Josh Meringa – Grandville City Council Candidate

I’m Joshua Meringa, and I am a lifelong resident of Kent County, I’m passionate about Grandville, dedicated to serving others, and driven toward having a positive community impact.  Drawing on my extensive experience as a healthcare professional, I use a common-sense approach for evaluating public policy decisions and problem-solving, which includes public input and involvement, personal experience gained over time, and best-available evidence.  I am someone who always seeks to improve and grow, and a lifelong learner who actively engages in development opportunities so that I can be an informed and effective leader representing the community’s interests to the best of my ability.  I believe I have a track record of being a conscientious decision-maker, and I am well-known for being engaged, hard-working, and for my diligence and thoughtfulness in evaluating issues before making decisions.  My leadership qualities and values include compassion, integrity, respect, collaboration, courage, curiosity, and a drive for pursuing excellence.

I am a graduate of Calvin Christian High School and have served on the Grandville City Council since 2007.  In addition to serving on the City Council, I also serve on the Grandville Business Relations Committee, the Grandville Parks & Recreation Board, and the Michigan Board of Nursing.  Professionally, I am a Registered Nurse & Nurse Educator at Spectrum Health Hospitals working in nursing professional development where I’m responsible for managing academic affiliations with schools of nursing and continuing education programs, as well as providing training to nursing staff to help ensure that patients receive high quality, safe care.  My wife Molly and I are raising 3 children that attend Grandville Calvin Christian Schools and we are actively involved in the school as well as our church, where I have served as a Service Deacon.  I have twice been recognized by the Grand Rapids Business Journal as a “40 Under Forty” business leader, and have been awarded all 4 levels in the Michigan Municipal League’s Elected Officials Academy.  I am a member of the American Nurses Association – Michigan and the Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce.  I earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Calvin College, and Master’s degrees in public administration, health administration, and business administration from Grand Valley State University.

Website: www.joshuameringa.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meringa4grandvillecouncil/

Email: [email protected]

Can you give an example of how you have contributed to the community in the past?

I hope that I’ve been able to contribute in several ways to improving the health of the community through my public service, both as a healthcare professional serving patients and families, but also as an elected official and community leader.  Giving back through community service and involvement is something that is very important to me.  I strive to serve and make positive contributions to my profession of nursing, as well as the local Grandville community.   I serve in a professional capacity on the Michigan Board of Nursing, representing nurses in administration or practice, and serving as Chair for the past 6 years.  The Michigan Board of Nursing is established by State statute and is charged with the work of establishing qualifications for nurse licensure; establishing standards for education and approving nurse education programs; developing and implementing criteria for assurance of continued competency; and taking disciplinary action against licensees when the health, safety, and welfare of the public has been adversely affected.  This important work helps ensure that the State of Michigan has a safe, qualified and competent nursing workforce providing care, and also protects the public/patients from harm.

I am proud of several public improvement projects locally that I have had an opportunity to be a part of and that I have supported during my tenure on the Grandville City Council.  One important project that comes to mind is the Chicago Drive/downtown Grandville streetscape project.  Since renovating the public spaces through our traditional downtown corridor, the city has sponsored several amazing community events, bringing people downtown for entertainment and fun, promoting a sense of place, and engaging local businesses in support of the community.  New businesses have also come into our downtown, and others have made new investments.  Our downtown has seen an amazing transformation through this project and is now a thriving and vital focal point in our community.

Another city project that I am proud of is the renovation and expansion of our Clean Water Plant, which includes the first egg-shaped anaerobic digester in the State of Michigan.  This project incorporates sustainable design concepts to produce clean water, bio-nutrients that can be used to fertilize farms, and offsets plant power and gas requirements resulting in cost savings to our system.  This project has allowed us to incorporate greener technology, expanded service capabilities, and has been recognized by several statewide awards, including the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award, which I was honored to accept on behalf of the City.  It’s been amazing to be a part of a project like this that provides such great value to our community and a positive impact on the environment.

A project that is on the horizon that I’m excited to see come to reality is the expansion or our public library.  In considering this project, I was an initial promoter of the idea to incorporate private donations and undergo a fundraising effort which gives the community the opportunity to contribute, invest in, and partner with the City in providing the resources for the project.  The “Building Beyond Books” campaign is currently underway and has already raised over half a million dollars in private contributions.  This exciting project will expand and renovate parts of the existing Grandville library to make it more user-friendly, as well as provide much-needed additional multi-use programming space to meet increasing community needs.

