Small Town Politics Punt on Pot: No Pro-Cannabis Members on Grand Haven’s City Council

Cannabis advocate Jamie Cooper is passed over for appointed seat on the Grand Haven City Council.
Small Town Politics Punt on Pot: No Pro-Cannabis Members on Grand Haven's City Council
Courtesy of Jamie Cooper

Cannabis advocate-turned small town politician Jamie Cooper fought a hard race for a seat on her hometown of Grand Haven’s City Council. Her progressive platform included education on cannabis in Michigan’s emerging market, and her perspective as a woman, wife, mother, and businesswoman, for positive change in her community. And, though she lost out to male counterparts with a 22.8 percent margin, she shook the tree by stepping up and advocating for cannabis.

Cooper, who holds a BS in Mass Communication from West Texas A&M University, initially worked as a television news producer. She also worked in travel and tourism, hoping to add to the county’s tourism dollars. With experience in marketing, sales, and business coaching, she founded and is CEO of Cannabiz Connection, a networking organization in the cannabis space that holds Chamber of Commerce-type mixers for the industry throughout the state. She’s also the Publisher of Detroit’s Sensi Magazine, a national cannabis publication.

Knocking on doors with her young son, Cooper challenged Michigan’s most conservative region, challenging Ottawa County voters face-to-face, discussing community concerns, with a bonus of being fully educated on the fastest growing, multi-billion dollar industry in the country—cannabis.

After the race ended, a spot was left open on the five member council, with Cooper’s supporters vocal that she be appointed both locally and on social media within the national cannabis community.

Fellow running mate, Collin Beighley, who garnered just 9.1 percent in the general election, then declined to interview for the appointed seat, stating he’d try again in the next election, and could do more for the community sitting on one of its many boards until then.

Beighley spoke out for Cooper, stating, “I would also like to put my support behind Jamie Cooper, she has shown an aptitude for this work— and she was [third] in votes during the actual election.”

Another strong supporter was Ann Haruki, Communications Director for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, sharing, “I encourage my City Council to appoint Jamie Cooper. She put time and effort into her campaign. Clearly there is support for Jamie to have a seat at the table.”

Popular Grand Haven Holistic Healthcare Practitioner and licensed massage therapist, Rebecca Neil, spoke out in favor of Cooper via a Letter to the Editor of the Grand Haven Tribune, “I would like to see a woman appointed to the open seat… Jamie has a huge vision—one that instills diversity, inclusion, and the expansion of our community from lifelong experiences, passion, and more. I believe change is something we are in need of.”

President and 20-year member of the Board of Education for the Grand Haven Area Public Schools, John Siemion, wrote a letter to council members urging them to give Cooper the seat, writing, in part, “Fortunately, this is not a popularity contest and you get the chance to appoint someone best suited to fill that empty seat. I feel that Jamie Cooper has those qualities. As it is right now there are no women on the city council and I personally feel that there should be at least one on… I urge you to appoint Jamie to the open seat.”

Mike Fritz has occupied his seat on the council for 16 years, winning another term that will eventually make him a 20-year veteran of local politics. An unnamed source close to the race informed that Fritz was so confident of his seat he didn’t campaign and failed to attend all three hosted forums with the other candidates.

Small Town Politics Punt on Pot: No Pro-Cannabis Members on Grand Haven's City Council
Courtesy of Jamie Cooper

The Cannabis Challenge in Conservative Communities

Change is a slow progression in a conservative state. And though the country’s more conservative areas have surprised everyone with seats going to progressive politicians, it seems Grand Haven’s popularity contest is alive and well.

Shunning respected members of the community urging that the Grand Haven City Council appoint a woman to the seat, the council remains all-male, with the pick for the appointed seat given to Mike Dora, who nearly ran for the set, but then declined due to personal reasons.

He’s sat on the City Planning Commission since 2015, but several searches came up dry for any information on his work history, with no social media accounts or newsworthy mentions of him in the community to be found, though he’s a lifelong resident.

Interesting to note, the source went on to say, Cooper worked as a member of the Musical Fountain Committee nearly as long as Dora’s stint on the planning commission. While Dora was openly praised prior to the appointment for his service as a deciding factor; there was no mention of Cooper’s community service, or her extensive work in the community regarding cannabis, or her work advancing education statewide.

So, why would the council appoint a man who never ran for anything, as opposed to a woman who showed up and did the work with recognized intent? Word on the street is the good old boy faction is alive and well in Grand Haven, with supporters posting their disbelief on social media, regarding Dora’s appointment.

“In a city that wasn’t run by white haired, white men, you would have easily won,” Rob Corbett, CEO of Bodhi Media, said of her pass in a county where women make up more than 50 percent of the population (July 2018 Census).

We’ll never know if Cooper’s platform for cannabis education was an issue. We in the cannabis community only know the truth of her message. One thing is certain, she started the conversation in a very big way, opening up doors and minds for others to follow.

“I’m a little disappointed there won’t be a female perspective, or someone with a young family on the council, but the deed is done and it is what it is,” she wrote in concession via social media. “I’m unsure what my next steps will be, as far as community involvement and politics, but my goal is the same – to help make Grand Haven a better place to live – a more progressive place to live.”

  1. Just a point of clarification – I retired from GHAPS 4 years ago, but appreciate you including my quote in your article. I, along with nearly 1,100 other Grand Haven residents, voted for Jamie in the election. To overlook that support and appoint another person to council is dismissive of those voters.

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