2022 Diversity Forum
2022 Ottawa County Diversity Forum: Cornerstone of Democracy
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Registration information coming in September
Pinnacle Center | Hudsonville
This event will be held live and virtually.
Previous Diversity Forums
2021 Diversity Forum
2021 Ottawa County Diversity Forum: Journeys to Equity: Safe & Healthy Communities
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
8:15AM – 4:00PM
This event will be held virtually.
John Shay, Interim Ottawa County Administrator
8:30am - 10:00am Morning Keynote
Darnell Blackburn, CEO of PRAT LLC
10:00am - 10:15am Break 10:15am - 10:45am Presentation: Sheriff Kempker & Undersheriff Weiss, Ottawa County Sheriff Office
Q&A with DeMario Johnson
10:45am - 11:30am Presentation
Dr. Joel C. Robertson, Founder of Robertson Global Health Solutions Corporation (RGHS) AKA Robertson Health
11:30am - 11:40am Equity Award
Judy Kettring, Chair of Cultural Intelligence Committee (CIC)
11:40am - 12:00pm Updates from the DEI Office; G4G Unveiling of Data, Welcoming Plan and Steering Committee
Leani García Torres, Associate Director for State/Local Initiatives, Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE)
Andrew Lim, Director of Quantitative Research, Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE)
12:00pm - 1:00pm Lunch 1:00pm - 1:30pm Community Initiatives: Library/Community Action House (CAH) Collaboration
Diane Kooiker, Director, Herrick District Library
1:30pm - 2:00pm Community Mental Health (CMH) Critical Incident Response/Jail Mental Health Services
Tim Piers, LMSW, Program Coordinator, CMH
2:00pm - 2:45pm Presentation
Lindsay & Henry Cherry, Founders, I AM Academy
2:45pm - 3:00pm Break 3:00pm - 3:45pm Presentation
Donijo Robbins PhD, Professor of Public Finance, Grand Valley State University (GVSU)
Keith Van Beek, City Manager, Holland
Darnell Blackburn, BA MBA
CEO of PRAT LLC
Darnell has been actively involved in law enforcement for over 27 years. He started his professional law enforcement career as a Michigan State University Police Officer serving a diverse student body population. He later worked as a patrol officer for the Auburn Hills Police Department. He has hands on experience working as a community police officer, undercover narcotics detective, and investigator. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Michigan State University in Psychology. He later continued his education at the University of Phoenix where he received a Master of Arts Degree in Business administration...Continue Reading
For the last 16 years, he has worked for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), which is nationally recognized as leader in the development of training and ethical standards for law enforcement officers. MCOLES sets standards in a variety of areas affecting the law enforcement community throughout the State of Michigan. He is an Adjunct Professor at Macomb Community College. He has experience teaching courses ranging from Criminal Investigations to Business Marketing. He is the founder/creator of “Be the Change” initiative an effort to help encourage more diversity within the law enforcement community.
Sheriff Steve Kempker
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff Kempker began his law enforcement career in the City of Holland in 1980.
Sheriff Kempker became a full-time Road Patrol Deputy with the Sheriff’s Office in October 1989. He worked as a member of the Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol Unit from 1989 through early 1996 and was assigned to a variety of different patrol areas throughout the county and served as a Field Training Officer and Crash Reconstructionist....Continue Reading
Sheriff Kempker has held the ranks of, Deputy, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Undersheriff and serves as the current Sheriff of Ottawa County.
Sheriff Kempker has been a part of many law enforcement related organizations throughout his career, which include: Michigan Association of Traffic Accident Investigators, Office of Highway Safety Planning, Grand Valley State University Police Academy Advisory Board, Grand Rapids Community College Police Academy Advisory Board, Vice Chair of West Michigan Criminal Justice Training Consortium, Ottawa County Mental Health Law Enforcement Committee and various 911 committees and other local and state committees. He has also instructed for Grand Valley State University Police Academy and the West Michigan Criminal Justice Training Consortium. In 2017 Steve was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the Mental Health Diversion Council which he currently serves on. Sheriff Kempker also serves on the Executive Board of HIDTA under the President’s Office of Drug Control and Policy.
