A Special Board of Commissioners Meeting (It’s all in the perspective)
By Charles Chandler
Last week I received an email from the Publisher and Senior Editor of Near North Now asking if I could cover the upcoming October 26th meeting of the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners.
Said Publisher further revealed that he was taking his significant other on a much needed vacation and road trip out West to visit their adorable grandchildren. I quickly agreed to sub because I like going to the County Building, it is in my neighborhood and because a bunch of very friendly and helpful people work there.
They have a public comments time at these meetings and I needed to...
...publicly thank some of the County folks for helping with our recent and by all accounts a successful Trail Town Celebration. I also know that meetings held in the Board of Commissioners Room has a small table along the far wall that usually has coffee, cookies or leftover cake from some office celebration.
I armed myself with camera, recorder, writing portfolio and a postage stamp size N3 PRESS pass attached to my shirt marched in to the Commissioners room and started to sit at the back of the room PRESS table. I was immediately challenged by ever vigilant Office Manager Deb Berger announcing in an authoritative voice from the front of the room and for all to hear “Charles that table is reserved for the PRESS.”
I reported in to Manager Berger's desk explaining in my most submissive voice that Mr. DeLaat was away attending cute grandkid business and that I was subbing in for him. I held up my miniature PRESS pass written in size 9 font as proof of my legitimacy. Manager Berger in turn and with a big smile handed over the meeting packet and I shuffled back to the PRESS table like a scolded 4th grader noticing that some of the seated Commissioners were watching the exchange with interest.
Back at the press table I sat and shook hands with Mr. Richard Wheater Sr. who appeared to have a twinkle in his eyes that I interpreted to mean that you have to earn your stripes here at County. Well if I can’t get no respect I can always get a cup of coffee and cookie.
The Official Board of Commissioners Meeting was well organized, began on time. The Commissioners held a very efficient meeting, considering agenda items, reporting on issues, paying bills and attending to the County business that was set before them. Administrator Wren took some time to explain and discuss some positive benefits of a proposed change in employee health insurance. However, there were a couple of agenda items that were very significant and I was glad to be in the room to observe.
Mr. Joseph Gerencer, one of the County’s heroes, was recognized as the employee of the quarter. Administrator Wren presented Mr. Gerencer with a formal letter detailing his dedication to duty and contribution to the safety and well being of the County’s citizens. In short form the commissioners made and passed a motion to adopt Resolution # 10-022 -16 officially recognizing Mr. Gerencer’s retirement after 37 years of dedicated service.
The Resolution listed his responsibilities, positions held and that his professionalism was recognition by his peers and other emergency service personnel and thanked him on behalf of the citizens of the County.
Board Chair Gardner presented Mr. Gerencer with a plaque containing the Resolution and Administrator Wren and each of the Commissions and Clerk came down and congratulated him and thanked him for his dedication and service.
Mr. Gerencer received his plaque and shook each hand with a warm smile then, following a quick photo op with his family and the Commissioners took his leave.
What! Are you kidding? Where is the band, the parade, the statue?
As mentioned Joe is one our heroes because for the last 20 years he has served as one of our 9-1-1 dispatchers. He has been one of those calm voices on the other end of the line when we, in our personal moments of absolute terror or grief or hysteria, were yelling into the phone that we needed help now. He was that guy. The one that calmly helped us through that moment getting the information that he needed to speed the first responders on their way to right location to help us through our crisis. That was him, the one with the smile, with a plaque in his hand that just walked out the door after 20 years helping countless people through those crises.
Well, in my limited experience that appears to be the nature of heroes. With them it is not about recognition, it is about service, and doing the right thing at the right time. So long Joe, congratulation, hope you enjoy a well earned vacation and thanks again for all you for did for us.
Next up on the agenda was public comment time and time for me to stand and thank the County folks that helped White Cloud have a successful Trail Town Celebration.
I mentioned to the Commissioners that with permission we would like to hold the Trail Town Celebration in the White Cloud County Park again next year and delivered thanks to Emergency Services Director Abby Watkins and April Pickard for developing our excellent Event Emergency Action Plan, helping with traffic control, and keeping our runners and hikers safe. We and all the happy kids also thank Parks employees Kasi Ostyn and Loretta for managing the wagon rides through the Haunted Village.
The Commissioners adjourned the meeting and I sat for a few minutes, listening to the after meeting chat, collecting my sub correspondent stuff, recorder, camera, notes and my thoughts. For a moment I thought about the bitter, antagonist and rude campaigning that is currently swirling around us. One of the tactics being used by all incumbents and hopefuls alike is to rant for smaller government and bash ineffective bureaucrats. I personally don’t know who the politicians are referring to but our County Government is smaller, probably too small in some departments.
As for the bureaucrats, I don’t who they are talking about here either. I just saw our Commissioners hold a very effective meeting supported by efficient and friendly Deb Berger who manages the logistics for these meetings and helps keep Commissioners and Administrator organized and on schedule while dealing with the stream of folks that appear at Central office each day. Seated nearby are Abby Watkins, Holly Moon and Dale Twing, all good and helpful County people.
Then there are folks like Joe Gerencer that just gave us 37 years of good and faithful service. On reflection I suggest that we all should take a pause and stop parroting these pundits and politicians and participate in our government for and by the people.
Like maybe attend some of these public meetings and see how our County government works and get to know these good folks that work with and for us.
The next Board of Commissioner’s Meeting is scheduled for Thursday,November 10 at 9:30 AM.