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A lively town hall

Alex Doty • Mar 7, 2017 at 8:00 AM

A boisterous crowd packed the Lakeshore Middle School auditorium Monday night to participate in a town hall “listening tour” stop put on by U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland.

The 999-seat school auditorium was filled to capacity, and an overflow room was used to accommodate 60 additional people, all who participated in the two-and-a-half-hour event.

Huizenga tackled a range of topics during the meeting — from health care reform, environmental, immigration, the economy, education, and current geopolitical issues — each receiving a variety of responses, from roaring applause to jeers and heckles.

Huizenga acknowledged that not everyone would agree with everything that was being discussed.

"That's completely fine,” he noted. “I understand beating up on your congressman is a national pastime."

People lined up for more than an hour prior to the meeting, with a line snaking from the auditorium entrance at the middle school down Cutler Street to get inside.

Grand Haven resident Hank Klukos was one of the people near the front of the line to get into the auditorium, and noted that while he had never attended a town hall meeting, he looked forward to hearing from his congressman.

"I don't know that I have any specific questions or issues to talk to, but I want to hear what he has to say," Klukos said.

Klukos also said it was great that Huizenga chose Grand Haven to host the meeting.

"I was wondering how to make contact with him,” he said. "Having him stop here is what he should do.”

Grand Haven Township resident Bob DeHare said he was attending Monday night’s town hall meeting because he “wanted to cover Huizenga's six” (back).

“Just to make sure he’s treated decent,” DeHare said. “I want to watch and see what happens.”

DeHare noted that he was glad to see Huizenga chose Grand Haven as the community to host the latest town hall meeting.

"Grand Haven was one of the small cities that made a big difference in the last elections,” DeHare said. “There's no question about it."

Norton Shores resident Cat Jackson said she was also new to attending a town hall meeting, and noted that she had a variety of interests she was hopeful would be touched on. 

"I'm here to show my support for views that I think are probably opposite to (Huizenga’s),” she said. “I want him to know we're out here, and that we're concerned."

Added Jackson: "My concerns for our friends — our Muslim friends, our transgendered friends, National Endowment for the Arts, the water issues and the Great Lakes, the environmental protection agencies. Those were my main concerns.”

Grand Haven resident Tim Meyer, who was at the event representing the Ottawa County Democratic Party, said town hall meetings such as the one Monday night had the ability to “affect what happens in health care and other policies in this country.”

"Congressman Huizenga is hearing from his constituents,” he said. “He's not just hearing from one side of everything. He's hearing from everybody.”

Added Meyer: "This is a democracy. It does need to work."

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