Grand Haven Tribune: Meet the candidates for Ottawa County commissioner

Meet the candidates for Ottawa County commissioner

Tribune Staff • Aug 5, 2018 at 2:00 PM

The Tribune distributed questionnaires to candidates in contested races in the upcoming Aug. 7 primary elections. Their responses are listed below.

Note: The responses may have been formatted, but have not been edited in any way. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.


Name: Philip Kuyers

Political party (if applicable): Republican

Office you’re running for: County of Ottawa Commissioner 9th District

Age: 59

Occupation: Dairy Farmer

Education: Hudsonville Unity Christian High School

Elected offices held: County Commissioner

Community Involvement: Current Ottawa County Commissioner 9th District, Ottawa County Parks Commission, Ottawa County Parks Board, Ottawa County Economic Development, Chair of the Ottawa County Water Task Force Board.

Why are you running for office? This is my home and I am passionate about its continued success and the quality of living for others that share it.

What do you think are the 2/3 biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now?

Opioid Crisis

Community and Mental Health

Road and Water Quality

How do you plan to address these issues?

Opioid Crisis- begin with working with the sheriff’s department by giving them the resources necessary to be able to control or contain the trafficking of heroin and opioids and educating the people of the crisis in Ottawa County.

Community and Mental Health- to work with the community and mental health on resources and continue to lobby the state and federal entities for the funds necessary for Ottawa county mental health.

Roads- continue to improve communication with road commission along with communicating to the state the imperative funds for Ottawa County

Water- make sure we are utilizing our resource of water in the aquafers that will secure them to be there for generations by developing an infrastructure that keeps up with the housing and business needs in West Michigan.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

Experienced as County Commissioner as past Chair of the Board of Commissioners. Experienced the established one of the lowest Mileage Rates in the State. Experienced working alongside Sheriff Kempker for the community safety. 40 years of small business ownership of a dairy farm which connects me to the agriculture sector of the county which is one of the top agriculture counties in the state.

Name: Pat VerDuin

Political party (if applicable): Republican

Office you’re running for: Ottawa County Commissioner 9th District

Age: 61

Occupation: Principal, Executive Coaching Business

Education: Masters in management from Aquinas College, B.A. from Grand Valley State University & Associate Paralegal Degree

Elected offices held: None

Community Involvement: Children’s Advocacy Center, Mi-Works Workforce Board, Ottawa County Planning Commission & Grand Haven Area Community Foundation Trustee

Why are you running for office? To serve, learn and lead in my community. To give back to a community that has given so much to me and my family.

What do you think are the 2/3 biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now? How do you plan to address these issues?

Land Use - The recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Ottawa County continues to be a leader in growth in the state of Michigan. We are a destination for new families and for those seeking the quality of life found here during their senior years. 75% of Lakeshore area businesses plan to expand in the next three years anticipating as many as 1,906 new jobs according to a 2017 Business Intelligence Report for the Lakeshore region. The availability of land and facilities is a challenge that was highlighted in this report. We are a community who has a strong legacy in it’s farming and agriculture industry as well as it’s parks and recreation. The careful planning and preservation of our land and green space that is so apart of our identity must be in the equation. We must stay ahead of the growing curve with thoughtful planning and collaborative regional discussions. As in the face of other challenges we have shown ourselves to be the model that others look to. Add to this the need for housing and alternative energy like solar gardens who are all competing for land and one can see that this is no small endeavor for our communities.

Water Quality - Managing our groundwater is intimately connected to the decisions we make in how we use and develop our land. One can not be a priority over the other they must be apart of the master planning process. Over the past 5 years Ottawa County has been working with experts in the field to assess the quality of the groundwater. Urban areas used municipal pipelines that pump water from Lake Michigan. Rural areas are served by private wells that pump groundwater from the ground. We know that in Ottawa County clay layers unique to the geology of our area limit water from recharging. Additionally we know that there is an increase in sodium chloride due to the increased water consumption and lack of freshwater recharge. The impact of freshwater recharge means decreased water levels or dry wells. This should matter to all of us regardless of where we live or get our water. The impact is that water tastes salty, crops are damaged, plumbing is corroded and eventually health is effected. Ottawa County is playing a key facilitative role with area municipalities in order to develop a groundwater management plan that requires active participation from all of us.

Social Service - With growth and water considerations the need to provide public health and safety is one of the third legs on the stool to maintaining a balance in our ecosystem of life. Social services must keep up with the demands of it’s residents. Our Health Department, Mental Health Services, Law Enforcement and Justice systems are a network of social and human services that can not be an afterthought in this growing and dynamic environment that we will find ourselves. There is much that can be done in the area of prevention in areas of human services that will in the end save taxpayers money and provide for healthy contributing citizens. We are not immune to the opioid epidemic nor are we immune to high rates of suicide that are plaguing communities. The 2017 Youth Assessment conducted every two years at grades 8, 10, 12 measures how many teens are engaged in risky and beneficial behaviors. 4,376 students representing 11 school districts throughout Ottawa County. Consider 500 teens reported that they have been trafficked for sex or work, yes here in Ottawa County! 28.9% indicated that they were depressed with19.4% indicating that they seriously thought about suicide. In the area of depression and suicide there has been a steady increase since 2009. Cases of child sexual abuse are up 46% at the Children’s Advocacy Center. We must not pit land against water against our most precious resource our children and families.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

• 35 years experience in county government as a employee & department-administrator, working in Kent and Ottawa counties.

• Proven experience in community engagement in developing services with stakeholders in juvenile justice, early childhood & workforce development.

• Founder of a non-profit ready for school

• W.K. Kellogg Foundation Fellow

• Past Chair Ottawa County, Human Services Coordinating Council

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