Editor’s note: This questionnaire is the fourth in an eight-part series, giving readers an opportunity to learn a little more about the candidates who will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. Grand Haven candidates include Josh Brugger and Bob Monetza for the mayoral post; Collin Beighley, Jamie Cooper, Ryan Cummins and (incumbent) Mike Fritz for two City Council seats; and Andy Cawthon and Todd Crum for a trustee position with the Board of Light & Power. Questionnaires will run alphabetically through the Oct. 26 edition.
Name: Jamie Cooper
Occupation: Founder of Cannabiz Connection and publisher of Sensi Magazine
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication, West Texas A&M University
Community involvement: Grand Haven Musical Fountain committee, 2016-present; Grand Haven Ellementa Gathering leader, 2017-present; West Michigan Cannabis Guild board member, 2019-present; Smart & Safe GR board member, 2018-19; West Michigan Women Grow Chapter chairwoman, 2015-17; Ottawa County leader for MiLegalize, 2015-18
What unique qualities or experiences make you a good candidate for the City Council?
In 2014, I moved to Grand Haven from Breckenridge, Colorado, where I worked as a marketing director for a vacation rentals company. Shortly after moving here, I accepted a position as the audience development director for a tourism magazine in Holland. With my experience in tourism, I bring a lot of viable ideas to the table when it comes to generating tourism revenue and working with that industry. When it comes to tourism, I probably have more experience than anyone currently on or running for City Council. With that experience, I am able to bring new ideas and a unique perspective.
I’m no stranger to being a voice for the people. In 2016, when the Michigan Legislature passed a law creating the commercialization of the medical marijuana program, I started working closely with municipalities throughout the state to draft ordinances allowing medical marijuana establishments. After three years of observing and participating in City Council and Planning Commission meetings, I felt I was confident enough to take on a similar role in my own community. My three years of service on the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee also helped prepare me for the work of being on City Council.
What do you consider the top issues facing the city, and how would you address them?
The two biggest issues our community faces are housing affordability and the BLP transition. Housing affordability is something my own family faced in both Colorado and Michigan. Last summer, our landlord sold the home where we were living. This left my family with very few housing rental options – it was frightening to think that we might have had to leave Grand Haven because we couldn’t find an affordable place to live. We need to continue building a community that will offer more affordable housing options for working families and small-business owners. This means we might have to make amendments to our Zoning Ordinance and come to the table with creative ideas to address this issue we face.
It’s also important that we figure out a solution for the closure of the Sims plant and how we plan to source our power in the future. I think it will be important to figure out a long-term, sustainable solution; in fact, I’d like to see us explore opportunities with solar and wind. I also think it’s important to figure out exactly how much power we need and if a power plant is absolutely necessary. I also want to know more about what it will take to remediate Harbor Island, the costs associated with the contamination and how it will be paid for.
Another issue I hold close to my heart is cannabis accessibility. Whether I am elected to the City Council or not, I vow to continue working closely with the Planning Commission and the council to create accessibility for the more than 5,000 registered patients and caregivers that currently live in Ottawa County.
What do you consider the city’s strengths and how would you build on them?
One of our biggest strengths are the people in our community who make it great. Our citizens are the true infrastructure of our community. The front page of the city’s website says, “The pillars of equality, diversity and inclusion are vital to a vibrant community, and we believe that bringing diverse individuals together and encouraging all voices to be heard allows us to build a stronger community. The city of Grand Haven upholds these pillars as crucial to healthy people and a healthy community.” I could not agree more. I would like to stay true to this statement by continuing to build our community, keeping these equity pillars in the forefront of what we do.
Another strength is tourism. I have lived and worked in multiple tourist towns, and I’m able to bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to help us continue generating tourism dollars without jeopardizing the culture or character of our community. I’d also like to see our city continue to expand its business opportunities that cater to both visitors and residents. It’s also important that we encourage money to be spent in Grand Haven, especially during the offseason when business is slower.
What do you see for the future of Grand Haven, and how would you work with the other members of City Council to make that happen?
I see Grand Haven continuing to be a place people love to live, work and visit. I would like to see us focus on making our community more diverse and welcoming to all. I think it will be important for the City Council to work closely with the Ottawa County’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department.
I would also like to put more focus on making our community greener. I am a believer that education goes a long way, but sometimes incentives or penalties are necessary to change one’s bad habits. It’s important we make decisions now that will impact our children’s future in a positive way. It seems there are a few others on our council that want to make this a priority and it will be important for the council to keep it high on the to-do list.
Lastly, I would like to see the City Council engage our community more when it comes to certain topics. I’d like to see more town halls offered and more remote council meetings held in certain areas of the city, to encourage more participation. With my background in marketing and event planning, this will be a strong suit of mine. When it comes to engaging with the community, I plan to set the bar high and host meet-and-greets with my constituents every month. As an elected official, it is our duty to be a listening ear and I will encourage other council members to engage more frequently with our constituents, as well. I believe there are a number of creative ways for us to do this, even digitally.