Superintendent Secchia

December 26, 2007
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It’s an old, undated letter but one made more significant by this week’s anniversary of the death of Grand Rapids most famous son. Former President Gerald Ford, who died at the age of 93 last Dec. 26, did not return home until Jan. 2. But he and the Ford family arrived to a waiting legion of residents of Michigan and beyond who unforgettably lined the routes to the ceremony sites.

The letter is written, presumably around January 2002, by a former reporter from The Grand Rapids Press who covered most of Ford’s career — Maury DeJonge — to the paper’s editorial page editor at the time, Joe Crawford.

DeJonge wrote to Crawford in response to Crawford’s editorial suggesting that the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education look outside the academic community to replace then-retiring school Superintendent Patricia Newby. DeJonge wrote, “You may laugh at the first name that came to mind, but I’m serious — Pete Secchia.”

DeJonge continued: “I know Pete very well and I’ve had some good times and some bad times with him, but I always admired the way he could get things done. In an interview I had with Jerry Ford in January 1979, at his office in Rancho Mirage, I asked him what drew him so close to Secchia since they appeared to have unlike personalities.

“Ford responded that when he wanted Pete to do a job for him, ‘I could forget about it and Peter would get the job done.’ We all know of Secchia’s success, not only as a businessman, but as ambassador to Italy and as a member of the Republican National Committee. His financial and organizational expertise has been demonstrated many times ever since his arrival in our community several years ago. There would be critics of such an appointment, but there are critics of Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, despite their many contributions to our community. Jealousy brings out the worst in people.”

DeJonge ends the letter suggesting that Secchia is not the only person from outside the field of education with qualifications, but suggests that he could “restore public confidence in public education … which seems to be missing the last several years.”

Secchia, a life-long Ford friend, sent a copy of the letter to the Business Journal, as much because of his continued sadness for the loss as for the pleasure derived from learning of his friend’s confidence.

Courtesy was not the byword one year ago as regional and national media moved to security points to cover the repose, funeral and burial. The broadcast media bumps were likely more obvious to viewers than the exchange between the newspaper editor and the editor of the Business Journal.

DeJonge, long-retired and working occasionally as a freelance writer, wrote a column that was published in the March issue of sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine, and provided hours of recorded interview time with Business Journal and magazine reporters regarding the body of his past work reporting on Ford. Words are swords in this business, and words were exchanged in regard to copyright and intellectual property rights between the two publications. (Not to mention the excitement caused among the city’s barristers with ring-side seats.)

So be it that DeJonge’s photo collection and (surprisingly different stories of Ford) remain unpublished.

  • Is everyone confused? The city of Grand Rapids clerk Terri Hegarty is retiring next week (to live happily ever after with her husband, former GR Police Chief William Hegarty).

The city clerk is not the same thing as the county clerk.

The Kent County clerk is Mary Hollinrake.

The city clerk is not elected; the city clerk is appointed (and therefore bossed by city commissioners such as Rick Tormala (until next week).

The county clerk is elected.

An elected official can’t just go off and take another official’s job (so, NO!, she is not “running for” Hegarty’s job, which is not elected).

The county people and the city people share cement on the city/county plaza but that’s about all they share. They don’t even like talking to each other (and just wait ’till the city sees the county board enforce the new policy of capping Downtown Development Authority tax abatements …).

So Mary Hollinrake is not, repeat: not, “interested” in the city clerk’s job (though it does pay more …).

**Saluting innovation: Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. were in a giving mood recently when they justifiably honored the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center network — which is headquartered at Grand Valley State University — for its work in diversifying Michigan’s economy.

The SBTDC was presented with the Outstanding Diversification Achievement Non-Profit Economic Development Partner award. The award was presented during the Michigan Diversification Celebration held at the state Capitol in Lansing.

The award is due largely to the efforts of Carol Lopucki, state director of the SBTDC, who said she’s proud the network was recognized for its work in growing Michigan’s entrepreneurs.

“The SBTDC has been a partner of the state of Michigan for five years in its effort to transform the state’s economy from reliance upon manufacturing to diversification in areas of life sciences, homeland security, alternative energy and advanced manufacturing,” Lopucki said. “This translates to one-to-one assistance for innovators who are commercializing technologies.”

“The SBTDC could not be a more deserving recipient of this award. The MEDC depends on the SBTDC to be its outreach to the state’s small business and entrepreneurial community,” said Penny Stump, director of business services for the MEDC. “As MEDC’s strategic service partner, the network offers counseling, training and general support to more than 14,000 new ventures, small companies and entrepreneurs each year. The MEDC views the SBTDC network as its grass roots support to companies who are building Michigan’s new economy. We could not do it without them.”

The SBTDC state headquarters is located at Grand Valley State University within the Seidman College of Business. It supports 12 regional offices and over 30 satellite offices.

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