2024-06-09T20:32:30-04:00February 4th, 2024|

Last Tuesday evening, Board Chairman Joe Moss addressed the people of Ottawa County and the Board of Commissioners in the State of the County address. The speech includes highlights from 2023, as well as comments about the direction of our beautiful county.

I encourage you to listen to the speech and share it with others.

Here are a few quotes from the speech:

“I would like to say thank you to the people of Ottawa County, who took decisive action to defend their piece of America in 2022—to protect individual freedoms, parental rights, and freedom of religion and conscience.

Also, thank you to the staff of the County, who day-in and day-out are working for The People of our community. And thank you to the commissioners for their service as representatives. To the public: we are humbled to work for The People in our Constitutional Republic!

We live in an amazing place with wonderful people, great jobs, low unemployment, significant growth, strong churches, thriving communities, and a people who love freedom.”

—Chairman Joe Moss, January 30, 2024

I am honored to work for you, and I look forward to what will be accomplished in 2024 and beyond.

Full Text

State of the County

January 30, 2024

 

Boldly American Board takes action in 2023

It’s an honor to share the State of the County with you tonight.

Before I begin, I would like to say THANK YOU to the People of Ottawa County, who took decisive action to defend their piece of America in 2022—to protect individual freedoms, parental rights, and freedom of religion and conscience. Also, THANK YOU to the staff of the county, who day-in and day-out are working for The People of our community. And THANK YOU to the commissioners for their service as representatives. To the public, we are humbled to work for The People in our Constitutional Republic.

2023 was a year of prioritizing freedom and tremendous learning on the part of the Board. We truly love working to protect and build Ottawa County to be a place where freedom rings and families flourish. Ottawa County continues to be among the state’s most conservative counties, one of the best places to live, the fastest growing county, and in reports from November 2023, the county in Michigan with the lowest unemployment rate.

I am thankful this Board is led by everyday Americans who love God and love their country— nurses, a former social worker, a teacher, and individuals with business and government backgrounds. Board members bring decades of professional and life experience with them, to their service.

I am thankful for the character and integrity of my fellow commissioners who approach their responsibilities with servant hearts and a steel resolve to advocate for The People, for good governance, and to ensure the voices of the people can be heard.

We desire to govern with integrity and excellence in a manner consistent with Constitutional freedoms and American values, pursuing the good and the beautiful for the people of Ottawa County.

I’d like to add a special mention for Commissioner Kendra Wenzel, who joined the Board last month as a representative of Georgetown Township’s District 6. With the addition of Commissioner Wenzel—Ottawa County now has a female majority Board for the first time.

Tonight, it is my privilege to highlight some of the work of the Board of Commissioners and employees of Ottawa County have done in 2023. We are thankful for the efforts of hundreds of staff members who work hard to serve The People.

Ottawa County offers a healthy and vibrant lifestyle, which fosters meaningful work, provides opportunity for business growth, honors the faith of its people, respects the family and parental rights, and protects education excellence for children.

We are honored to lead beautiful Ottawa County—Where Freedom Rings.

Let’s start by looking back.

 

NEW LEADERSHIP

Last year, the Board entered office, delivered on months of public promises to make reforms in Ottawa County, and began with bold changes to align the leadership with the priorities of the people. New leaders were placed in the roles of County Administrator and Corporate Counsel, to prioritize freedom and Constitutional rights.

NEW VISION STATEMENT

The county motto and Vision Statement was changed from “Where You Belong” to “Where Freedom Rings.” The previous Vision Statement had been used to promote the discriminatory DEI movement in the county. As stated in the Resolution that changed the motto, “‘Where Freedom Rings’—where individual freedoms, parental rights, and freedom of religion and conscience are protected, all people belong.”

The county logo remained the same, albeit with a minor color change. Existing supplies were used before being reordered, resulting in minimal expense for this important change in direction.

DEI DEPARTMENT CLOSED

The DEI Department was closed on January 3, 2023, returning county operations to an emphasis on character, excellence, and merit. Closing the DEI Department, which was originally opened in 2019, resulted in an annual savings of $286,000 per year.

The closure marked a departure from the county’s spread of divisive DEI/CRT ideology which had placed an emphasis on characteristics such as gender, skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, and religious beliefs, often taught to be reflective of whether a person is oppressed or an oppressor. The closure also ended the county’s efforts to spread membership in GARE, a progressive organization connected with UC Berkeley and the Biden administration.

COMMITTEES

BOARD STANDING COMMITTEES ALSO SAW CHANGES IN 2023.

