By Kelly Smith
A year ago we ran a story on the retirement open house held for Kelly Smith who, as Director of the Newaygo County Road Commission , appeared in our pages on a regular basis to give our readers a heads up on what was on tap for their local roads.
Recently we caught up with Kelly to see how he has been faring in the year since his transition from the day to day demands of the RC to spending time (between projects and chores) contemplating what the next chapter in his life might involve.
Let me start by saying the opportunity to spend 34 plus years at Newaygo County Road Commission was one of the single most amazing things to ever happen for me. Not only did it provide for my family, it has enriched my life with many outstanding individuals that have played an integral part of my professional and personal growth, and for that I am eternally grateful. It allowed me to serve the residents in the place I have called home my entire life, a community I am proud to be a part of and I Thank You for that opportunity.
My last day as an employee of the Newaygo county road Commission was January 31 of 2020, to say a lot of things have changed since then could be considered a bit of an understatement.
We all have endured the effects of the pandemic whether it be financially, through actually contracting Covid, having someone close to you inflicted with it and the absolute worst case, possibly succumbing to it. My hearts go out to all those impacted by this horrible virus and pray for an end to its siege on everyone.
Before the “lockdown” had me searching for bath tissue and bleach wipes ( side note, you must at all cost avoid confusing those two items) Pamela and I were fortunate enough to get away to Florida for a short visit. The warm weather and beach time proved to be a nice change of pace and for the most part the only salt I was concerned with was on the rim of a fruity concoction that may or may not have had an umbrella in it.
As spring rolled around an ever growing list of “things to do” suddenly reared its ugly face. Another notable observation, it appears as though if you stop going to a regular place of employment, family and friends have a great concern that you may become bored. I can honestly say that has not been the case, the year has flown by land it seems like just yesterday I was cleaning out my desk.
As the summer months approached I found myself running out of home projects. Not that my wife stopped “suggesting” new ones, they just didn’t look to be much fun. I was fortunate enough to start a small consulting business that has been very fulfilling, but most importantly it gave me an excuse to not remodel a bathroom. More on that later.
While this small endeavor has given me the opportunity to work on projects that are vital to infrastructure, a subject that has always intrigued me and been most fulfilling, it has also allowed me to stay in contact with people striving to make a positive difference. We are so blessed in this area to have so many talented and dedicated individuals working for the betterment of our community.
As fall rolled in and leaves began to fill the yard instead of dreading the certain impacts winter weather would have on a Road Commission budget, I thought I might give it a try to enjoy the winter season. Well nope, I am still not a huge fan of winter. I thought about ice fishing for a minute, but in order for me to be confident in the integrity of the ice holding me up, it would take all day to auger through it. I’ll just get my fish at the store. It seems as though I prefer the type of outdoor activities not requiring the same attire as Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story.
And that pretty much sums up my first year post NCRC, I have contemplated trying to put into words how grateful I am for being allowed to serve the people of Newaygo County in the capacities afforded me. To be honest, I would have done it sooner and was offered the opportunity on occasion and most certainly should have put it into words sooner, except for the fact that by doing so would mean that chapter of my life has come to pass.
I just didn’t feel as though I was done yet
And maybe I’m not.
As for now, I am off to remodel a bathroom.
That is, unless I can come up with something more interesting.
Former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon and Governor Gretchen Whitmer have parted ways for reasons that remain a bit elusive.
By N3 Editorial Team
There is a bird called a Hermit Thrush that possesses an enchanting, pleasant to the ear sound.
From what can be gathered from birders I know whose grasp of avian lore is well respected, it is far easier to hear this shy singer than it is to spot him.
Often heard and seldom seen.
Kind of like transparency.
It gets bantered about, pols echo their personal commitment to it, organizations pride themselves on it, and the populace trumpets its desire to have it.
But like the bird, seeing it in action can be elusive.
Example point. A bit more than a week ago Director Robert Gordon abruptly announced his resignation from his position atop the Department of Health and Human Services...you know, the office that has been at the forefront of issuing the epidemic orders that have included the restrictions on restaurants and the continued postponement of the winter sports season unless you’re skiing, bowling or swimming.
