My Take: When pawns pretend to be kings

County Administrator John Gibbs walks to his seat before the start of the board of commissioners Tuesday meeting July, 25, 2023, at the county's Filmore Complex.

I have lived in Ottawa County since I was 5. I've gone to school and worked here for the past 35 years. Ottawa County is my home.

I take pride in being considered a swing state here in Michigan. A swing county of Ottawa.

If the map shows purple when discussing politics, there is an intellectual assumption about the people who live there. We do not follow blindly by red or blue. We do not teach our children just to "fall in line" and "do what you are told because I said so." We are an educated county, a healthy county and community, full of people who all consider themselves "open to discussion" when it comes to politics. So some elections we turn red, and others we turn blue. The beautiful process of voting.

This is why leaders who aim to divide, alienate and do things in spite of the voices in the community makes me very angry. We have never been an "us vs. them" county.

So why is a small minority of people involved with Ottawa Impact aim to do just that?

Was there anything at all wrong with the county's motto, :Where you belong"? Absolutely not. Was it intentionally changed to draw a line in the sand of "our group is in charge now"? Absolutely.

This budget slash to the health department is a joke. No reasonable business man, woman or leader would look at it as the correct way to "clean up spending." (Feel free to ask Gibbs why his personal assistant needs a large increase in salary). It's just a tactic to try to divide. Follow the breadcrumbs. This leadership does not, nor wants to represent you. Read any post or statement made by the group. Leading this county as a unified people has never been OI's intention.

You can clearly see when pawns pretend to be kings.

Ottawa County, by every metric imaginable, has been a thriving place for decades. Health, wealth, community, diversity, inclusion and business. By most measurables we have figured out how to make magic.

But that magic comes with a cost: The color purple. The color of "We speak for ourselves." This color is one that pundits, slick politicians and news media HATE. It's because we cannot be counted on by them. They cannot ASSUME anything about us as a state, or as a county.

So why the need for change? Why the need for control? Is OI sad someone had to wear a mask in public for a little while? Awww. What's the conservative term? Snowflake?

I've not once seen or heard an OI supporter give one good reason for their leadership. I've only been told to be scared of drag queens reading books and that kids shouldn't learn about their bodies or feelings.

OI members had their chance to lead the county with honor. Unfortunately that was simply not their intent, and I'm thankful they have been exposed. I will also note I am thankful for Jacob Bonnema, who had a closer tie to OI, decided he was going to lead with conviction and for the people. It's interesting how they treat him now.

From Gibbs' Facebook: "ODDness is caused by exposure to freedom, the constitution, logic, or those with opposing viewpoints." So by treating Bonnema how you have, you have exposed yourself as a hypocrite. We cannot wait until your contract is up and you go back to where you came from, leaving our purple county exactly what it is. A blend of left and right, religious and non. An educated county that uses its own ideas, thoughts and convictions when deciding the leaders we want to represent us. We will learn from the lesson of this past local election.

Gibbs and everyone connected to Ottawa Impact have lost any respect I had for them as leaders. I am thankful for Ottawa County as a whole, though, seeing right through the games and gimmicks.

Challenging leadership, good leadership of the people, is a tension we should all live in. But those who choose to not lead all of us are not fit for the positions they hold. I am thankful for my school teachers who taught me about this.

The next round of voting can't come soon enough. Thank you to The Holland Sentinel for covering the news, and I appreciate the community in their understanding of "We the people…" Continue to rally and have community get-togethers as we plan for the future we want to keep: A future that's purple.

— Matthew Rodriguez is a resident of Ottawa County.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: My Take: When pawns pretend to be kings