By Kayla Tucker – Managing Editor
The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees elected community member David Koetje to fill an open board seat today.
Koetje was voted in 5-1, until trustee Ellen James changed her initial vote for Bev Drake to make the final vote unanimous.
The open seat was formerly held by Richard Ryskamp, who died Sept. 8.
Koetje was not in attendance at the public meeting today.
Each board member said a few words before announcing their vote, noting the new trustee’s experience and attitude.
“He has a comprehensive understanding of the educational system, having started as a teacher,” said Trustee Cynthia Bristol. “He also served as a principal and a superintendent, so he has the whole package.”
Trustee Richard Stewart said he voted for Koetje for not only his experience and willingness to work with others, but his passion and personal convictions.
“He’s passionate about diversity, too, on a level that reflects practices and pursues the decisions of the most important life choices,” Stewart said, reflecting on the portion of the interview where Koetje said that he’s been intentional about where he lives, worships, and makes friends. “It spoke really loudly to me.”
Bert Bleke, chairperson, said he was satisfied with the meeting and how smoothly it went.
“Any time someone gets five votes out of six on a ballot, that’s very impressive,” Bleke said. “He’s a smart guy and a very caring guy with tons of experience.”
Bleke said the board was motivated most by Koetje’s experience and passion for students.
“He has a heart for students and the community,” Bleke said. “He understands the nuances and all the difficulties that are taking place in education now, and he can be a big help as we look toward the future.”