OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — More than a week after the newly-elected county commissioners in Ottawa County took many by surprise with significant leadership changes, community members are banding together to work behind the scenes.
"People are asking 'what is going on? 'What can I do? Are people looking into it?' And the answers are 'yes, yes, and yes,'" said Nick Brock, who is the Executive Director for a group called Vote Common Good West Michigan.
The non-partisan group focuses on "reimagining faith and politics by bringing together candidates, faith leaders, volunteers, activists, and artists," and specifically combating what they say the new Ottawa County Commissioners represent: Christian nationalism.
"It's like the 'end-all,' which leads to the exclusion of other voices at the table," Brock said. "And in my opinion, it really downgrades the constitution and other like-constitutions in the State of Michigan to not be as strong as they are."
Brock said that they've been working behind the scenes even before the Ottawa Impact candidates were elected to the commissioner positions.
"We had a campaign to inform and educate voters about Christian nationalism, like what it is, and how it works into politics into churches," Brock explained. "And then during the August primary, we worked to support the the incumbent commissioners."
"Our organization has been really pegged as being Democrat, and an arm of the Democratic machine, but that is just not true," he said. "We went out to vote for and encourage voters to vote for these incumbent Republican commissioners because of what we were seeing with Ottawa Impact."
Brock also explained that since the first county commission meeting, even people who typically vote Republican voiced their concerns with the new county leadership led by far-right Ottawa Impact personnel.
"I think that's been difficult over the past few years, but acknowledging that, you know, there are Republicans who are fed up with the local Ottawa GOP, we hope to provide just a platform that says, 'hey, we'd love to have your voice at the table,'" Brock said, "and if this stuff going on at the County Commission meeting, school board meetings, and things like that is really upsetting to you, we would like to bring you on board, hear your voice, and move together to vote them out in 2024."
The Vote Common Good West Michigan website even has an entire section dedicated to Frequently Asked Questions as they relate to the recent 'shake-up' in Ottawa County.
"I think we're prepared to move into more of the teaching mode because there are a lot of Facebook groups and community leaders talking behind the scenes, whether they're Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, and what we are prepared to move upon is working to collect these voices in a unified way."
Helping collect more of those voices is another local group called Ottawa Integrity, which is a non-partisan political action committee created in 2021 to push back on Ottawa Impact.
"It is obvious that this is Christian nationalism," said Kim Nagy, Ottawa Integrity's Interim Executive Director, "and as a Christian, I object."
"You certainly need to be free to practice your own religion," she added, "but you're not free to impose it on everybody else in terms of government."
Nagy said she's heard many concerns following the meeting on Jan. 3, but a majority of them are focused on how much these new changes will cost county taxpayers due to severance packages, and the dismantling of the county's diversity, equity and inclusion office.
"We need immigrants. We need we need people to fill jobs, and we need people who have technical skills," Nagy said, "and this is really going to be detrimental."
"It's going to wind up costing this county a lot of talent and treasure, doing this kind of move from this point of view and worldview, that is so incredibly narrow," she added, "and it really is just taking a huge step backwards."
Through conversations and education, groups like these Vote Common Good West Michigan and Ottawa Integrity PAC are gathering below the surface to push back against the current governance.
"Hopefully we will get some support for folks who share our values of 'Where You Belong,'" Nagy said, "and where you still belong."
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