A final example of a project that’s resulted in a positive impact on the community that I’m excited to be involved with is Grandville’s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ memorial rose garden.  This is a project I’ve been working on in collaboration with the Grandville Department of Public Works and the American Legion Neal Fonger Post 179 to add beauty to the landscaping at Wedgwood Park, as well as to honor the women who worked on the Home Front during WWII to support the war effort.  I was approached earlier this year by a Grandville alum who is very involved with an organization called The Spirit of ’45 about the idea of establishing a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ memorial rose garden in Grandville.  I connected with our DPW director about getting this started, and we have made it happen.  More information is available here: http://spiritof45.org/rosie_the_riveter_memorial_rose_gardens.aspx.  These gardens are being created all over the country to commemorate the contributions of women toward the war effort who worked as Rosies during World War II, with a goal of establishing a memorial garden in every congressional district by 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.  There are currently only 1 or 2 of these commemorative gardens in Michigan, and many throughout the country.  Ours was planted in July, and is the now the first Rosie the Riveter memorial rose garden in west Michigan.  A dedication ceremony will occur on September 24. It is an honor to be a part of initiating this memorial to the hardworking women who made history during WWII serving on the Home Front.

What do you feel is the most important attribute you bring/would bring to the City Council and why is that attribute important?

I hope I bring several positive attributes to the City Council that are important for leaders: compassion, excellence, integrity, respect, curiosity, collaboration, and courage.  I think if you’d ask most people I’ve worked with, strengths I bring to the City Council are my propensity to ask thoughtful questions, to remain curious, to be engaged, and to do my homework, always being prepared and informed for meetings.  I try to dig into complex issues trying to understand all viewpoints, and research issues thoroughly before making important decisions.  I try to not only use my personal experience in approaching complex issues, but also best-available evidence, as well as community input and participation.

 

To sum it up, I think “conscientious” is a good word to describe my leadership style.  This attribute is important because I believe the pubic expects public officials to not only represent them well and understand their concerns, but also to do the work and put in the time and effort that is necessary to study and truly understand issues thoroughly before making decisions that affect them.  I believe I do a good job of this, and it is something I am known for among my colleagues and those I have served with in the past.

Is there something you would most like to preserve about your community?  Anything you would like to change?

There are a lot of great things to love about Grandville.  As a community, we have a lot to appreciate and be thankful for: excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, great recreational opportunities, an abundance of community services and local conveniences, and a high quality of life.  I’d most like to preserve and enhance these things; the small-town feel of Grandville with a lot to offer.  I want Grandville to remain a place where people want to live, where people know each other and care about their neighbors, where there is a sense of civic pride in the community, where public services are high quality and affordable, and where the community flourishes in so many ways.  I want Grandville to remain a great place to live, learn, work, do business, recreate and raise a family.

I would like the city to do a better job of informing residents about community issues and providing helpful information.  We have great staff at City Hall, who are extremely helpful and customer-focused, but I think communication from the city with residents in mass can be a challenge sometimes.  People are busy, and need convenient and ease of access to information.  Fortunately, we will be launching a new and improved city website in the upcoming months, which should provide a much more user-friendly experience, as well as offer new services and features to allow the community to engage with the city in ways not previously possible.  I’m looking forward to this as one way we can improve communication and engagement with the community in ways that are convenient, efficient, and personalized.

Do you have experience working in groups or with diverse interests?

I have quite a bit of experience working in groups.  I am part of a great team of dedicated professionals at Spectrum Health.  We collaborate regularly in teaching, working on projects, developing education programs, and supporting the professional development of our nursing staff throughout our large healthcare system.  Although we share many common goals and values, my work team comes from a variety of backgrounds, and also brings diversity of opinion, which brings a richness to our team, because we often challenge each other to think differently about things.  We have a work culture among our team where it’s safe to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and think creatively and collaboratively to develop solutions to problems.  While provide direct patient care as a nurse, I’ve had experiences caring for people with a wide variety of backgrounds, conditions, needs, and abilities.  I have developed skills for listening, seeking to understand where someone is coming from and meeting them where they are, finding out what is important to them, and developing a plan for how I can best serve them, meet their needs, and hopefully improve their condition while treating them as individuals.  I have also learned to give people in most cases the benefit of the doubt and assume positive intent.  Many of these experiences and qualities transfer to public service in elected office.

