As treasurer of Laketown Township, Gary Dewey knows the numbers:
He’s 76 years old.
He’s lived in Allegan County for 72 years.
He’s lived in Laketown Township for 50 years.
He’s been on a township board or commission for 34 years.
“About 65 to 70 percent of my life has been devoted to the township,” he said after announcing on July 5 that he would be retiring from the township board on July 31. “It’s time to reduce my community commitments to spend more time with family and take care of my health.
“I must say, it’s been a pleasure to serve,” he told his fellow board members.
The board on Wednesday, July 12, appointed Jim Johnson, a current trustee, as treasurer effective Aug. 1.
The board is now seeking a replacement for the trustee position.
Dewey grew up in Wayland and attended Michigan State University. In 1974, he accepted a position as a science teacher at Holland Chrisitan where he worked for 35 years, including time as a middle school principal.
Dewey was an election worker then served on the Laketown Township Parks Commission from 1988 through 1991, and in 1992, ran for township board.
“I didn’t even stay up to get the election results. I didn’t think we’d win,” he said with a laugh. He did – and found out when his wife woke him up to tell him. He’s been on the board ever since.
He’s also served on the zoning board of appeals and planning commission.
Fellow board members
Fellow board members and officials thanked Dewey on July 12 for his decades of service.
“You’re a prime example of dedication, commitment and service,” township Supervisor Linda Howell said. “For everything you’ve taught me, I say thank you. For everything you’ve done, I say thank you.”
Trustee Jim Delaney and incoming treasurer Johnson also thanked Dewey for his guidance and service.
“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Johnson said.
“You know, I have small feet,” Dewey joked.
Township Manager Al Meshkin hugged Dewey after the meeting.
“I have worked with Gary for over 30 years. He has always worked and voted in the best interest of the township, never in self-interest,” Meshkin said. “I hope future board members follow his example. He will be missed on the township board.”
Past and future
Dewey’s decades of experience have given him perspective on the township.
Key issues from the last three decades include acquiring the Felt Mansion and Shore Acres Park from the state, hiring Meshkin – “He truly loves the township,” Dewey said — the construction of the current fire station and the continuing professionalism of the fire department, and the master plan.
A key to the future is how the township handles growth, the balance between development and maintaining the rural environment.
Another challenge will be combating divisiveness in politics. He wants residents to work positively together for the good of the community.
“I believe strongly in civil discourse. We can sit down and have discussions and remain friends,” he said. “We can’t be pulled apart by pettiness. We should be less judgmental and be willing to be good listeners.”
Though Dewey is stepping aside from the township board at the end of the month, he will remain active, serving as the township representative to the Herrick District Library Board, the Graafschap Fire Department Board and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council Community Enhancement Program that allocates grants to support local projects.
“As long as the board wants me to serve, I’ll serve,” he said.