This time of year, it seems that there’s a lot of farewell speeches being given because of the end of terms and the end of legislative sessions.  That happens in local government as well.  Yesterday, I gave my farewell address as a Kalamazoo County Road Commissioner.  Nothing as splendid as those departing legislators I’ve been honored to work with in Lansing, but it’s something that I hope expresses my gratitude for being a part of a great group of people and being able to help lead some of the best public employees anyone could ask for.

Here’s what I said:

2001 was my first endeavor into public service.  That year there was a group of three young leaders who attended County commission meetings, discussed policies , and knocked on doors trying to get elected.  Two of the three of us made that first cut that time.  Years later, thanks to what some might suggest was a fortuitous series of events, we all became part of Kalamazoo County’s crew of public servants.  My friend Margaret went on to represent us in the State Legislature.  I became a road commissioner, and my friend Deb made it to the County Commission and then eventually joined me here where I’ve been honored to serve for the last six years.

Today, once again two of the three of us are leaving public service and one, the one I daresay is the strongest of us, was elected as the Vice-Chair of this Commission today.  Deb, I’ve been so proud to finally get the chance to work with you and I’ve been so proud of you for a long long time.

I am indeed very grateful for my time here at the Road Commission for Kalamazoo County.  I’ve said before and I will continue to say it for the rest of my days, our staff is the best in the state.  None of the other counties can say the same and be factually correct.  I have to thank Ann, Bill, Mark, Travis, Ryan, and Selena.  Thank you for keeping me straight when my ego might have led me astray just because I was the guy who worked on transportation policy in Lansing for so many years.

I also have to thank our Managing Director, Joanna.  Your dedication to the public has been clear and consistent all along.  On top of that, the fact that you are the President of the County Road Association and serve on the Michigan Asset Management Council are true testaments to your leadership skills.  Thank you for your leadership and all you do.

I want to thank my fellow Road Commissioners, both current and past.  Ken, Jeff, Dennis were here when I started and I’m glad that today I’m with Dave, Deb, Dan, and Larry.  I treasure our discussions and the work we’ve done and I am happy to say that you are true friends.

I want to thank the members of the Township Supervisor in Kalamazoo county.  You have been so wonderful to work with.  The cooperative approach that we’ve crafted together really shows how public servants in all units of government can come together to do what we can for all citizens.

Thank you to the folks from PMN for volunteering to tape and provide access to our most exciting meetings to the public.  

I am grateful to the members of the County Commission who appointed us.  They are a group who have the opportunity to recruit nonpartisan and bipartisan leaders who care more about serving the public and getting things done than partisan politics.  I hope that someday soon they will return to that attitude so that delayed appointments and lack of progress won’t happen again on their watch.

I am proud of many things that we’ve done together over the last six years.  There are many projects I could point to, but I really want to highlight the bond program that we worked with Kalamazoo Township to implement.  I know of no other group of people who could handle the large number of projects to plan, engineer, and complete in a three year time frame.  We’ve got a number of awards to show how great it was, but more importantly we have many citizens who have better roads to drive on today.

I pushed an increase in our communications program, specifically to get us on social media.  Selena has done a wonderful job putting us on Facebook and Twitter and keeping those communications channels updated.  It’s something we can be proud of.

And while I have many things to be proud of, I do have a couple of regrets.  I never did get a chance to drive a snowplow … maybe I’ll apply so I can do that someday!  More seriously though, I regret that I was never able to make it to be a part of the annual staff picture.  I wanted to and just wasn’t able to get my schedule to work out for it.  I want our staff to know that I mean no slight by not being there.

Earlier today, State Senator Jack Brandenburg gave his farewell address to the State Senate.  He ended it with a story about saying goodbye to a friend and how tough it was to say goodbye.  The Senator said, “My friend looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Jack you don’t have to say goodbye.  Just say ‘I’ll see you later.'”

So … I’m not saying goodbye.  I’m just saying to you all “I’ll see you later.