Being on the City Council for many years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different council members and department heads, as well as interact with citizens.  Often it is easy to agree on issues, but there are also times where we may strongly disagree and have different viewpoints.  I am extremely proud to be part of a governing body in this community where we can respectfully disagree with each other without being disagreeable, we can have robust debate, and challenge each other’s point of view without attacking.  We are always able to listen to each other, discuss issues civilly, seek to understand where others are coming from and seek to be understood.  We might still disagree in the end after talking it through, but can walk away from a debate with respect for each other and remain friendly.  I choose to take the approach, and personally believe that all of us that serve in the City of Grandville have the best interests of the community at heart, but may disagree on the specifics or the best approach to do so from time to time.

Usually, when there are diverse interests, I believe that the parties can find some common ground where they can agree, which opens up the opportunity to find and build upon some consensus and move forward with a workable solution.  I enjoy and value diversity of thought and experience, because it causes me to evaluate my own thoughts and opinions, as well as challenge my assumptions.  My experiences working with groups have helped me to develop skills as an advocate, a listener, a capable communicator, a creative problem solver, and an effective leader.

If elected, how will you be a positive representative of the City of Grandville and its citizens?

If re-elected, I will continue to represent the City of Grandville and its citizens with integrity, and will seek to uphold the values of the community to the best of my ability.  I try to take a positive approach to problem-solving, and seek positive, productive solutions to community issues, rather than focus on challenges and negativity.

 

My three main priorities for the City of Grandville are: promoting fiscal responsibility and efficient city operations, protecting quality of life for our residents, and partnering in economic development.  All three of these priorities offer many positive benefits to the citizens of Grandville and the community.  By championing and supporting efforts in these areas, I can be a positive representative of Grandville and its citizens.

Government that’s limited, efficient, accountable, spends responsibly, and is transparent should always be priorities for local leaders and hallmarks of good government.  My goal is to continue delivering high-quality, cost-effective public services that provide value to our residents and meet community needs.  To that end, it’s important to me that the City of Grandville maintain a low millage rate (we’re currently among the lowest locally for cities without an income tax), protect our favorable bond rating, and continue our policy of maintaining General Fund balances above 15% to prepare for the unexpected.  As a city, we should continue seeking out the adoption of technology and innovations that not only improve city operations but also enhance public accessibility to local government.

We must pursue the maintaining and improving of quality of life for our residents.  To achieve this, we must preserve and enhance complete, connected, safe and walkable neighborhoods.  We need to support long-term community needs by investing in well-planned, managed, and cost-effective public infrastructure (such as our roads) as well as invest in green spaces, and parks and recreational enhancements that improve the wellbeing of our residents, including improved access to the Grand River.  Quality of life also includes promoting opportunities for the public to gather to interact and build relationships with each other through programs, services, events, and by creating great public spaces.  As a city, we must also seek to promote environmental stewardship and adopt sustainable practices more extensively for the benefit of future generations.  Quality of life is one of the most important attributes a community can offer its residents, and something we must always strive to protect and enhance.

 

Public/private collaboration is important to promote an attractive economic environment,

provide essential local services, and create a dynamic and prosperous community.  We need to foster positive relationships with the private sector and business community to encourage job growth, private investment, and redevelopment within existing commercial core areas, such as along 28th Street.  A vibrant downtown where businesses thrive benefits the entire community, and we must continue championing its success.  Positive things can happen when there are strong partnerships and collaboration between the public and private sector, benefitting the entire community.

As an elected representative of the people, I believe I have a responsibility to promote a positive sense of community, to assume positive intent from others, and to conduct myself in a way that demonstrates the community’s values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility.  When I represent Grandville in other communities, or at gatherings of other public officials, such as conferences or meetings, I show my pride in Grandville, and focus on the good things going on in our community rather than the challenges.  I conduct myself professionally, and treat others respectfully.  Honestly, we are truly blessed in this community with so many good things, being served by so many good people, and there are so many positive things going on that we can be proud of, it’s pretty easy most of the time to remain positive and optimistic about our future.  Grandville has a bright future ahead, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue being a part of it!  Thank you for the opportunity to serve!