The recent Ottawa County board meeting has led to significant changes within the community


The Ottawa County sign

Diversity and equity are some of the fundamental building blocks required in a society. This is only one of the many reasons people are questioning the recent decision made by the Ottawa County board to shut down the county’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Ottawa County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Michigan, and the controversy following the decisions made during the board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3rd, has been a recent topic of debate. A few of these decisions have included the shutdown of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the replacement of the County Administrator, the change of the county motto, and several others. 

Ottawa County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Michigan, and the board meeting on Tuesday, January 3rd, has been a recent topic of debate.

In the Tuesday board meeting, the newly-seated Ottawa County Board of Commissioners decided to replace previous County Administrator John Shay with midterm congressional candidate John Gibbs. Of the series of votes that occurred, the vote to fire John Shay was not listed on the agenda for the meeting, but a majority vote qualified mid-meeting agenda additions, and new Ottawa County Board Chair Joe Moss commented on the change: “Sometimes an elected body needs to make decisions, and so that’s what we did today. We worked together, [and] moved forward.”

With a 6-3 vote, John Gibbs was hired to fill the position of County Administrator. The rapid progression of Gibbs’ hiring is only one of several fast-paced changes made, including the adoption of a new slogan. The previous slogan was “Where you belong,” and it has now been changed to “Where freedom rings.” 

Another change was eliminating the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Health Director, and replacing the county’s attorney corporate counsel with a law group generally known for defending conservative causes. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was dissolved, and all employees were fired effective immediately. The role of this Office was to develop a racial equity plan, work with other government units, and solve issues surrounding diversity and equity.

A spokesperson from Millerknoll—the second largest employer in Ottawa County—has commented on the County Board’s decision to remove the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to our corporate values at MillerKnoll,” The spokesman said. “As one of the largest employers in Ottawa County, we count on our local leaders to advocate for a diverse, inclusive, and prosperous environment where our current and future employees and their families feel like they belong,”

As the numerous decisions made at the board meeting continue to unfold, more and more people are commenting on the multitude of changes that have occurred and are currently going on.

In the replacement of the Ottawa County Corporate Counsel to Kallman Legal Group, it has also been pointed out that Kallman has challenged multiple state shutdown orders during the pandemic. They have also defended businesses that have denied LGBTQ+ people service due to religious beliefs.

When faced with so many swift changes and decisions, we have to take into consideration how this will continue to impact other counties around Michigan. With the power board members hold over the state of their county, more questions should be asked regarding how these changes will keep unraveling. We will just have to wait and see.