At the first press conference following his twitter announcement Governor Whitmer was asked about his action and whether or not she had asked him to resign.
She stated she wished him well and added how tough the past year has been for all involved.
Twice more she was queried as to if he had been asked to resign and she replied that she had already answered the question and that she wished Gordon well and that it has been a tough year.
Agreed that her response doesn’t exactly fall into the atypical category when it comes to those who occupy the upper echelons of the political world. Like most media folks we encounter evasions, denials, and sidestepping from entities who, once again, claim transparency and don't hesitate will roll out a litany of proof of its existence. It's not an uncommon occurrence.
And when something big goes down associated with any significant conflict, the shades also go down.
In a hurry.
Some of this likely has to do with living in such a litigious society, a primary factor in creating a culture of caution.
But some do not.
And it often becomes driven by a desire to control the message.
While it is probably appropriate for some of the doings in the public sector to be accomplished without fanfare and, at times, there might be a need for discretion due to the sensitivity of negotiations and whatnot, many times a bit of sunlight- even when it reveals what might not be the most appealing of images- produces something invaluable and yet many times elusive.
Transparency goes beyond telling us all the good stuff going on. It also means exposing a couple of warts along the way, even if they make one look bad for a time in the eyes of some.
So our unsolicited advice to our Guv when it comes to what happened with Mr. Gordon?
Just answer the damn question.
“Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey” -Lennon/McCartney, Beatles White Album.
By Ken De Laat
In 1962 my Dad took us to see a ballgame.
This was not out of the ordinary. He loved the game and often our vacations included a trip to stadiums along the way in Cleveland, Washington, Chicago (Comiskey, not Wrigley) and of course Detroit. Dad knew the game well and whether a little league game, a high school contest or the pros he had high regard for talented players who made the most out of their skills.
On this trip we experienced something new. Being Tiger fans the games we took in usually involved the team and thus, were exclusively American League contests. This was before interleague play, as well as pre designated hitter (terrible rule) and other anomalies that chagrined traditionalists.
This game was in Milwaukee. County Stadium where the Braves (who had moved there from Boston and were soon to depart for Atlanta) were to take on the Giants. The National League was like a far off land to me. I had read about it in the Sporting News, followed it somewhat in the papers, and watched the occasional offering on the TV Game of the Week (pre cable) but it was still the ‘other’ league and whereas I could recite the standings from 1-10 in the A.L. and tell you who was leading the league in BA, HR’s and RBI’s I barely paid attention to the senior circuit until the World Series.
Side note: It was the expansion year and one of the new teams was the Mets. They ran off 9 straight losses to begin the inaugural season of the franchise and would later lose 18 in a row on their way to the most losses ever (120) a feat of failure nearly matched and overtaken by the woeful ‘03 Tigers had they not won 5 of their last 6 and...
But I digress, so back to Milwaukee.
There's a few things I recall about that day.
My Mom getting a bit miffed when a blot of the mustard from my first bratwurst ever fell unceremoniously onto what she called “one of your good shirts” Apparently I had bad shirts more deserving of yellow stains but who knew?
Snaring a Braves yearbook that may very well still exist somewhere in my office. It’s a bit cluttered but a section of it is designated for such things and one day I may put the effort into combing through it...but I wouldn’t lay odds on today being that day.
And most of all, seeing two of the greatest players of that or any generation on the field at the same time.
The Giants had McCovey, Cepeda, the Alou brothers as well as one of my former Tiger favorites Harvey Keunn. The Braves fielded Eddie Mathews (who would play part of the ‘68 season with the Tig’s), Joe Torre, Joe Adcock and another former Tiger, Frank Bolling.
But there were two who stood out from the rest. Two who sparked excitement when they took the field or dug into the batter's box.
Willie Mays roamed centerfield for San Fran while right field in County Stadium was owned by Hank Aaron. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. They were like baseball gods to me having heard of their exploits since being taught the magic that is baseball.
