‘He’s on our team’
‘He’s on our team’
WCC loses a trustee and gains a state representative
ILLUSTRATION BY JOCELYN GOTLIB
David Rutledge, the Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees treasurer, is almost giddy about his first day at work in the Michigan House of Representatives. He’s most excited for being sworn in and getting his first bill “out there.”
His biggest fear, like his excitement, comes from a very real challenge. It’s something that a lot of Rutledge supporters have shrugged at due to their overwhelming confidence in him. But for the representative elect, this challenge is no shrugging matter: He’ll be a Democrat in a Republican House.
“This time around is the first time in about 10 years that the Democrats will be in the minority in the House,” he said. “We’ll see what that means.”
Judging from his orientation, which was an exhaustive, training session in Lansing, it may turn out to not mean very much at all. Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder addressed the caucus during orientation to quell a few Democratic nerves.
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
“That was kind of exciting. He didn’t really have to,” said Rutledge. “He explained the way he intends to govern and talked about kind of just removing the labels thing and talking about Michiganders, not Republicans and Democrats.
“He talked about how we can reduce the budget overall, but MPSERS (Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System) definitely came up.”
That’s exactly what a lot of people here at WCC want to hear, including President Larry Whitworth.
He said that MPSERS currently benefits neither the employee nor the college.
“It might sound like this all seems like it’s about money, and you’d be right,” he said. “But I’m confident Rutledge can help us move forward.”
Board of Trustees Chair Stephen Gill has just as much faith in Rutledge. He thinks that the first thing Rutledge should tackle is the state’s financing for community colleges. But he knows that the representative-elect will face challenges as a Democrat in a Republican-controlled House.
“He knows how to get people to work together from different political views, and that’s what our state legislature needs right now!” laughed Gill. “He goes in as a Democrat, but again on those same lines, he’ll be able to work with everybody just as he’s done in Washtenaw County.”
While Rutledge is a bit more reserved in his confidence, he does have hope for the House. Besides Snyder’s address, he also had a few promising conversations with fellow representatives who sit across the aisle.
“I want you to know that I’m very optimistic about our ability to work together to fix the problems of this state,” he said.
WCC graphic design major Morgan Foreman is optimistic too. The 21-year-old from Superior Township worked as an elections inspector during the elections, helping Rutledge with his campaign. She believes that Rutledge will help fix everything from the economy to the environment. And as far as Rutledge’s inevitable resignation from WCC’s Board of Trustees goes, Foreman thinks of it as an overall gain rather than a loss.
“We’re not really losing anything. We’re going to have him in Lansing. When it comes to funding community colleges, Dave is on our team,” she said.
Whitworth and most of the trustees have expressed a bit more apprehension with regards to Rutledge’s departure than Foreman. They’re all happy to have an advocate in state legislature, but replacing the skills that Rutledge brought to the group isn’t something they’re sure they can do.
“Another David Rutledge would help. Another thoughtful, dedicated person that can work with lots of different people and bring them together,” said Gill.
“And walk on water and do a few other things as well!” he laughed.
Right now, David Rutledge is a very, very popular man.