts, and participate in national drug court planning and policy initiatives,” said Drug Court Coordinator, Andy Brown. “This is an outstanding opportunity to showcase the work of our drug court and advance the reputation of Ottawa County and the 20th Circuit Court,” said Brown.

The Ottawa County Adult Drug Treatment Court is an alternative to traditional incarceration or probation and is eligible for only certain offenders. The method saves money, lowers recidivism and changes lives. A study conducted by Grand Valley State University in 2014 demonstrated the adult drug treatment court significantly reduced new crime and repeated drug and alcohol use among offenders. Drug court participants were 73% less likely to commit a new crime within three years of discharge from the drug court when compared to a similar group of people who were sentenced to traditional probation.

Parks Foundation Launch Party (Shannon Felgner)

parks foundation invite

April 20, 2017, 5-6:30 pm - brief program begins at 5:15

Nature Education Center, located in Hemlock Crossing County Park: 8115 W Olive Rd, West Olive 49460

Learn more about the Ottawa County Parks Foundation

Award will honor memory of longtime public servant (Shannon Felgner)

SOURCE: MLIVE | February 27, 2017 | By Sherry Kuyt | 

A community leader who recently passed away will be honored with a special award by the Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce.

Ottawa County 6th District Commissioner Dennis Van Dam, 64, of Hudsonville, lost his battle with cancer  on Dec. 6. He had just been elected to a third term, and had served as district director for State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekof (R-Olive Township).

He was a longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce and was also a member of the Government and Community Relations Committee.

"Denny was a warm and loving man who walked with Christ, who impacted those around him with the love of Jesus," said Chamber Director Sandy LeBlanc. "He faithfully served his church and community."

The Dennis Van Dam Outstanding Public Servant Award recognizes outstanding achievement in, and contributions to, public administration and public service in the Grandville and Jenison communities.

Potential nominees can be tied to any public service environment, including elected officials, police, fire, ambulance and government.

Candidates will be assessed on the extent to which they have made a sustained contribution to innovative, effective, or inspirational practice, LeBlanc said. They also must have consistently demonstrated ethical behavior in public service.

The winners will be notified and announced the week of April 3 and recognized at the Chamber's Community Awards Ceremony from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at Gleneagle Golf Club.

The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, March 29. A nominating letter should include the nominee's name, position, current employer, and a comprehensive summary of the nominee's contributions to public service that warrant receiving the award, including specific examples of outstanding accomplishments within the Grandville and Jenison community.

Nominations can be sent by mail to Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce, 2939 Wilson, Suite 106, Grandville, MI 49418; faxed to 616-328-6559; or emailed to with the subject line "Nomination."

Sharing our community’s stories (Lisa Stefanovsky)

annual report
click the image to view the entire interactive annual report

I am pleased to present the 2016 Ottawa County Department of Public Health Annual Report. In this report, you’ll find stories written by parents within our community; experiences from our staff; and videos that will show you some of the work we do. This year I celebrated my 10th year as Administrative Health Officer, and I continue to be awed by the exceptional work and continuous improvements made by our public health staff. With the speed at which the world is changing and the new public health threats that continue to emerge, we must continue to be strategic yet flexible, scientific yet creative and leaders as well as community partners.

Recently, while cleaning out a storage room in our building, one of our team members found a handmade booklet containing newspaper clippings. The articles were about the work of our department during the 1930s and 1940s, including an article about an award it received - “County has ranked high nationally for work in public health.” Some of the health threats mentioned from that period included polio, measles, tuberculosis and diphtheria.

For me, this was more than just a pleasant walk down memory lane. It was a reminder of the many public health accomplishments that have led to healthier people and improved quality of life. This history also reminded me of the forward-thinking leadership of the Ottawa County Commissioners and Administration who have supported this department in its mission for more than 80 years. It reminded me of the people who dedicated their professional lives to public health, and how their commitment to excellence continues to rank us as the healthiest county in Michigan. 

We’ve come a long way since our department began in 1931, but as you will see in the pages of this report our work is not complete.

We still need to protect our food and water supply, immunize our children, stop the spread of diseases, educate people about healthy behaviors and prepare for new health threats. We will continue to serve the people of Ottawa County and be committed to providing efficient, effective and customer-centered services that promote and protect health.


Lisa Stefanovsky, M.Ed

Administrative Health 

Public Health Logo

Ottawa Conservation District Tree Seedling Sale Fundraiser (Carla Kocher)


The Ottawa Conservation District Tree Seedling Sale Fundraiser is now in progress. This annual event raises important operating funds for District programs and services. The catalog and order form are available now at

Orders are due by April 7, 2017. Order pick-up is Friday, April 21 from noon – 6:00 p.m. at Reenders Blueberry Farm in West Olive. A limited selection of tree seedlings and planting supplies will be available for sale at the April 21 order pick-up event

Ottawa Conservation District was formed in 1938 to assist local landowners with managing natural resources on their properties. Programs and services include conservation information, watershed restoration, invasive species management, forest management, critical dunes information and education, and more.

One Room School House Preservation

A local group held a pancake breakfast on March 18 to raise funds to preserve a historic one-room school house on Leonard St. The story below gives details. There is also a  GoFundMe page set up to raise funds.

The one room schoolhouse is on Leonard at the corner of 88th Ave, an Ottawa County treasure.  Ruth is the oldest surviving student that attended this school.  Not only was she able to conduct the interview viewable by clicking the link to the Fox17 article, she also attended the Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser last Saturday morning.


Click here for the most recent update, for older updates click here