I vividly remember both homered in that game. I don’t have a clue who won despite knowing it was the year the Giants and Dodgers tied for the pennant and had a best 2 of 3 playoff series, games my friends and I tuned into with our transistor radios at recess.
The Giants took out the Dodgers before falling to the much despised yet screamingly successful Yankees who I hope never win another game and, and...
But again I digress.
While Mays is now 89. this past week Aaron, the best non juiced hitter of all time, has departed at 86.
They were transformative players. While Jackie Robinson broke down the racial barrier, Aaron and Mays took command of the room when they came through that door. They were superstars in one of the truly golden eras of the game.
Both were from Alabama, a state stalwart in its stubborn stance on segregation, but it was beyond those southern borders that the two continued to endure the insults and slurs emanating from benighted beings who couldn’t begin to even dream of approaching their talents.
A lot has been written about what Aaron went through leading up to his historical blast in ‘74 from the same unsavory elements of racism that unfortunately seem to persist among the fearful and unenlightened citizens of this beloved country today.
His primary crime? Busting past the home run record of Babe Ruth.
And while being subject to harassment and even death threats?
He shattered it. Then he added on another 40 dingers for good measure.
Aaron and his colleague Mays were class acts. Great players who knew how to play the game.
I’ve been privileged to attend some memorable baseball games. Among them the ‘71 All Star game in Detroit, the Tigers staving off elimination against the A’s in the ‘72 LCS, watching Mark (the Bird) Fidrych on the mound 3 times during his enchanted ‘76 season, and the ultimate...The final game of the ‘84 Series where Gibby took Gossage downtown and the Tigers won their last World Championship (just the second in my lifetime but also being a Lions fan the expectation bar isn’t exactly set sky high).
Mixed in with those momentous contests is a mid season game in Milwaukee where I watched my Dad’s eyes light up like my own when a pair of legends took the field. It remains one of my personal favorites
Despite the mustard faux pas on one of my ‘good shirts’.
Writer's note: The original text mentioned game 7 of the '84 series. It was indeed the deciding final game but it was the 5th not the 7th as reader Bill Price reminded us. The original also listed Mr. Mays as having passed away. We were informed by reader Drew Sweetman that he is very much alive. Our apologies. As Mark Twain once responded to the rumor he had passed on, "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
NEWAYGO COUNTY RESA HONORS SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS FOR ANNUAL RECOGNITION MONTH
Newaygo County RESA is joining 544 local and 57 intermediate school districts across Michigan to celebrate January as School Board Recognition Month.
“In a year full of challenges for public education not seen in recent history, our school board members persevered through the adversity of 2020 to provide the best possible education for our students,” said Superintendent Lori Tubbergen Clark. “Celebrating School Board Recognition Month is one of the very small ways to express appreciation for all they do.”
School board members represent the views and priorities of their community in the complex system of maintaining and running a district’s public schools, Tubbergen Clark said. They also reinforce the principle of local control over public education, which is an important, highly valued aspect of education in Michigan.
“Too often, the efforts of school board members go unrecognized,” Tubbergen Clark added.
The school board’s main goal is to support student achievement Tubbergen Clark added. To achieve that goal, the board focuses on the following needs:
“Even though we are making a special effort during January to show appreciation for our school board members, we recognize their contributions reflect a year-round effort on their part,” Tubbergen Clark said. “No matter what challenges lie ahead for our district in 2021, our school board members will continue to govern to improve student achievement and provide exceptional education for all our community’s children.”
