What does elected commissioner’s death mean for runner-up?

Dennis Van Dam died about a month after re-election following battle with cancer

Dennis Van Dam
A courtesy photo of Dennis Van Dam from his obituary.


GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — After Ottawa County Commissioner Dennis Van Dam died following his re-election, the Board of Commissioners is moving to fill his position.

Van Dam won the Nov. 8 election by nearly 9,000 votes. A little more than month later, he died following a battle with cancer.

“He was a man who put family and friendship above politics, and that was very evident in his life and his work here at the county. So he’s definitely going to be missed. It’s a pretty major hole that we have to fill,” Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck said.

Eighteen-year-old Collin Riddering, who lost to Van Dam, says he’s ready to fill the role. But if he wants the job, he will have to apply like everyone else. The board decided it will appoint a new commissioner and on Tuesday passed a resolution outlining that process.

Riddering thinks the decision should be up to the people.

“I’ve grown up here all my life. I’ve campaigned for it, and instead of just appointing somebody who didn’t show any interest previously and didn’t campaign for it, didn’t get to know the people well, I think it should go to the person who’s really put the work in,” Riddering, who didn’t campaign under a party label, said.

Chris Riddering
Collin Riddering. (Dec. 13, 2016)

“Ideally to hold a special election, that would be the best that way the people could decide,” he added.

But that’s not how the process works. The commission is choosing a replacement through applications and interviews.

“The statute … it allows a lot of leeway to county board of commissioners to create an appointment process of their own,” Roebuck said.

The commission must make an appointment within 30 days after Jan. 1, the day Van Dam’s new term would have started. The county will only hold a special election if the board hasn’t made a decision before that deadline.

Applications to fill the Sixth District seat on the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners is Jan. 10. You can submit an application at the county’s website starting Wednesday morning.

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Online:

Van Dam’s obituary