Meet the cabinet

Jess Hodge

In their longest meeting of the semester, Grand Valley State University’s student senate nominated, voted on and elected the cabinet members for the 2017-18 school year. 

During the five-and-a-half-hour long meeting, it was clear the members on the newly-elected body were taking these elections seriously. For each position, each candidate was allotted a five-minute speech, after which there were 15 minutes, or five questions, allowed for questions from the senators and then 10 minutes for a discussion. 

The first position to fill was president. Although he ran unopposed for this seat, it wasn’t set that Jonathan Bowman would win. If senators felt he wouldn’t be a good fit, they could vote “no confidence” in the secret ballot vote. However, senators spoke highly of Bowman and shared their excitement to see him as president of senate.

Bowman won the election and will be the next student senate president, taking the place of current president Ella Fritzemeier. 

During his speech, Bowman stated his goals for the senate and for GVSU. He had four main points he wants to work on in the following year: focus on the senate body as a whole, connection with the student body, strengthen relationships with departments on campus and making sure that senate reaches out to the community and represents all campuses.

“We need a plan moving forward in a mindset of continuously improving ourselves, and I have a vision to attain this,” Bowman said. “I believe that student senate has a lot of untapped potential. There is so much we could accomplish if we are aiming high, holding each other to a standard and have the correct leadership to get us there.”

Bowman has been on the campus affairs committee for two years and said he felt this allows him to be a great resource for not only other cabinet members, but for all senators, new and returning. 

And it wasn’t just the current senators who supported Bowman either. Previous senators and vice presidents filled the gallery for a chance to speak during public comment and endorse those who thought deserved and were qualified for the opportunity to be on senate’s cabinet. 

“Jon is honestly the best person for this position,” said Julia Sturvist, a previous student senator. “He’s going to be an amazing president and you guys are going to be in fantastic hands.”

The next position to fill was for vice president. This position was previously known as the executive vice president, but was changed this year for clarity. 

Originally in the race was Dan Ziegenfelder and Emma Sluiter. However, Sluiter withdrew her candidacy after feeling she could serve senate better in a different position, leaving Ziegenfelder to run unopposed for vice president. Ziegenfelder has been on senate for two years and is also involved in Laker Traditions. His speech focused on how his experience working with the student body will help him in this position.

“I joined student senate because I was, and still am, genuinely passionate about improving GVSU so all students want to drop down their anchor at this spectacular institution,” he said. “Thanks to my time on senate, I have the knowledge and understanding to be the most effective leader in this role. The vice president focuses on the internal operations of senate as well as working with the chairs to make sure they are continually moving forward on their projects.”

Ziegenfelder received praise, endorsements and compliments from people in the room.

“(Dan) knows this position and senate probably better than anyone in this room besides Ella and Sean,” said Noelle Milad, the previous vice president of the public relations committee. “He is the most supportive person I’ve ever met in my entire life. Always willing to help people with projects, give advice, be your friend and finding other ways to assist.

“He will always put you guys first.”

Ziegenfelder won the election and will be the next vice president of senate, following Sean O’Melia. 

Next were the nominations and elections for the chairs of each of the seven committees. These position were formerly known as vice presidents of their respective committee, but were changed to chair. 

The position for chair of the senate resources committee had four candidates running, the most of the night. River Gibbs, Kevin Chui and Amela Mandzuckic were nominated in the previous meeting. Sluiter received a nomination to run and she accepted, joining the other three candidates at the front of the room. 

When it comes to voting, there must be a majority plus one for a candidate to be elected. The vote came between Chui and Sluiter and after a second vote, Chui came out victorious. 

“I’ve known Kevin since he started at Grand Valley, he’s everywhere, like literally everywhere,” said Alexander Turnbull, a previous senator. “And having seen the work he’s done for the past three years, I genuinely believe he is the best SRC candidate. He’s approachable, he’s determined (and) he has the ability to talk to people on both sides of the aisle which is really lacking these days.”

Chair for the finance committee was also a contested election. It was between Olivia Kolc and Carley Aller. Both focused on the cultural and appropriations committee during their speeches. Aller emerged the winner of the election. 

For the chair of the campus affairs committee, Rachel Jenkin ran unopposed and won. She gave her speech via video as she was not able to be present for the meeting. 

Eric-John Szezpaniack also ran unopposed and won the election for the next chair of the educational affairs committee. 

Joe Cadreau and Maddie Rhoades were the candidates running for chair of the diversity affairs committee. Rhoades was previously elected to the same postion for this recent semester after her vice president stepped down. She maintained her position and won the election. 

Jakob Bigard ran unopposed for the chair of external relations committee. He won the election. 

The chair for the public relations committee had two candidates: Morgan Mattler and Rachel Reynolds. Mattler has run senate’s Twitter account since he was elected in the fall and ended up winning the election.