The individuals serving Newaygo County RESA are:
Big Jackson Public School: Brad Crawford, Laura Johnson, Sue Jones, Charlotte Lockerby, Lynn Ulman
Fremont Public Schools: Michael Campeau, Carrie Crosley, Matt Hendrie, Kim Rasch, Jennifer Scott, Peter Slovinski, Rick St. Peter
Grant Public Schools: Damon Arsenault, Neil Geers, Rachal Gort, Kris Lesley, Shawn Moore, Danette Obenauf, Dianne Ring, Rob Schuitema
Hesperia Community Schools: Michelle Allen, Pat Broton, Alan Daniels, Ryan Good, Mark Kraus, Barb Maynard, Scott Rumsey
Newaygo Public Schools: Thomas Frisbie, Vince Grodus, Morgan Heinzman, Jami Schultz, Reid Sherwood, Melissa Swinehart
White Cloud Public Schools: Holly Bowman, Megan Cruzan, Keith Derks, Elaine Engel, Jim Jones, Mindy Mench, Harry Stevens
Newaygo County RESA: Ed Haynor, David Hewitt, Laura Johnson, Karen Kasankiewicz, Sarah Robinson
There’s a lot of frustration out there.
The commentary on social media has shifted from the few who find it imperative to share their personal disdain for the COVID vaccination and affirm their decision to eschew participation to those who would welcome a poke in the arm but cannot seem to find the means to access one.
The information from the Health Dept., the hospitals, the state and others has been rolling out fast enough to require the posting of articles on N3 daily and even sometimes multiple times in a single day.
Well, stay tuned folks. We aspire to get it out to you as soon as it arrives. We’ll post all relevant incoming and provide a link to each article on our social media pages
And hopefully soon all who desire that elusive poke will be set up to receive it.
Pack Heading West
So it looks like Fremont will be joining an expanded West Michigan Conference in 2022 leaving behind their in-county rivals to rejoin some old nemeses from the Seaway and Lakes 8 days.
The team bus will be westward bound for WMC games, matches, etc. as the Packers go from being the western outpost of the CSAA Gold to residing on the eastern border of the largest of the two proposed 7 team conferences the expansion would bring.
Our hope is there will be room on the schedules to continue competition between the Packers and the teams from Newaygo and Grant.
Those county-pride contests provide some of the best local entertainment around.
Hesperia and Holton would join the other division of the WMC under the tentative plans.
Dining Out Pod Style
We haven’t been to Northern Trails for their outdoor dining but seized upon the opportunity to ask friend Martha Gabrielse about it.
We've been twice to the pods at the Trails.
We felt very comfy with a group of 4. Some might want to bring a lap blanket. They've added a second heater and try to keep the temp close to 60° - easy on a sunny day, but a metal container on a super cold, sunless day might pose a challenge.
The air flow is actually pretty good, and you can crack a window if you want to add more outside air. A pair of light curtains cover the very large (6') opening - so I smelled fresh air while nicely sheltered.
Staff is still working out a few kinks, but we had great service and a lovely time. Reservations required. $10 nonrefundable booking fee - but considering the investment they made to purchase and set these up + the fact that they have not imposed a minimum spend requirement, I would say that $10 fee is quite fair.
Their phones have been ringing off the hook and they've been pretty much fully booked since kicking this off on Wednesday last week. Very cool experience and my hubby and I intend to continue supporting.
Thank you Ms. G. We will undoubtedly be looking to reserve a pod soon.
And while we’re talking restaurants…
Our much loved local eatatoriums who are abiding by the health department restrictions are hurting. If half the folks who seem intent on showing up at the places that have continued to allow people through their doors would shift to supporting those who made the decision to ‘take one for the team’ and close inside dining it might save a local business or two.
“I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.”- Anthony Bourdain
LANSING, Mich. -- State Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the announcement that bars and restaurants must remain closed for indoor dining until Feb. 1:
“I am disappointed in the decision to further restrict the lives of Michigan residents, and hurt the financial future of local bar and restaurant owners.
“I have had conversations with these business owners and many have gone above and beyond to comply with COVID-19 guidelines and state-mandated shutdowns. Many believe they can safely reopen, but unfortunately these small business owners and their employees continue to suffer despite their proven ability to operate safely.
“It is vital that we protect the health and welfare of everyone in our state, but we must be thoughtful about how these orders continue to affect businesses — especially those that have shown they follow all of the safety guidelines and have already spent the money to make the necessary safety improvements.
“We have witnessed businesses and residents across the state following recommended guidelines, social distancing, practicing good hygiene and wearing masks. We’ve been able to go to the gas station, grocery store, big box stores and other public places while keeping ourselves and our fellow citizens safe.