Steve is a graduate of Muskegon Community College, Kalamazoo Valley Police Academy, Michigan State University Accident Reconstruction, Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, Northwestern University Executive Management Program, Southern Police Institute Program, National Sheriff’s Institute, He has attended countless professional training seminars along with certification courses over the years.
Undersheriff Valerie Weiss
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
Undersheriff Weiss has 27 years of law enforcement experience. She was appointed the Undersheriff in 2017 by Sheriff Steve Kempker. The Undersheriff oversees Operations of Law Enforcement, Correctional services, Emergency Management as well as the oversight for the budget for the agency. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Captain assigned to the Law Enforcement Division overseeing the Services Unit of this division. She supervised sergeants from various units of the division to include the School Resource Sergeant, Training Sergeant, Community Policing Sergeants assigned to Allendale Township, the City of Hudsonville, the City of Coopersville, Georgetown Township, Holland/Park Townships, Village of Spring Lake, City of Ferrysburg, Grand Haven Township, Zeeland Township, Jamestown Township and the Reserve/Mounted/Marine Units....Continue Reading
Law Enforcement Experience:
- Coopersville Police Department Police Officer 1994
- Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol Deputy 1995
- DARE Instructor Allendale/Jenison Schools 1997
- Georgetown Township Community Policing 1999
- Promoted to rank of School Resource Sergeant 2008
- Promoted to rank of Captain Law Enforcement Services 2014
- Appointed to Undersheriff 2017
Specialized Training and Community Involvement:
- Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement
- Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command 2012
- Seven years Field Training Officer
- Two Years Drug Abuse Resistance Education Instructor
- Twelve Years Community Oriented Policing
- Michigan State Police School Safety Committee
- Michigan State Police Community Engagement Committee
- Vice President of the Crime Prevention Association of Michigan
Management Assistant, City of Long Beach, CA
DeMario Johnson is currently a Management Assistant in the City Manager’s Office for the City of Long Beach, California. Before embarking on this new role, he was the Assistant to the Village Manager in the Village of Spring Lake, Michigan, where he assisted on a range of community development projects. DeMario believes that communities thrive when diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the center of policy making. He received his Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Valley State University in 2020.
Dr. Joel Robertson
Founder & CEO of Robertson Health Companies
Dr. Joel Robertson is the founder and CEO of Robertson Health. Robertson Health is a network of forprofit and non-profit companies with a mission to provide precision medicine and artificial intelligence in the areas of Health, Wellness and Performance. Since its conception Robertson Health has made a lasting impact on healthcare around the world with one common goal in mind: to save lives and improve quality of life through health information technology...Continue Reading
Originally contracted by the Federal Government to develop the National Treatment Protocols for Behavioral Emergencies and as a consultant on the team that developed the National Treatment Protocols for Cardiovascular Emergencies for Emergency Medical Services, Dr. Robertson began his career in private practice in 1982 specializing in his treatment philosophies, which eventually expanded to include two medical practices and 22 on-staff clinicians. From 1978 through 1984, he started two inpatient facilities, three outpatient and day care facilities, and consulted with over 30 inpatient and outpatient chemical dependency and psychiatric facilities. After private practice, Dr. Robertson created Robertson Institute in which he consulted with Fortune 100 companies and lectured for multiple medical associations, as well as other national and international organizations. He has consulted for professional athletic programs and major corporations throughout the world, including the Detroit Red Wings, Leo Burnett Co, General Motors, Fuji Photo Films, Dow Corning, United Airlines, and the Department of Defense.
Leani García Torres
Associate Director of State & Local Initiatives, New American Economy (NAE)
Leani García Torres is Associate Director of State & Local Initiatives at New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan research and advocacy organization making the case for smart, sensible immigration policies in cities, states, and nationally. She has more than nine years of experience working at the intersection of business and public policy in the U.S. and Latin America. Leani holds an MA from New York University's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and a BA in Political Science from California State University, Long Beach.