Last year, commissioners were asked to serve on any of the Standing Committees that they desired. The goal was to provide the opportunity for new commissioners to understand all the various aspects of county government and the county departments. Due to this work, and thank you to Board members who put in extra effort, the Board is in a much better position this year to create a strong Strategic Plan for 2024 and beyond.

Many commissioners exercised thoughtfulness and discernment during Board meetings,  asking numerous questions to provide oversight and gain understanding. This is the job of the Board. The Board paid careful attention to the requirements and ramifications of grants being requested, as well as the organizations that grants were connected to.

One example I thought would be worth mentioning is also mentioned in an online post done by Commissioner Miedema. In the post Commissioner Miedema explained her concerns with an $8K that was brought to the Board for a two-month social media campaign called Man Therapy that was related to suicide prevention. Commissioners were informed that veterans were at highest risk of suicide, followed by males, and those over 50 years old.

Commissioner Miedema had explained: On the Man Therapy site under a section labeled “LGBTQ Crisis and Support Resources,” links directed youth to something called the Trevor Project, where “youth are encouraged to text, call, or chat through online messaging with adults they do not know regarding mental health, sexuality, gender fluidity, and other topics.” The Trevor Project further notes: “while all of our counselors are trained, they are not working as licensed mental health workers and may not be trained in your state’s law.”

“There is a mixed message being sent to youth today,” wrote Miedema. “On one hand, we are educating our children about internet safety, safe adults, and talking with a parent or another trusted adult about hard topics and issues. Then we are driving them to a website where they are encouraged to speak to a complete stranger, and that stranger tells them that their conversation will be kept confidential—I would suggest the phrase ‘kept secret.’”

In the past, grants like this could have been rubber-stamped by the Board and passed right through.

As Thomas Sowell expressed, “there are no perfect solutions, there are only trade-offs.” Assessing “trade-offs” has been a priority of the Board in 2023 and will remain in the future. In cases where the benefits of a proposal do not outweigh risks, often a different solution can be found.

In the case of suicide prevention, the Board alternatively made a significant investment in increasing support for veterans by expanding the Veteran’s Department, with greater potential for long-term impact in the community, and greater support for those at highest risk of suicide.

BOARD PARTICIPATION ON SPECIAL COMMITTEES

Commissioners also served on numerous other committees throughout the county, such as Community Mental Health, Parks and Recreation, groundwater, and economic development, just to name a few.

PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS TO COUNTY COMMITTEES

The Talent and Recruitment Process was also a priority last year and making improvements to it.

The Committee invested significant effort into organizing the information and improving interview processes related to the numerous county committees that community members have the opportunity to participate in. The subcommittee of Talent and Recruitment conducted numerous interviews of citizens from the public over many days throughout the year to make recommendations for those citizens to serve on these committees.

THE COUNTY BUDGET WAS ALSO A HIGH PRIORITY LAST YEAR.

The Board focused on unmet needs, like increasing support for veterans by creating the enhanced department, prioritizing ADA compliance across the county in the Capital Improvement Plan, and funding needs in the Sheriff’s Department. In this way, the Board is initiating action on items overlooked in the past. This new focus is critical for good governance and to have positive impacts for our community and the best use of taxpayer dollars.

THE CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN (CIP) IS A BIG PART OF PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE.

A 5-year Plan was approved on August 22, 2023, to include approval of ADA compliance needs first identified in July, and the approval of body cameras for the Sheriff’s Department. A lot of work went into creating this plan, and we’re thankful to the staff for all of that effort.

The Board first became aware of ADA compliance needs when the Department of Public Health requested approval of a $10K grant to pay for an $8K ADA compliant door and lighting to make one of the buildings in the Department of Public Health more accessible and sensory friendly. The purpose of the $10K grant was to increase vaccine uptake and then share the data that was collected with Wayne State University.

However, the Board did not approve this $10K grant due to the strings attached, and instead went on to broadly approve funding to prioritize ADA compliance in more county buildings through the Capital Improvement Plan. The Plan included Fiscal Year 2024 funding of nearly $500K to address “ADA updates including powered doors, parenting rooms, lighting & signage” for the Department of Public Health building on James Street, as well as additional funding for CMH and the HHS buildings to address ADA updates. This allowed the Board to prioritize ADA Compliance on a much larger scale without pushing vaccines or sharing data on our people with outside organizations.

Another item of note included in the Capital Improvement Plan is the capital cost of over a million dollars for vehicle and body cameras for the Sheriff’s Department, which is anticipated to be rolled out this year. This project had been discussed for a long time, and prior funding had been committed, but had stalled for lack of support at the Board level. Thank you, Board, for being supportive and willing to make body cameras a priority for the Sheriff’s Department.

