The Tribune distributed questionnaires to candidates running in contested races in the August primary. The responses below have not been edited.
Roger Bergman (Republican) is the incumbent running for the County Commissioner District 10 seat.
My name is Roger A Bergman. I have been in the retail shoe business since 1966, first in sales, next part owner, then owner and then since I sold the business in 2007 I have been working a few hours a week doing the ladies books. I love my job and have been at Borr's Shoes & Accessories for 56 years. I also have served on the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners for the last ten years. I am 75 years old and ready to serve the citizens of Northwest Ottawa County for another two years term.
How long have you lived in the community?
My wife Karen and I moved to Grand Haven back in 1980 when we opened our second store in downtown Grand Haven.
Have you ever run for public office before? (For incumbents: How long have you held this position?)
This is my tenth year as a county commissioner and before that I served on Grand Haven city council for twelve years the last eight as mayor.
Why are you running for office?
Ottawa County is one of the best, if not the best run county in Michigan. I would like to help maintain that reputation. I along with my fellow commissioners work hard to maintain a balance of quality living along with low tax rates. I feel strongly that our motto of “Where you belong” is more important today than ever before and I want to make sure that we not only say it but mean it. This is my home and that of my neighbors and friends and I care about the future of our communities.
What are the biggest challenges facing the county today? What could the county government do better?
For several years Ottawa County has been the fastest growing county in the state of Michigan. With new citizens coming from many different backgounds I want to make sure that “Where You Belong” doesn’t apply to just a few but to all. As county employees we need to set an example and treat all of our customers/citizens equally with respect and dignity. In addition we need to make sure that we take care of our environment. That to me means making sure we preserve our farmlands, our water supply, our parks, as well as the many other assets that we all enjoy and sometimes take for granted.
As a county we are viewed by commissioners from other counties as the best run county in the state. We have one of the lowest tax rates, we have one of the highest credit ratings, the best park system, and I along with the current board want to keep that reputation. The end of June we as a board will review where we are with our strategic plan and revise it always looking ahead as what needs to change to make us more responsive to the needs of our citizens.
What are the county’s greatest strengths? What is the county doing well?
Ottawa County is either the first or second most productive agricultural county in the state, we have the best park system, we have an abundance of tourist amenities, we have a diverse work force along with a strong industrial presence. Our county employees from the courts to the jails, mental health professionals to health department nurses, sheriff deputies to maintenance workers we have some of the best employees, all of which are being trained to treat all of our citizens with dignity and respect no matter who they are.
What will be your top priorities, if elected?
I have supported and will continue to support our efforts to not only help our employees in their understanding of what “where you belong” means but in doing so setting an example for our county as a whole. Because I serve as a commissioner I have already come to appreciate how this program has changed some of my own personal biases. I also admit that I have much to learn from others around me and look forward to working at the county with people from different backgrounds. In addition I will continue to work towards the preservation our farmland. I believe that this is as important as preservation of our county parks. I want to make sure that my grandchildren will be able to not only enjoy our parks but also the locally grown fruits and vegetables that we take for granted often today.