Director of Quantitative Research, Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE)
Andrew Lim is Director of Quantitative Research at the Partnership for a New American Economy (NAE) a bipartisan research and advocacy organization working to create smart, sensible immigration policies in cities, states, and nationally. He has more than a decade of research experience in international migration, integration, and public policy, through his work with NAE, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Andrew holds an MA in urban policy from the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris–Sciences Po, and an MSc in regional and urban planning from the London School of Economics. He received his BA from Boston College in international relations and French.
Director, Herrick District Library
Diane Kooiker is the Library Director of Herrick District Library. Diane has worked for the library for over 21 years. She obtained her master’s degree in Librarian Sciences from Wayne State University. She obtained a Master of Business Administration from Cornerstone University. And she received her bachelor’s degree in English and History from Hope College.
Tim Piers, LMSW
Program Coordinator, Ottawa County Community Mental Health
Tim Piers, LMSW, is a Program Coordinator with Community Mental Health of Ottawa County. He is currently working to implement comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders in the county jail and develop a Crisis Intervention Team program, with the help of local law enforcement and community partners. Tim has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Grand Valley State University. He serves on the county’s Community Corrections Advisory Board and is a field instructor for the Michigan State University School of Social Work. In his spare time, Tim enjoys supporting the West Michigan addiction recovery community and chasing his two daughters up and down the beach.
Henry and Lindsay Cherry
I AM Academy
Henry and Lindsay Cherry grew up in the West Michigan area and have raised their 5 children in Holland for the last 10 years. They are very involved in their community and have been doing work to build a more inclusive and welcoming community including but not limited to the creation of I AM Academy
Henry Cherry is the Director of Outreach at Christ Memorial Church and is currently working toward his Master’s Degree. He has been involved in his community as a coach, mentor, school administrator, and more. His passion is to break down the barriers within our society and open up the world of possibilities for our youth. Henry primarily serves underserved youth, gang members, and juveniles. He created mentorship programs at Holland Public Schools and served students at West Ottawa Public Schools. As he helps youth find their way, he hopes the work transforms them into leaders who are ready to go make a positive change in our world....Continue Reading
Lindsay Cherry is a passionate educator with over 9 years of experience in education as a Middle School English Teacher and is currently one of the Assistant Principals at West Ottawa High School. She educates, promotes, and advocates for closing the achievement gap for African-American students and for the creation of a more inclusive environment in which ALL students can learn and be successful. Lindsay obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Cornerstone University and is certified to teach grades K - 12. She earned her Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching with an Endorsement in ESL through Aquinas College and recently earned her second Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership through Grand Canyon University.
DoniJo Robbins, PhD
Professor of Public Finance, GVSU
Donijo Robbins is a tenured, full professor of Public Finance at Grand Valley State University. Donijo holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and political science from Central Michigan University, a Master of Arts degree in economics and a PhD in public administration from Rutgers University – Newark.
Prior to joining the faculty at Grand Valley State University, Donijo was a faculty member at the University of Maine. As an expert in public finance and research methodology, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in public budgeting and finance and research methods...Continue Reading
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Donijo serves as a Trustee with the General, Police, and Fire Pension Boards for the City of Grand Rapids; a member of the University Assessment Committee, the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management, American Society for Public Administration, Government Finance Officers Association, and International City/County Management Association. Her previous service includes: Chair of the Faculty, Salary, and Budget Committee at GVSU, Secretary for the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management, Treasurer for Mel Trotter Ministries, President of ISJ Academy School Board, and Comptroller for the City of Grand Rapids.
Donijo is a nationally recognized scholar in the area of research methodology, public finance, and budgeting. Her research methods book is one of the more popular texts used in research methods courses across the country. Additionally, her work has appeared in journals such as Public Performance and Management Review; Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting, & Financial Management; International Journal of Public Administration; and Public Finance & Management. When not geeking out on all things research and finance, you will find Donijo enjoying the outdoors and watching college sports.
