SERVICE RECOGNIZED… Members of the Keeler Township Board received plaques from local officials at the board meeting on Nov. 10 in recognition of their time serving. Pictured are (from the left): Rep. Griffin, Carmen Fleischauer (Trustee), Tom Landis (Trustee), Bill Kays (Supervisor) and Senator Nesbitt. (TCR photo by Kelsey Griffith)
Farewells & new faces for the Keeler Township Board
By Kelsey Griffith On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the Keeler Township Board convened at the township fire department to hold their monthly general meeting. Following COVID-19 precautions, the board members in attendance sat behind cough guards while the twenty-two masked meeting attendees were well distanced throughout the fire truck bay for the duration of the meeting. Despite being a general meeting of the board, there was a deep sense of gratitude in the air as four longtime members relinquished their respective positions.
Farewell to a combined 80 years of service During their last meeting, board members Carmen Fleischauer – Trustee, Tom Landis – Trustee, Barbara Fisher – Treasurer, and Bill Kays – Supervisor, were duly honored for their years of service to the Keeler Community. As a special thank you, recently re-elected Representative Beth Griffin of District 66 and Senator Aric Nesbitt of the 26th District attended the meeting and awarded each retiring board member with a plaque. Representative Griffin relayed a message of “deep thanks and appreciation” to the members for their service to the Keeler Community. Combined, the retiring members of the board have nearly 80 years of service to Keeler as board members. Bill Kays, Supervisor, received extra special recognition for his 36 years of service from numerous meeting attendees, current and former board members, longtime friends, Keeler township residents, and Commissioner Rick Boze of the Berrien County Road Commission. Boze read out a unanimous resolution of the Board of County Road Commissioners of Van Buren County in tribute to Kays and presented him with his second plaque of the evening.
A warm welcome Following the outpouring of gratitude for the retiring board members, the new board members were sworn in by Carl Davis, Township Clerk. The new members of the Keeler Township Board include Kenneth Rahn – Trustee, Sharon Clupper – Treasurer, Jerry Morin – Trustee, and taking the helm and replacing Bill Kays as Township Supervisor is Don Blackmond. Though the new members of the board were sworn in during the November 10, 2020 meeting, they will not take office until December 2020.
Keeler showed up at the Polls Also a hot topic at the Keeler general meeting was the recent November election data. Clerk Carl Davis enthusiastically shared that Keeler Township saw the most votes recorded that he has seen during his time as clerk. Overall, Keeler Township saw a total of 1,077 ballots cast, 517 of those being absentee ballots. Based on this data it was noted that nearly 75% of Keeler Township as a whole exercised their right to vote. Davis also reported long lines and echoed the trends of the general election around the country, specifically that absentee ballots took extra time to process, keeping poll workers busy until late in the evening.
Guests of the Board Aside from Representative Beth Griffith and Senator Aric Nesbitt serving as guests of the board for the night, the board welcomed Rick Boze of the Van Buren County Road Commission and the new Van Buren County Undersheriff, Kevin Conklin. While he had the floor, Boze shared that the Road Commission offices are currently closed but the Commission can be reached by telephone. He also relayed that there is information circling pertaining to the monarch butterfly potentially being put on the endangered species list. Boze noted that if this were to occur, some road improvement projects could be affected in the future. Keeping with road projects, the commissioner also shared a County Road Association of Michigan YouTube channel that provides viewers short videos that explain anything from how regravelling of county roads occurs, to information on how much road projects cost. A simple search of County Road Association of Michigan on Google will bring those interested to the YouTube channel and playlist. Lastly, Boze reaffirmed that burning of leaves on the road is illegal in the state of Michigan and can actually damage the roadway. Following Boze’s time, Kevin Conklin introduced himself to the board and attendees as the Van Buren County Undersheriff. Conklin, born and raised in Decatur, recently retired from the Michigan State Police where he served as a trooper. Conklin was first introduced as the new Van Buren County Undersheriff in August of 2019. Undersheriff Conklin relayed well wishes from the sheriff to the retiring board members and welcoming wishes to the new members. Conklin also iterated that folks should not be afraid to contact the department or “give them a shout” if needed.
A new face in the Fire Department Following his request, a stellar record of time as a cadet, and the unanimous approval of the board, Ethan Lubbert, son of Keeler Township’s Assistant fire chief, was recommended as probationary member of the Keeler Fire Department. Lubbert will be taking Fire One and Fire Two next year.
Moving forward with emergency services As the final act of their time on the Keeler Township Board, the board members voted unanimously with supportive comments from the newly sworn in members to move forward with the final agreement with the Cass/Van Buren Emergency Services authority. The contract calls for three ambulances to be shared between seven municipalities, with one ambulance being stationed in Keeler Township. Per the contract, there is a 90-day out in which the township can pull their contract within 90 days for any reason.
Final sign off As the meeting drew to a close, the board members again shared their honor and privilege in serving the township and extended their congratulations to their successors. Bill Kays signed off with special thanks and gratitude to attendees saying, “We can’t do this without you guys coming to the meetings and helping us get through, run the township, and support what we’re trying to do. The board can’t act unless the citizenship supports it. You guys have done that very well.”
The Keeler Township Board held their general meeting and another Weed District Public Hearing on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, via a Zoom call. Township Supervisor Bill Kays led the meeting, which saw upwards of 20 attendees, including a few special guests of the board.