NEXT I WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT HOW THE BOARD FOCUSED ON INCREASING BUDGET TRANSPARENCY THROUGHOUT THE BUDGET PROCESS.

The County’s budget for fiscal year 2024 was approved on September 26, 2023. The $264M budget appropriated nearly $110M in general fund expenditures.

The first budget draft was provided to the Finance and Administration Committee on August 1, and it was built on the budget requests from county departments. The Finance Committee added two new public work sessions in August to provide increased transparency for that budget year and that budget work, and added a total of 5 public meetings in where the budget was reviewed and addressed.

During the Finance Committee’s work, adjustments were made based on details requested and provided by the Administrator, Fiscal Services, elected officials, appointed officials, appointed officials, and department heads. The Board is very thankful for all of the work that went into the budget process by the staff.

It became apparent that leaders of the Department of Public Health were not accustomed to Board oversight and engagement in the budget process, seemingly expecting blanket approval for department wishes. However, budget oversight is the statutory responsibility of the Board of Commissioners, and must be taken seriously by the Board.

The Department of Public Health’s repeated and reactionary engagement with activist media during the process—rather than professional engagement with the Board and county leadership, led to unnecessary panic in the community.

At $14.39M, the budget process yielded the second highest budget for the Department of Public Health, second only to the prior year. That prior year budget had additional COVID spending that had caused it to increase. Thank you, Board, for choosing to discontinue those  COVID grants.

NEXT UP: STRENGTHENING THE VETERAN’S DEPARTMENT

Numerous community members expressed a longstanding need for increased outreach and expanded services for veterans and their families. Veterans continue to suffer the highest suicide rate, like I mentioned earlier. Surrounding counties have invested greater resources than Ottawa County had, sometimes by-passing millages to support veterans’ services at higher levels.

Working within the current financial resources of the county, funds were allocated to hire a director, thoroughly assess current needs, and begin to build the Veterans Department to robustly serve those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

The new philosophy of the department is, I’m happy to report: “Deeds not words.” The department is being built on a foundation of four pillars: Employment, Education, Health, and Quality of Life. We are excited to continue supporting this Department and watch the progress the staff make this year!

ARPA

ANOTHER MAJOR INITIATIVE UNDERWAY IS BROADBAND

Last December, after much work with the staff, the Board approved a Broadband infrastructure initiative to provide internet services to rural portions of Ottawa County. The $7.5M in ARPA funds that had been allocated by the prior Board will be utilized by the County in combination with state and other funding, for a total of $25M.

The open access expansion increases competition countywide and connects rural areas. It prioritizes our farms and rural communities, and the project will allow the construction of nearly 400 miles of new fiber.

An additional partnership with Tilson Technology allows Tilson to start assessing opportunities for enhanced fixed-wireless and ultimately to construct new towers in critical locations especially in rural areas that will be supported by the new fiber infrastructure. Both partnership agreements, both for the broadband and Tilson Towers, I’m thankful to report will include provisions for revenue sharing that will direct revenue back to the County. This is something that is fairly unique and innovative. I am thankful for all the work that went into negotiating these contracts and agreements. It is helpful so that taxpayers can see money come back to the County.

The expansion of reliable, high-speed internet even in rural parts of Ottawa County is an important step in ensuring additional access to economic resources and technological advancements and innovation, especially in the farming community.

NEXT I’D LIKE TO REVIEW DEPARTMENT HIGHLIGHTS

In ADMINISTRATION in 2023,

The Board approved enhancements to county communications, to increase the ability of the County, departments, and the Board to effectively communicate with the people. Implementation will continue in 2024.

In CORPORATE COUNSEL,

New procedures and requirements were put in place to strengthen the contract language used by the County with outside organizations, some of this work was standardized as well. Corporate Counsel also assisted with review of county policies and the Plan of Organization for the Department of Public Health, among many other things.

COUNTY CLERK

Early Voting & Election Integrity

The Board worked with the County Clerk to strengthen election integrity measures while also supporting a joint effort with Townships to meet new statutory election requirements for early voting. Local units of government worked with Clerk Roebuck for many months to prepare a plan to meet the requirements of the new state law. The Board approved an agreement for early voting administrative services, with the provision of additional staff, which we heard earlier tonight were now in place, and resources to facilitate identified needs, including watermarked ballots. Thank you, Clerk Roebuck.

