By K.D. Norris
The City of Wyoming will return one familiar face to the City Council after Tuesday’s election but there will be two newcomers, including Marissa Postler, who is just 23 years old and will be a student at Grand Valley State University while representing in her district on the council.
Councilman Dan Burrill, who ran unopposed and was re-elected for his second four-year term as council member-at-large, gained a final unofficial total of 18,474 votes.
New to the council will be Robert D. Postema, who defeated Rusty Richter for the 3rd Ward seat vacated by Joanne Vorhees, 5,168 votes to 3,683 votes; and Postler, who defeated incumbent Richard K. Pastoor for the 2nd Ward seat, 3,479 to 2,873.
The new council members will be sworn in at the Nov. 21 meeting.
Youth was served; will serve
Maybe the most startling result was the 2nd Ward win by Postler, who not only unseated a 15-year veteran of the council but also expects her youth to be an asset to the council and the city as much as it was an asset to her campaign.
“I definitely think my youth and energy played a part” in the win, Postler said Wednesday. “This election season, we’ve seen a lot of support from both Democrats and Republicans for the idea of an outsider candidate. Bernie Sanders really excited young liberals and Donald Trump, of course, found a lot of support among more conservative voters. While these two men (and myself) have very little in common, there is definitely that common thread of people wanting something different from what they’ve had forever.
“In the case of our (2nd Ward) residents, I think I’m probably the first 23-year-old girl who has ever knocked on their door trying to talk about politics and city issues. I had a lot of older folks tell me how glad they were to see someone from the younger generation ready to step up and take the torch.”
Postler works at Costco in addition to being a college student seeking a music education degree leading to a teaching position.
The 2nd Ward area covers the northern portion of the City of Wyoming from Chicago Drive in the north to Prairie Parkway down Burlingame Avenue over 36th Street and up along 32nd Street on the south. The ward’s western border is Wentworth and the eastern border is the city limits.
Part of Postler’s campaign had her advocating for more local engagement and local opportunities for Millennials.
“Considering we’re the second largest city in the metro Grand Rapids area, I definitely don’t think it’s crazy for us to try attracting young professionals, Postler said. “The thing is, though, we don’t have a ton of jobs they want right here in Wyoming. On the upside, we do have affordable homes and a 10-minute drive downtown. I think especially if this 28 West project works out, we could definitely become a more attractive area for people who want that city proximity but at a more affordable cost.
“One thing we need to continue being careful about is making sure the businesses who fill our many empty spaces are going to add value to the community and make us appealing. No more dollar stores, check cashing places, or vape shops, please! That is a sentiment that I’ve heard from several residents and wholeheartedly agree with myself.”
Not only is Postler not your usual city council candidate, she found out about the win in a most unusual way.
To be honest I was half asleep when I found out, so it took a moment to sink in,” she said. “I gave up and went to bed around 12:30 (in the morning … with no results yet, and somehow managed to fall asleep despite the excitement and nervousness. Then my boyfriend woke me up at 4 a.m. with the news as he was leaving for work and I saw I had 20 notifications on my phone! … I just want to thank the voters so much for their support and invite them to reach out to me with any ideas or concerns.”
(Postler’s email address is email@example.com.)
Back to work; working at large
Burrill, who was reelected for a second 4-year term as council member-at-large, ran unopposed and still gained nearly 18,500 votes — as well as a few ribbings — from constituents.
Joking aside, he says he is grateful not only for reelection but for the confidence in this work and work ethic shown by city voters.
“I do hope (the high number of votes he gained) says that folks recognized that I do a nice job for the city,” Burrill said. “I put the community’s best interest at heart. I put a lot of time and effort in that position, so I hope it says, ‘This guy is doing a pretty good job.’ Some of these (public service) positions can be pretty thankless sometimes, and I think that people are thankful that someone is doing it and putting forth effort on it.”
Burrill also said he takes pride representing the entire city as member-at-large, but he stressed that all the council members really represent the entire city.
“We have such a diverse community, and I think that is totally awesome,” he said. “When I think about our community, I see it from so many directions. It is such a great place to live. I do think I look at it as that I do not represent just one area, one ward, you do feel a sense of duty to the entire community.
“Of course, I know the ward commissioners do the same. Sure they represent their ward, but they also are looking for what is best for the people throughout the community. I know in those wards, they all of have a good sense of community for the entire community. Not just their area. You have to look at Wyoming as a whole. The decisions you make on the north end can affect the south end, so you have to look at the community as a whole.”
Of course, Burrill said, being well-known and accessible to the voters can have it’s, ah, moments.
“This past election, I had more people text me and say ‘Dan, I voted for you.’ Of course, some of them joke around: people that know me said ‘Hey, we had a tough choice but we voted for you anyway.’ When you get those text messages, those calls, from people it makes you feel really good. More than anything, this election made me feel really good; it gave me a lot of confidence in what I am doing.”
Postmen has ties to local community and local business
Postema — please call him “Rob,” he says, to avoid any confusion with his father and brother, both Richard — has a long history in Wyoming and, while he sees the many strengths of the city, he sees things he wants to make better.
“Wyoming has a lot going for it,” he said this week. “Good infrastructure, strong neighborhoods and great citizens. City services have generally remained stable and the city is good financial shape despite some difficult economic times. But there are opportunities for improvement in many areas.
“I’d like to see both public safety departments strengthened,” he said. “The DDA area (28th Street area) is an area we should continue to look for improvement. The DDA appears to be a great tool to compound investment in the area without any added tax burden. Wyoming’s DDA suffers a bit from unlucky timing with the economic downturn and several large business closures that have left it struggling for funding. The 28 West project, hopefully, will spur some positive momentum and as that momentum builds I think we could see some real positive change in this area of the city. I think there is opportunity along the Division corridor for positive change as well.”
Postema said his initial focus, however, will be in not only representing his ward but in “gaining a greater understanding” of the city and the working of the City Council.
“My exposure to city government from my work on the Planning Commission and BZA is an asset, as is my experience running a business,” he said. “But I recognize there will be some issues I do not yet fully understand and need to learn.”
Postema works for Richard Postema Associates PC, an architectural and engineering firm which moved to the city in 1981. It is a family business, named after his father, but both his father and his brother are “Richard” and his brother — who goes by “Rick” — is also part owner. “It can be confusing,” Postmen said.
Postema, 49, grew up in Wyoming, attended South Christian High School, graduated from Calvin College with an engineering degree. He is married, to Shelley, with two daughters, one a graduate from Hope College and in the nursing field, and the other just starting study at Calvin.
His becoming a city council member is just starting to sink in, however.
“Running for election is a humbling event,” he said. “It seems cliché to say so, but it really is an honor to have people place their faith in you to represent them in such an important role. I am so very thankful to everyone who placed their faith in me. I will do my best to honor that faith and follow the commitments I made to everyone when running for office.”