“I do not believe that reopening bars and restaurants would put our residents at an enhanced risk, especially as the state continues the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. Between that and the heightened safety measures, I think it’s time to reopen bars and restaurants.
“Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach is the current strategy for Michigan. While I may disagree with this approach, I plan to continue working with the governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to advocate for our local businesses still affected by state mandates.”
A Time For Healing
The events of the past few years, and especially the past few weeks, have compelled me to search for answers to why our wonderful nation is so divided. As a former sheriff and police officer for forty one years, I have always been a truth seeker. I would like to share some basic truths that I have discovered.
First, my entire life I have heard that you should avoid at all costs discussions about politics and religion. Although I understand the reason for this statement, I adamantly disagree with it. For most of my adult life I have tried to convince family and friends to “convert” to my way of thinking. I now know that is a terrible waste of time. Recently I have found it very rewarding to show grace and civility to those who believe differently than I do. If we can all accept one basic truth: that we all want what’s best for our children and grandchildren, this should not be difficult.
Second, we are all appalled by the rioting in our cities and the recent raid on our nation’s capital. Basic truth: political leaders from both parties have fanned this flame with their ugly, divisive rhetoric. According to God’s word we are to show respect for our leaders. My prayer is that our leaders will start behaving in a manner worthy of our respect.
Finally, our nation has survived and thrived for years with differing political beliefs. It’s time to get back to showing respect and civility to each other, and demanding the same from our leaders.
May God bless you and this great nation.
If the chaos at the Capitol has taught us anything it is to remember the wisdom of George Carlin who opined:
“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
Watching the doings made me wonder if George was a bit too much of an optimist.
Of course he also said
“In America anyone can become president. That's the problem.”
And you have to wonder…
Do you think the debacle in D.C. will be like Woodstock in reverse? You know, whereas when it comes to Woodstock about 10 times the people who were there, say they were there, will something like 10 times fewer people say they were on site at one of America’s most discomposing and disappointing moments than the number witnessed?
“So I understand you were at that rally turned riot back in 2021?”
“Whaa? Me? No man, I thought about going but I just felt the whole thing might turn ugly so I stayed home and watched it on TV. Just awful what those people did.”
Gotta say, not a big fan of the new online gambling about to launch in our bipeninsular paradise. Having worked with people struggling with addictions for more years than I care to count and witnessed the ravages compulsive gambling can bring makes me wonder why on Earth we would be expanding access to betting?
Oh, that’s right. It’s the old reliable ‘people are going to do it anyway so let’s get it taxed’ rationale.
Except the difference between connecting with a bookie or driving to a casino and sitting home after a few too many beers and deciding that gambling is your way out of your current financial position seems...well...
But at least it looks like the sites are giving people who register some free money to start with because of their generosity. And the plethora of ads promoting the new ‘gaming’ opportunities each include a number to call if you think you have a gambling problem.
Because the odds are good that most people with a problem like addiction will recognize it right away before it does a lot of damage.
Kudos to the Cleveland Baseball Club for doing away with their obsolescent nickname and all the stereotypical nonsense that accompanied it (Chief Wahoo? Really?).
Same for the Washington Footballers who finally canned their lame label prior to this season.
Maybe it’s time for some high schools in the area to follow suit and stop the use of antiquated offensive identifiers.
And please don’t use the ‘Tradition’ argument. Many schools have seen fit to move from these condescending nicknames to something less offensive to our Native citizens and there are far too many ‘traditions’ in our history that we were wise to stop following (i.e. not allowing women to vote, segregation, etc.).
Stay safe, get the vax when you can and grab yourself some take out grub from our local restaurateurs who are playing by the rules and eschewing inane slogans on their signs.
-Ken De Laat
Responses from our readers
Last week we challenged readers to send us their take on 2020.
We got a few takers...
Beth Keloneva spoke to an activity many have embraced since the pandemic:
“What comes to mind for me is my hiking. I was able to hike 100 miles, as part of the North Country Trail hike 100 Challenge. I got my patch and certificate. I am 65 years old and accomplished the miles 2-3 at a time on the trails nearby.”