In the SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT,

Law Enforcement Contracts

Negotiations with multiple law enforcement employee unions placed the county in a stronger position to both attract and retain quality law enforcement personnel. This is an important priority because Ottawa County is known for its safety and security, and excellent law enforcement. This is one of the main priorities of the Board.

Body Cameras

Funding was approved for body cameras, as well as the support staff that’s required to be able to handle all of the video footage in the Sheriff and Prosecutor’s offices.

Office Space was provided to the Children’s Anti-Exploitation Partnership (CAP)

On April 11, 2023, the Board approved the use of office space here at the Fillmore Complex for The Children’s Anti-Exploitation Partnership (CAP) division of Crisis Aid International at the request of the Sheriff’s Department. CAP serves children and young people up to age 25, as well as their families.

CAP is an innovative new approach that focuses on reaching children at risk for sex trafficking and other forms of child sexual abuse. CAP provides advocacy, resources, and support to children and families identified in internet-related crimes against children and in human trafficking investigations.

Fire Foam Trailers

In 2022, Ottawa County’s HAZMAT team requested ARPA funds for the purchase of Fire Foam Trailers to protect residents from chemical fires, but unfortunately the request was not granted.

On April 11 of last year the Board of Commissioners approved the expenditure of $125K from the Hazardous Material Rescue Team operation budget, to be combined with another $125K from local fire department jurisdictions, who all worked hard to make sure this need was to funded. A big thanks goes out to all the people involved in the process, especially in the Sheriff’s Department and from the local units.

In COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH,

Carter Kits

Carter kits were made available to local law enforcement, fire departments and rescue agencies to assist children with sensory needs in traumatic emergency situations.

CMH also started a Review of Social Recreation Programs.

The CMH Board is reviewing the Social Recreation Programs funded by the county millage. The review was a proactive response to tax-payer questions about how tax dollars are being spent to support the vulnerable in the community. The CMH millage is also up for renewal in 2026, and we are thankful for the proactive work in CMH.

In the DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH,

The Board took steps to begin to align the department with the priorities of the people, bringing transparency and accountability to the department. During the year, as mentioned, the Board took care with the evaluation and approval of grants, weighing the benefits and the risks before making decisions.

In the FINANCE DEPARTMENT,

The Board continues to move towards a cost-of-service approach, which you heard mentioned tonight, in budgeting and resource allocation for the county. This effort will help the Board, staff, and community better understand how taxpayer dollars are being spent. The Board is working to improve awareness of programs that are valued by our community members through new budget software. This new software that was researched last year and was just approved this month, as we’ve heard quite a bit about. This as well is very important for the additional transparency and long-term decision-making.

In PARKS & RECREATION,

The Parks Department continues to provide amazing opportunities for education and recreation for both our residents and visiting tourists. Work and expansion of the County’s numerous parks continued with the Rosy Mound expansion, Kirk Park, Secchia Trails and Ottawa Sands.

In the OTTAWA COUNTY 20th CIRCUIT COURT,

Family Justice Center

Construction continues on the Family Justice Center at the Fillmore Complex. This will provide much needed space and resources for our courts.

Adoption Day

The Board celebrated Michigan Adoption Day by passing a Resolution and participating in the proceedings at the Ottawa County Family Court. Commissioner Sylvia Rhodea read the Resolution and shared her thoughts on behalf of the Board, as the day held special meaning for her since she worked in foster care and adoption, and had adopted a son. The resolution stated in part:

“Today we celebrate families and children who embrace the beauty and the hard that is adoption. There is pain and loss that brings us to adoption, but there is also so much love and joy. We also celebrate siblings who are part of adoption stories and lifelong relationships.”

Families throughout Ottawa County have invested in providing foster and adoptive homes for children in need, which is beautiful to see. It was wonderful that so many Board members could head across the parking lots to participate in the ceremony this year, which I hope we see continue in the future.

In the HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT,

Employment Retention

Administration and the HR made adjustments to policies and job classifications to better retain experienced staff members. The county also adjusted certain benefits to remain competitive in the market.

In the DEPARTMENT OF STRATEGIC PLANNING,

There is a lot happening, but I’d like to mention one item in particular. The Department proposed a cost-saving initiative which was approved to demonstrate the use of natural landscaping. This in turn reduced expenses at the Fillmore Complex. We’re excited to see how it looks this spring.

 

MOVING ON, WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE TWO ITEMS THAT FIT INTO THE CATEGORY OF THE GOOD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.