Keith Van Beek
City Manager, Holland
Keith Van Beek was selected as the City Manager of the City of Holland in February 2018. He currently provides leadership and direction for this community of 33,500+ residents through the efforts of nearly 275 employees and a general budget of $22 million and fund budget of $196 million dollars.
Before joining the City of Holland, Keith was the Deputy County Administrator for the County of Ottawa. He directed Facilities, Equalization, Veterans Affairs, Community Action Agency, and legislative coordination at the federal and state level. In his role as Deputy County Administrator, Keith also coordinated the administrative functions (Finance, Innovation and Technology, Planning and Performance Improvement, Human Resources and Facilities) for the 32 departments, elected offices and courts of Ottawa County....Continue Reading
Van Beek’s experience in public administration is extensive. He served as City of Kentwood City Administrator for 12 years in a modified strong mayor form of government, working as the chief of staff for the mayor managing 250 city employees. His accomplishments there included the development and management of a $27 million general fund budget, with additional enterprise funds managing water and sewer systems, roads and other municipal infrastructure. The focus of the management team was to develop a five-year budgetary plan through difficult economic times with a millage cap of 7.5061 mills.
Throughout his career, Van Beek has been highly involved in professional associations. He is a credentialed manager in the International City County Management Association (ICMA), past president and former board member of the Michigan Municipal Executives and the West Michigan Municipal Executives; and member of the Michigan Association of County Administrative officials.
Keith has served a number of community organizations and agencies, including as the chairperson of Community SPOKE, an alliance of the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance and Ottawa County Human Services Coordinating Council. Community SPOKE began such conversations as Housing Next to address affordable housing issues. Keith is also the current treasurer of the Greater Ottawa County United Way.
Keith is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, Calvin College, and has a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Valley State University. Keith lives and is actively engaged in the Holland community with his wife, and his teenage daughter and son.
October 20, 2020 - Virtual Forum
GARE: Advancing Racial Equity, The Role of Government: Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE)
This presentation will present a dynamic and powerful conversation around the role, responsibilities and opportunities for government to advance racial equity. They will focus on what it means to normalize racial equity as a core value with clear definitions of key terminology, operationalizing racial equity via new policies and institutional practice, and organizing, both internally and in partnership with other institutions and the community. Participants will gain awareness of the history of race and of implicit and explicit bias and individual, institutional, and structural racism and how it impacts the workplace; gain skill at identifying and addressing institutional and structural racism; and increase capacity to advance racial equity.
How do we address health inequities amid COVID-19 and beyond? Panel Presentation
A large part of public health's work is achieving health equity, eliminating disparities and improving the health of all people. The COVID-19 pandemic magnifies the need for more intervention in certain populations to create an equitable society where all people have the opportunity to achieve their optimal health. Health equity is essential but where do we start? This panel will share how the Ottawa County Department of Public Health uses data to make decisions and develop interventions to address health inequities before, during and after COVID-19. They will provide practical action items and how to inform policymakers and leaders to help make our community a better place. Public health experts know there is still much work to do but they are committed to working together with community members and agencies to assure conditions that promote and protect health for all.Presenter Information
From Ensuring Safety to Building the Community’s Future: The Challenge and Opportunities of Building an Ottawa County that Includes and Celebrates Gender and Sexually Diverse Residents Keynote Presentation by Dr. Mira Krishnan
The Racial Equity Toolkit: A Road Map for Government, Organizations and Communities by Alfredo Hernandez
Leading with Racial Equity – The Ups and Downs of One City’s Journey by Stacy Stout and Patti Caudill
Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation by Ottawa County Cultural Intelligence Committee
City of Grand Rapids Equal Business Opportunity Program by AJ Hill and Patti Caudill
Building Health Equity Capacity by Lisa Stefanovsky and Sandra Lake