For Sandy Thomas it was time to take a leap:
So I had been on the fence for a couple of years about retirement. When covid hit it actually pushed me right off that fence! My husband has some serious health issues. The previous fall we bought a camper and some property on the river, so I decided now was the time to start relaxing and enjoying life! One of the best decisions I ever made.
Jeremiah Eckert found the year to be pretty productive:
2020 was a good year. I woke up every morning and went to work every morning except on Sundays worked with some good people and made some friends. 2020 wasn't that bad.
And that was pretty much it.
Then we received this missive from our gardening guru Donna (Hands in the Dirt) Iverson.
And we found it to be as enlightening as her perpetually pleasing articles on the gardening life.
Reflections on 2020
While much of the focus this past year has been on masks, my experience of 2020 has been more about isolation. (Full disclosure: I am a mask wearer)
Isolation probably comes easier for me than most. I’m an introvert and have always sought solitude. Since childhood, I dreaded large family get-togethers, avoided large crowds, and generally kept to myself. Growing up, I preferred to explore the fields and woods around my grandparents' Whitehall farm than playing group games or sports in my suburban neighborhood.
But in the last year, I have learned more about the gifts of solitude than a lifetime has taught me.
Since March, my daily walks have taken on a new importance as a way to de-stress, ground and connect to nature. More and more, I gravitate toward quiet places, with trees and views of Muskegon Lake. A lifelong tree hugger, I found a new appreciation for trees after reading a book called the Secret Life of Trees. The author describes how trees are connected by their root systems and offer each vital nutrients especially their weaker neighbors. A lesson I take to heart.
While I never jumped onto the sourdough bread craze as I am a mediocre cook, I have been cooking weekly trays of corn muffins. I’m guessing that corn muffins were a frontier food and I’m drawn to basic foods like muffins. I bought a book called cooking with cast iron which offers recipes like grilled cheese, homemade tomato soup and baked apples. Food I never seem to tire of.
Books and videos
During the pandemic I have discovered the Michigan author Joseph Haywood, who writes mysteries that take place in the woods of the Upper Peninsula. His detective, conservation officer Grady Service, hunts down poachers and other criminal types in books like Ice Hunter and Blue Wolf in Green Fire. I discovered this author after reading a NYT article reporting that Haywood was on our governor’s bookshelf. And a shout out to all the public library people who offer friendly smiles and service during a pandemic.
Even though I’m an introvert and seek solicitude, I have learned to acknowledge my need for community and support. When I have reached out to family or friends and asked for help (which I am loath to do ), I have been met with generosity and kindness. As I do not have a car, a cousin took me to an emergency dental appointment and another cousin to the vet to get my cat’s shots. A Facebook friend offered me a ride if I should ever need one and showed up to help with an errand when the sidewalks turned icy. A credit union teller offered me a bottle of water when I said I was feeling faint. I hope to return these favors in whatever way I am able and am grateful that a virus that threatens to drive us apart may, in fact, be pulling us closer together
First, let me say, I dislike ZOOM. But in the last few months, I have kept in contact with my three brothers (two of whom live in California and one in Saugatuck) with ZOOM meetings, and I have to say, despite the artificiality of staring at each other, I have enjoyed the camaraderie it offers.
And last but not least is my community garden, where I spent many an hour in Spring, Summer and Fall. Growing things, foraging food, and playing in the dirt has always nourished my soul. And this year, more than ever. When the cold rolled in, I put together my first windowsill garden, composed of three aloe plants. They are green and growing and remind me of better times ahead. A happier new year everyone. Peace, joy, love and light.
Thank you Ms. I.
And thanks to all who either sent us their thoughts, or were inspired to reflect on the year in a privately positive manner.
We hope a similar endeavor next year will be a little easier when it comes to finding the high points of the 12 month run.
Letter to the Editor Policy
Near North Now welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Simply fill out the form below. Letters submissions are limited to 300 words.