OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Changes made by the new board of commissioners in Ottawa County has created some controversy in the community.
In a flurry of items that were not originally on the agenda for its Tuesday meeting, Ottawa County commissioners ousted the county administrator and installed John Gibbs, ousted the county’s top health officer in favor of an appointee who previously scorned COVID-19 mitigation efforts like social distancing, eliminated its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department and changed the county vision statement to “Where freedom rings.”
Some people question how board members went about the process and are concerned with how it could impact the county moving forward.
“I think the fact that one of the other things they did was change the tagline from Ottawa County ‘Where you belong.’ They sent a very strong message that not everyone belongs here,” Ottawa County resident and Grand Valley State Professor Amy Masko said.
“That is heartbreaking and it’s also infuriating,” Masko said.
Other Ottawa County residents think major changes are needed.
“I think a lot of things have frustrated people through COVID, through the lockdowns, and they are looking for people who are going to make a significant change in the conservative values of West Michigan,” Ottawa County resident Steven Tameling said.
Tameling added that the commissioners who made the decisions were voted into office by Ottawa County residents.
“I think the things that are being done we call them ‘woke policies.’ I think they frustrate a lot of people of religious faith, many Catholics, Christian Reformed, Reformed, a lot of people are very frustrated with some of these policies and some of these changes are in direct response to these decisions that have been made in Ottawa County,” Tameling said.
The Michigan Attorney General is conducting an ‘extensive review’ into the actions of the Ottawa County commission’s January meeting.
“I think it’s a good idea, I mean, I agree with that,” Ottawa county resident Susan Fodrozy said.
“It’s certainly not how things have been run in the past,” Masko said. “So I’m assuming somebody is going to look into that. I’m hoping somebody is going to look into that.”
Others say its oversight the county doesn’t need.
“It should be handled locally. It was a local decision and the will of the people, and the state needs to stay out of it,” Tameling said.
Many people told News 8 they will be more focused on the activities of the board.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Tameling said. “If it goes in a direction that is not beneficial to the community, for people of faith, for our constitutional values then these people will be voted out of office as well until the will of the people in this area is reflected.”
The next Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting is Jan. 10 and 9 a.m.