Making the county commission more accessible is one of Melton’s goal

Betsy Melton
Betsy Melton

Joanne Bailey-Boorsma


On Jan. 5, the new Kent County Commission Board will be sworn in but because of the time, 8:30 a.m., not many of the general public will have the option of attending.


“When you consider the time of the Kent County Commission board meetings, 8:30 in the morning, you realize they really are not that accessible to most people,” said Betsy Melton, who was elected as the new 13th District Commissioner in the November general election.


While she does not know if the time of the meeting has every been discussed, Melton is interested in exploring it as a way of encouraging residents to participate and take an active role with the Kent County Commission.


“It is not very convenient for those who have to be at work in the morning or at home moms who are taking care of their families,” she said. “Then there are the Grand Rapids Community College students who are making their way to their first class and people trying to get to their businesses which does not make it easy to get to a meeting downtown.”


The board meeting time is one of two items Melton hopes to review with the commission as she steps into her new roll as 13th District Kent County commissioner. Melton defeated Republican candidate Jessica Ann Tyson to by 560 votes for the seat which is being vacated by incumbent Richard VanderMolen.


The 13th District covers most of the City of Kentwood except for the western portion of the city from about west of Kalamazoo, which is part of Distrct 12, the area Harold Mast is the commissioner for.


The other item she would like to review is the county’s fund balance, which has averaged around 47 percent, according to Melton. Having been on the Kentwood Public Schools Board of Education, Melton understands the need for having a fund balance but “as many of the dollars as possible were put back into the classrooms.”


Melton said the county has a very high bond rating, AAA, and reducing its fund balance would not impact that rating.


Of course there are other items facing the Kent County Commission including the recent approval of the 911 surcharge and the zoo/museum millage by voters at the November general election.


“It is going to be a little different membership, different tone,” said Mast, who won his bid for reelection this year. Melton is joined by two other Democrats, Robert Womack from District 17 (Grand Rapids) and Phil Skaggs from District 19 (East Grand Rapids) who beat out the Republican incumbent. All the other seats remained the same with there being 13 Republicans and six Democrats on the Kent County Commission.