Diversity Forum

2022 Diversity Forum

2022 Diversity Forum - October 27, 2022

2022 Ottawa County Diversity Forum: Cornerstone of Democracy

Thursday, October 27, 2022

$60 (+ $4 Web Convenience Fee)

Pinnacle Center | Hudsonville

This event will be held live and virtually.

The Excellence in Equity Award

The Excellence in Equity Award is presented at the annual Diversity Forum. The award recognizes individuals who impact the public sector field in Ottawa County and focus on the importance of equity through their practices, programs, policies and decision making.
Nomination Form
Speaker & Panelist Biographies »

Diversity Forum Agenda

8 - 8:45AM Check In & Breakfast
8:45 - 9AM Welcome
John Shay, Administrator, Ottawa County
9 - 9:45AM Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in County Government: Myths, Facts & Opportunities
  • Ophelia Bitanga-Isreal, Sr. Program Manager-Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, National Association of Counties (NACo)
  • Steve Currie, Executive Director, Michigan Association of Counties (MAC)
  • Phil Kuyers, Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, NACo Board member & Board Chair of MAC
10 - 10:15AM Networking Activity
10:15 - 11:15AM Ottawa County Learning Communities of Practice Panel
The Society of Diversity defines a "community of practice (CoP) as a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic. With that in mind, they come together to fulfill both individual and group goals." Ottawa County formed an LCoP comprised of municipal leaders working together to build their knowledge, practice and understanding of DE&I in local government. A panel of local municipal leaders will share their findings, outcomes and lessons learned as it informs their service delivery to all residents.

  • Esther Fifelski, Human Relations Director, City of Holland
  • Dave Koster, General Manager, Holland Board of Public Works
  • Marianne Manderfield, Public Information Manager, City of Holland
  • Tyra Jonas, Communications Specialist, Village of Spring Lake
  • Andrew Boatright, General Manager, Zeeland Board of Public Works
  • LeighAnn Mikesell, Interim City Manager, City of Muskegon
  • Keith Van Beek, Manager, City of Holland
11:15 - 11:30PM Excellence in Equity Award & Sponsor Presentation
Joe Matthews, Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Gentex
12:45 - 1:45PM Creating a Place Where You Belong: The Journey
Creating a welcoming environment that embraces new Americans and immigrants is key to our continued economic success. Ottawa County's Welcoming Plan initiative aims to help all residents, businesses, organizations, and communities coordinate efforts that meet the challenges and seize opportunities that arise with changing demographics. Panel will open with an economic overview of immigrants in Ottawa County, followed with reflections from local stakeholders on their respective journeys toward a stronger and more inclusive communities and workforces. Panelists will describe how their efforts and activities welcome and support newcomers. Discussion and Q/A from audience to follow.

  • Gloria Lara, Executive Director, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance
  • Paul Sachs, Director of Strategic Impact, Ottawa County
  • Danielle Smith, VP of Global Human Resources, Shape Corp
  • Jodi Owczarski, President, West Coast Chamber
  • Daniel Quintanilla, Director of Talent Acquisition, Gentex
2 - 2:50PM Why Mediation at a Time Like This?
Join Penny Shuff of Mediation Services and Liz DeLaLuz of United Way, as they explain how mediation can be used as a tool to promote peace within ourselves and within our community, even during these times of escalating conflict. Hear about efforts to raise awareness especially among diverse communities and establish trust in the mediation process.
2:50 - 3PM Closing Remarks
Keith Van Beek, Manager, City of Holland

Previous Diversity Forums

  • 2021

    2021 Diversity Forum

    2021 Diversity Forum - October 20, 2021

    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.


    8:15am Welcome
    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)
    3:45pm Closing
    Keith Van Beek, City Manager, Holland

    Presenter Information

    Darnell Blackburn

    Darnell Blackburn, BA MBA

    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

    Sheriff Steve Kempker

    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

    Undersheriff Valerie Weiss

    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

    DeMario Johnson

    DeMario Johnson
    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.

    Joel Robertson

    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

    Leani Garcia Torres

    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.

    Andrew Lim

    Andrew Lim
    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.

    Diane Kooiker

    Diane Kooiker
    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

    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

    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

    DoniJo Robbins

    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

    Keith Vanbeek

    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

  • 2020

    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
  • 2019