DEQ director explains governorPublished 10:05am Monday, April 22, 2013
Atypical politician Gov. Rick Snyder compensates for the low priority given to communication by courageous decision-making and staying the course, his first cabinet member said in Dowagiac Saturday night.
Pokagon Township native Dan Wyant, keynote speaker for the Cass County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner, said at Southwestern Michigan College, of which he is a former trustee, that’s why Snyder’s administration accomplished more in a year than Gov. Jennifer Granholm did in eight.
“And they’re going to do more this year than they did last year — and we’re not telling that story,” he said.
Wyant, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality director, is in a unique position to make that assessment, having served as state agriculture director for nine years for Granholm and her predecessor, John Engler, before he left Lansing in 2005 to be president and chief operating officer of the Edward Lowe Foundation in Cassopolis.
Wyant’s mother, Darlene, helped establish the foundation in 1985 to champion entrepreneurism at 2,600-acre Big Rock Valley.
The former Dowagiac Rotarian graduated from Ross Beatty High School.
The East Lansing resident earned a bachelor’s degree in food systems management from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in business administration from American University in Washington, D.C.
Snyder found “refreshing” the lack of “partisanship in his rhetoric,” though Wyant says he has never been anything but an “unabashed, lifelong Republican.”
“Rick Snyder is not a typical politician,” Wyant said. “He is very, very smart, and I find him to be very courageous and tough and not afraid to make a decision. I absolutely don’t think this guy cares about whether he gets re-elected. He came to this because he felt Michigan was in a lost decade and wanted to provide some leadership. One-billion dollar deficit, eliminated. Balancing the budget on time. Eliminating the Michigan business tax. Putting half a billion dollars into the rainy day fund, which started at $2.2 million. We were 38th in per-capita income, now we’re ninth. We were 50 out of 50 states in GDP growth. Today, we’re sixth-best in the United States. We had a crippling 14.2-percent unemployment rate and lost 750,000 jobs over 10 years. Unemployment now has dropped to 8.9 percent and we have 177,000 new jobs. College-ready students, 17.7 percent,” up from 14.9 percent. “The business tax climate went from 49th to seventh in the nation — all in two years. And the governor hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal. He continues to push hard, whether it’s education reform, transportation and health care. I’ll be honest about one blind spot the governor has. He and his staff don’t communicate well. These guys have accomplished so much, his mindset is to keep going forward to the next thing without stopping long enough to tell people what all has been accomplished.”
Wyant is a group executive who oversees a cluster of quality of life departments, also including natural resources and agriculture and rural development.
“We consolidated human resources and accounting, saving a ton of money. We’ll save $7 million” by “restacking” office space.
DEQ shrunk from 1,450 employees six years ago to 1,100 and $103 million 10 years ago to $29 million from the general fund.
Wyant is proud of Snyder for reaching out to Detroit with a $6 million proposal to make Belle Isle a state park — only to be fought by City Council as some sort of “grab.”
With the GOP controlling Lansing, “We’re in a unique time” until the 2014 election, when Republicans will try to capture Democrat Carl Levin’s U.S. Senate seat.
Eschewing the bunting-draped podium to roam into the audience, Wyant said, “(Prosecutor) Vic (Fitz, who introduced him) “wanted the governor. I was with him yesterday in Detroit. You will get him. He’s been here and he’ll be back.”
Besides state Sen. John Proos of St. Joseph, master of ceremonies, and state Rep. Matt Lori of Constantine, Wyant said southwest Michigan benefits from “rising stars” Reps. Aric Nesbitt of Lawton and Al Pscholka of Stevensville.
Of SMC Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews, Wyant said, “He’s unique, with as sharp a political and analytical policy mind of anyone I’ve ever met. He should be in Congress. He’s a natural leader and absolutely believes in this community. We need more people like Fred Mathews.”
Wyant also “called out” Edwardsburg attorney Bill LaBre, who led the party for 16 years.
County Treasurer Linda Irwin of Dowagiac succeeds him as chair.