West Michigan business community sends thanks, beer, to Snyder

Brett VanderKamp, president of New Holland Brewery, hands former Gov. Rick Snyder a six-pack in his honor, June 6, 2019 | Grand Rapids Area Chamber

Former Gov. Rick Snyder used his first major public appearance since leaving office in January to share thoughts on the differences between being a two-term executive in the public sector versus his decades in the corporate world.

A former technology executive, venture capitalist and self-proclaimed “nerd,” Snyder spoke in Grand Rapids on Thursday afternoon before hundreds of business leaders at an event hosted by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. The Republican was interviewed on stage by Joan Budden, president and CEO of Priority Health, a health insurance company.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave a video address before former Gov. Rick Snyder’s speech, June 6, 2019 | Grand Rapids Area Chamber

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who succeeded Snyder, gave a brief, pre-recorded video message to the crowd before Snyder came on stage.

Sporting a trim beard, Snyder urged executives to consider running for office, calling it a “wonderful experience.” But he also noted the increased “scrutiny” that comes with being the state’s top executive, both for himself and his family.

That’s particularly true, he said, when compared with his time in the private sector.

“Everything is underneath the microscope,” Snyder said. “I thought when I was in the private sector I was fairly active in communications. I would give interviews on a regular basis. It wasn’t even [close] to what I had in this role, where literally we figured out that I did one interview per calendar day, every day when I was governor.”

Former Gov. Rick Snyder and Joan Budden, president and CEO of Priority Health, June 6, 2019 | Nick Manes

But for those who might heed his call to run for office, Snyder offered a few cautionary measures, specifically, “know who you represent.” Snyder said he’d frequently hear from lobbyists using flattery to push certain policies, as well as from protesters opposed to his governorship.  

“I can tell you that in each and every case I listened to them, I respected them and I understood that was part of the process,” Snyder said.

“But to put it into perspective, my role wasn’t to make them happy,” he continued. “My job was to represent 10 million people and to make the decisions I believe were the best for all those people in terms of going through that process.”

Beyond that, Snyder joked about his personal style of eschewing ties and shared his thoughts on Michigan’s growing entrepreneurial landscape.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder and Joan Budden, president and CEO of Priority Health, June 6, 2019 | Grand Rapids Area Chamber

One thing he didn’t do, however, was weigh in on current Michigan news. Since leaving office six months ago, Snyder, who was term-limited from running again, has maintained a low profile, mostly spending time with family and declining to comment on state policy or political issues.

That’s in contrast to his former lieutenant governor, Brian Calley, who’s now president of the Small Business Association of Michigan and has stayed in the political mix, sometimes allying himself with Whitmer.

Snyder broke his silence briefly earlier this week, tweeting his displeasure with what he called “sloppy and misleading” media reports on search warrants executed two weeks ago on his and other former administration officials’ former state-issued mobile devices as part of the Flint water crisis investigation.

Snyder slams ‘sloppy’ media reporting tied to Flint search warrants

The Republican garnered several rounds of applause from the assembled business leaders, particularly with his calls for “civility.” He also was given his own branded six-pack of craft beer by Brett VanderKamp, president of New Holland Brewery.

The beer, VanderKamp said, was called “Relentless Positive Ale,” a play on Snyder’s longtime slogan of “Relentless Positive Action.”

“We want to thank you for the positive impact you had on the state and positive impact specifically you’ve had on business,” VanderKamp said, handing him the cans.

Nick Manes
Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.


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