The Ottawa County Art Trust Exhibition, June 26, 2023

Last summer, the walls of the Fillmore Street Complex were covered with beautiful works from talented local artists. Ottawa County and the Holland Area Arts Council chose 8 of the 53 pieces for purchase awards. To all who participated, thank you for making our days brighter while at work!

There was also a significant Emphasis put on Agriculture

Commissioners have invested in supporting the diverse and abundant agriculture of Ottawa County, recognizing its economic importance to our county and state, and the contribution of our farms to our culture and our way of life.

Commissioners went on numerous events and learning experiences to help with future decision making.

Next, I’d like to mention a couple RESOLUTIONS.

The Board spoke into numerous issues facing the county via its Resolutions. Here are two examples.

The Constitutional County Resolution passed on May 23, 2023

I will read one excerpt:

“THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board declares Ottawa County, Michigan to be a ‘Constitutional County’ and resolves to protect the individual freedoms of the people of Ottawa County, as outlined in the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Michigan, to include freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to due process; and

The Resolution to Protect Childhood Innocence passed on June 27, 2023

An excerpt includes:

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, no county staff or resources shall be allocated to activities, programs, events, content, or institutions which support, normalize, or encourage the sexualization of children and youth; and

… the Board encourages individuals and communities to promote the good and the honorable to children rather than the normalization of sexual behaviors, protecting the health and wellbeing of our children and the future of our county.”

Much has happened in the last year. I’m excited to see what the Board does in this year as well.

As we enter 2024, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners will lead courageously, reject passivity, restore and protect local authority, and respect the values and faith of the People of Ottawa County.

Constitutional County

As a Constitutional County, we will protect the “individual freedoms of the people of Ottawa County, to include freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to due process.”

Pro America— A County “Where Freedom Rings”

We will promote a love of America and her people.

We will live out the county vision statement of ‘Where Freedom Rings’—where individual freedoms, parental rights, and religious and conscience freedom are protected, all people belong;”

Law and Order

We will support a strong Public Safety, Law Enforcement, and Justice System, as well as continue the work of compassionate rehabilitation through the court system to decrease reCiDiVism and increase the productivity and flourishing of individuals and families.

Pro Childhood Innocence

We will encourage individuals and communities to promote the good and the honorable to children rather than the normalization of sexual behaviors, protecting the health and wellbeing of our children and the future of our county.

Protect Life

We will protect and prioritize the needs of families, children, and unborn children.

Parental Rights, Education Excellence, and Health Freedom

We will protect each parent’s right to guide their child’s care and education.

We will be watchful of how the county interacts with the OAISD and local school districts. We will promote accountability and transparency to ensure the county’s actions with schools are both limited and appropriate.

We will protect the individual and parental right to make personal health choices. We will require government to provide information, rather than operate through orders or coercion.

Honor Heroes of Freedom

We will honor our heroes of freedom— our veterans, with not only words, but actions, strengthening the Veterans Department’s ability to serve veterans and their families.

Prioritize Excellence and Merit over Identity Characteristics

We will prioritize excellence and merit over identity characteristics in county interactions and in county hiring, treating all individuals with kindness and respect.

Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency

We will prioritize fiscal responsibility and transparency in the use of government funds, otherwise known as taxpayer dollars, through public reporting of county expenses, yes, even down to McDonald’s receipts, as well as the implementation of improved budgeting software, and continued robust budget process.

Energy, Water, & Affordable Homes

We will explore and seek to implement innovative solutions for the challenges and opportunities of energy, groundwater, housing, and home ownership.

Farmland Preservation

We will work to protect farmland and the diverse agriculture industry of Ottawa County.

Pro Election Integrity

We will support election integrity efforts of the County and Township clerks, to include the implementation of watermarked ballots.

Pursue the Good and Beautiful

We will continue to support the development of Ottawa County’s parks, encouraging our communities to enjoy the good and the beautiful things of nature’s surroundings.

Free Market Capitalism

We will support business growth and independence in Ottawa County, recognizing our county is built on the hard work and entrepreneurship of generations of individuals and families. Every job is essential.

Health Department and CMH

We will support the meaningful work of Community Mental Health and the Department of Public Health, ensuring the needs of the vulnerable are met while respecting parental rights and individual freedoms.

IN CLOSING,

The Board will continue to make Ottawa County Where Freedom Rings, and focus on preserving the heritage of Ottawa County.

We live in an amazing place with wonderful people, great jobs, low unemployment, significant growth, strong churches, thriving communities, and a people who love freedom.

I would like to again thank the Board, the staff, and the people of Ottawa County.

And especially, I am grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, and the duty to secure these blessings for our children and grandchildren.