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Local leaders fear Ottawa Impact shake-up could stymy business growth, tourism


Members of the pubic address the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners during a pubic comment period Tuesday, Jan. 10.

OTTAWA COUNTY — In the aftermath of several controversial board meetings, beginning with a transition in commissioners in Ottawa County, local leaders are concerned about the economic future of the region.

After being sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 3, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners — including eight new commissioners backed by the far-right group Ottawa Impact during the election cycle — made a slew of changes.

More:Ottawa Impact campaigned on transparency. In their first meeting, they blindsided the community.

More:Public comment dominates Ottawa County board meeting

They fired administrator John Shay and replaced him with former GOP candidate John Gibbs without conducting a public interview; eliminated the county’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office; chose a new health director to replace the current successor who already had been approved by the state; replaced the county’s counsel and changed the county’s vision statement — costing taxpayers what’s expected to be in excess of $300,000.

All of those decisions were missing from the initial agenda posted for the meeting, denying community members the opportunity to speak on the issues, and instead were added, one-by-one, by several of the new commissioners in a meeting that seemed to be orchestrated ahead of time.

County Administrator John Gibbs looks through papers as he attends the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Public concern dominated the board’s next meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, during which dozens of residents voiced either frustrations at the lack of transparency or support for the board’s actions. But not all concerned parties used that forum.

According to the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, based in Holland and serving Zeeland, the “abrupt and unexpected” actions taken Jan. 3 were “concerning” and “will undoubtedly have an impact on our business community.”

Read More: Local leaders fear Ottawa Impact shake-up could stymy business growth, tourism

2023-01-11 19:02:18

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