By Doug Harmon
I've known Ken Delaat for a few years now.
I have had the opportunity to have worked with Ken on various committees, for small projects and big projects. We have worked side by side getting our hands dirty on the county’s hazardous waste day and have enjoyed each other's company working a scorers table at local high school sporting events. We do both sit on the Newaygo County Board of Public Works. So I would have to say I do endorse and support Ken's bid to be elected as a county commissioner. He has always displayed commitment, compassion, and dedication to projects he adopts. He always adds valued comments.
It seems like he's got it together and living the dream.
So I have to know, why would you want to become a county commissioner.
A thankless job, that usually displays more negative than positive.
So it is my hope that he answers my questions and also shares it with his readers and followers.
Curious minds need to know.
How long have you lived in the county?
KD-20 years. Lil and I moved here from Comstock Park where we had raised our two children and lived for 15 years prior to coming to this area.
What do you like about Newaygo County?
KD-Beyond the natural beauty the area abounds with and the many opportunities the region offers it is the people who reside here that make Newaygo County a compelling place to live and work. There is a sense of community that runs deep and transcends the inter city rivalries….unless the high school teams are competing against each other that evening, of course.
What do you see as some of the challenges facing Newaygo County?
KD-Change is inevitable. I am old enough to remember the Brighton area in the 1960’s and what it looked like compared to 15-20 years later. We have two metropolitan areas to the south and west . One continues to experience steady and relentless growth and one is poised to do the same. While it is more than likely this suburban growth will continue to extend beyond its current status, Newaygo County must be prepared to ensure the changes that accompany this growth will be positive in nature and well thought out.
Are you ready for the time commitment to be a commissioner?
KD- I will be retiring from my position as Diversion Coordinator for the Newaygo County Juvenile Court in October which will free up a good deal of time. Having spent over 40 years in the nonprofit sector there exists no illusions about the necessity to be prepared for long days and long hours in order to serve the public effectively.
Does your family support your commissioner bid?
KD- I am fortunate to have been married to an exceptional woman who has supported me in a number of endeavors throughout the past 45 years while remaining my most valuable critic as well. She is behind me so long as I don’t ask her to march in any parades.
My son and daughter have said they would indeed vote for me however neither live in the district and my 4 grandchildren would likely also cast ballots my way however beyond also residing outside my district none are as yet age eligible.
Will you attend township meetings in your district?
Yes. Generally when I attend township and city council meetings my presence is oftentimes met with reactions that tend to be less than enthusiastic due to my role as a reporter. It is my hope to become a more welcome regular rather than the occasional harbinger of undesired publicity.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
KD-I serve on the Board of Public Works and currently chair the Board of Directors for the Dogwood Center. I have also been involved in the Headway Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition having previously served as chair.
There has been involvement in a number of other boards over the years however my only experience in running for office was a less than successful campaign for student council in junior high.
It still stings a bit.
Are you a problem solver or the problem?
KD-My career has been spent in helping others find solutions to difficulties whether they be personal, organizational or communal. I’m not inclined to change this pattern toward persistent positive problem resolution.
Are you a team player or a lone wolf or a mix of both?
KD-I am a strong believer in the power of collaboration. So much of being a successful public servant is about fostering relationships and working together for the greater good.
Will you ask knowledgeable questions or just be a rubber stamp kind of guy?
KD-I find it is vital to always do the homework. Research is a huge part of being capable of making good decisions.This observation has instilled a personal need to gather as much information as possible from a variety of sources before moving forward to support or oppose decisions.
Do you feel you can help the residents of Newaygo County?
KD-I feel I can be a voice for my fellow residents and respond the needs of the constituents while ensuring the county continues to remain fiscally responsible.
Is this just a whim or are you considering more than one term?
KD-I’ve watched commissioners come and go over the years. It is my hope to be allowed to serve the constituents of our district for more than one term since many initiatives brought forward by the board may take time to come to fruition.That being said there are no plans to make a career out of serving on the board. I have a high regard for public service and recognize that at some point it's appropriate to step aside and allow others the opportunity to serve.
Your overall opinion of Newaygo County?
Newaygo County is a treasure. While not blind to the challenges and issues looming on the horizon there is no doubt in my mind this county has the wherewithal to not only meet those challenges but to emerge stronger for having faced them.
What will Newaygo County look like in five years?
KD-It will be a different economic landscape to be sure. There are challenges we currently face with workforce development and efforts seem to be getting some traction with the advent of the Promise Zone and the blossoming collaboration between education and private industry. The Fremont Area Community Foundation’s role in these efforts cannot be overstated and their support of initiatives aimed at reducing poverty in our area are being shown to be effective measures toward an issue that has stymied nearly all who have taken it on.
Housing, particularly affordable housing, is another issue that will need to be addressed yet overall Newaygo County is poised to prosper and the next five years should reflect the positive changes our greater community so richly deserves.
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