Scott VanSingel hopes to continue being part of Lake County

Former Michigan legislator: 'Lake County is my home away from home'

Editor's note: Getting to know our community is a special feature periodically written in the Star. Each person has a story to share, hobbies, experiences and wisdom learned from life. The Star is reaching out to people in the Lake County area of all ages and walks of life to interview.

LAKE COUNTY — With his last day in his Lansing office Dec. 8, 2022, Scott VanSingel, who was a representative in the Michigan House of Representatives for the 100th District since Jan. 2017, ends his time serving residents of Lake, Newaygo and Oceana counties.

The Grant native, calls Lake County a "home away from home." In fact, he was the last representative of the house to serve the whole of Lake County before it was split between the 100th and 101st districts in the 2022 election.

During his three terms, VanSingel made himself part of the community, and could be seen volunteering every year at the Baked Potato Supper fundraiser for the Lake County Community Foundation, or racing in the Salmon Run or around Big Star Lake on Labor Day weekend.

From festivals and parades throughout the county to charitable events, to sitting in on local government meetings, to hosting his own office hours in Irons, Luther and Baldwin, VanSingel was a familiar face to folks, and he was someone who would listen to their concerns and help them search for solutions.

"I enjoyed the quarterly township association meetings," he said. "I made as many of those as I could. You get a chance in one evening to talk to people from every corner of the county to see what's on their mind, and I always found people in Lake County to be brutally honest. And they didn't care about (political) parties, either. Not all of them were the same background or party as me, but we were able to have really good conversations."

During his three terms, VanSingel was chairman of the Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, vice-chair of the Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) Committee and a member on the appropriations committees for Joint Capital Outlay, School Aid, Michigan Department of Education, Military and Veterans and Michigan State Police.

VanSingel reflected on some of the different roles he served in various committees.

"It's interesting, some of the issues I thought would be most important when I was running for office, were things we never really worked with, as there's always surprise issues that would pop up. S,o I have a farming background, and agriculture was an interest of mine, and I never served on the agriculture committee and very few things I worked on were agriculture related," he said.

"I ended up gravitating more toward education and transportation and natural resources. The school safety committee I was on in my last term we ended up passing some bills, due to the shooting that happened in Oxford, that legalized door barricade devices in schools. That was not on my radar when I ran for office. School safety ended up being one of the bigger accomplishments."

PART OF THE COMMUNITY

Now being term-limited, VanSingel is still figuring out future plans.

"I'm still on the job hunt. I was hoping to have that wrapped up by the end of my term and it hasn't happened. But talking to a lot of my former colleagues, they're in the same position. I have a couple of good leads, but I'm not going to move. I'll still be around," he said.

VanSingel does plan to stay connected to the community, as he does have a place in Lake County and roots that go back.

"Some of the people I worked with in Lake County became friends, and I would love to see those friendships continue," he said. "I definitely will keep coming back, and I still want to serve the community in some way, I just don't know what that's going to look like yet. There's a pretty good chance I wouldn't be in elected office, but there's other ways to serve the community, so I'm going to figure that out.

"I have a place on the Little Manistee River that's been in the family for three generations, so Lake County is my home away from home. I come up here as much as I possibly can. I love trout fishing, and some of the best trout streams in the world are in Lake County. I love grouse hunting, and some of the best grouse hunting spots I know also are in Lake County. I do a little deer hunting in the fall, but that hasn't been very successful."

VanSingel said the nature of the area really draws him.

"I used to snowmobile up there a lot, but I haven't done that in years. Just in general, I always enjoyed forestry and so much of the county is forest. I just love being out in the woods, whether I'm carrying a gun or a fishing pole or just out for a walk, you can't help but feel at peace when you're out in the woods," he said.

Another interest of VanSingel's is the rich and tangible history of the county.

"I always loved history in general, but I always loved Michigan's logging era, and Lake County was right in the very heart of that," he said. "If you know what to look for, there's still some remnants as far as charred pine stumps and railroad beds that go through the middle of the woods. There's things like that you could still find as evidence of that lumber era.

"One of my favorite fishing spots on the Little Manistee River there's actually a whole train bridge laying on the bottom of the river that you can still see that would have been from the late 1800s. Its like they just sunk it when they abandoned the railroad tracks."

MOVING FORWARD

With new representation in the 100th and 101st districts, VanSingel said he would like to see constituents hold the elected officials accountable for problem solving.  

"That was one of my big frustrations in my last term that we were just bombarded with conspiracy theories that people wanted us to follow up on and we never got around to fixing real problems like our road funding deficit, our school pension debt," he said. "Tell them, 'this is what we want of you, to fix these real life problems instead of pandering to the extremists on both sides of the aisle.'"

In closing of his interview with the Star, VanSingel offers readers these words of wisdom, based on his experience these past few years.

"Demand integrity out of your elected officials, but also treat them like people, because we're all just normal people that have interesting jobs temporarily," he said. "Be respectful, build relationships with them and you're much more likely to be successful in having them fix the problems that you have, rather than burning bridges with them.

"People on both sides of the aisle, if they're any good, genuinely care about their constituents. It's not as polarized as people think. I didn't only work for Republicans, I tried to help everybody that needed my help, and I would say most elected officials will do that if you're reasonably respectful to them.

"I'm going to miss this. Honestly, of my three counties, Lake County was my favorite just because of how genuine the people were and kind. I met so many new friends in the county, and people were genuinely interested to talk to me and I found so many of them interesting to talk to as well and really am going to miss that."