I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wes Nakagiri has no business being chair of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. And if you need further proof why, a single moment at Monday’s Livingston County Board of Commissioners meeting showed us the level of partisan crassness to which Nakagiri will stoop to get his political way. (Trust me when I tell you that it’s way, way low.) And it reinforces what we’ve suspected all along: that Nakagiri views his role as chair of the board more akin to that of a general in the culture wars than as a facilitator for the greater good. There’s only one community to which Nakagiri is in service, and I am here to tell you that it’s not Livingston County.
Which brings us to the moment in which Nakagiri laid his political soul bare.
For months now, Nakagiri has wanted to replace former Commissioner Steve Williams as Livingston County’s representative on the Huron Clinton Metroparks Board. Though the county board’s nominating committee advanced Williams for the position, Nakagiri changed the rules so he could advance his own pick: the Rev. William Bolin of Floodgate Renewal Church, famous in these parts for continuing to hold in-person services throughout the course of the pandemic.
Why would Nakagiri spend months waging a battle to replace someone who by all accounts served well on a board few in Livingston County even know exists? Williams, who was seeking reappointment, is no slouch when it comes to conservative bonafides, but his support of the Metroparks diversity, equity and inclusion training for its employees was one culture war talking point too much for Nakagiri. (For more about the Nakagiri versus Williams battle, click here.)
And then, adding insult to the injury he was about to see inflicted on Williams, Nakagiri rolled out the red carpet for his boy Bolin to attend Monday’s meeting and address the board, while neglecting to do the same for the incumbent Williams.
That’s pretty cold, don’t you think?
Nakagari’s maneuver became apparent when, after outlining how the vote was to go, he gave “the candidates” 5 minutes each to address the board before the decision was made. Bolin was there, but where was Williams?
“I mentioned to Mr. Bolin that he’d have time to speak,” Nakagiri said. “I assumed the supporters of Mr. Williams would do the same thing.”
Next came the awkward moment when everyone at the meeting realized what Nakagiri had done — inviting his hand-picked candidate to speak at the meeting while neglecting to do the same for the man he was foaming at the mouth to replace. It was as if Nakagiri quickly dropped his pants to moon decorum and decency and fair play.
The board sat for a moment in stunned silence. What should it do with its chair’s naked, clumsy attempt to out-and-out screw over a candidate for an appointment?
Commissioner Carol Sue Reader said she felt it was “inappropriate” for the board to move forward with a vote without Williams in attendance.
“I don’t think that we should penalize Mr. Bolin, or deny Mr. Bolin the opportunity to address the board” Nakagiri said, as Bolin sat in the audience, locked and loaded, and Williams was nowhere to be seen. Nakagiri said it was “unfortunate” that Williams wasn’t there, and said the situation — the one totally of his making — was “a little bit awkward.”
It was about to get a little more awkward for Nakagiri. Commissioner Doug Helzerman joined Reader in noting that Nakagiri hadn’t invited both candidates.
A light bulb went off in Nakagiri’s head, and he suggested to Helzerman that since he was supporting Williams, how about he take those 5 minutes and make the case for Williams to the board himself.
“Absolutely not,” Helzerman said, and when the board broke for a 5-minute recess, he directed Nakagiri to call Williams himself and get him to appear at the meeting.
“You call him,” Helzerman said.
And so Nakagiri did.
Unlike Bolin’s “no white guilt” spiel about DEI, Williams appeared via Zoom and gave a great off-the-cuff presentation, knowing full well that he likely didn’t have enough votes to continue on the Metroparks board.
And then the vote came.
Voting to appoint Bolin were Nakagiri, Jay Gross, Brenda Plank, Jay Drick, and Martin Smith. Voting to appoint Williams were Doug Helzerman, Carol Sue Reader, Carol Griffith, and Mitchell Zajac.
Nakagiri, er, Bolin, won.
And in that same moment, fairness, decency, and Livingston County lost.
I wrote in June that Nakagiri didn’t have the right stuff to be chair of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners after he dissed U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin — who represents Michigan’s 8th District, which includes all of Livingston County, in Washington, D.C. — and refused to put her on the agenda to address the board. For the record, Slotkin did speak at a subsequent county board meeting, though Nakagiri wasn’t big enough to extend the apology he owed her.
Instead of a culture warrior at the till of its government, Livingston County needs a steady hand, someone who approaches the job with a big-picture, good-for-everyone attitude. Nakagiri is showing us time and time again that he is unfit to lead the board.
You can read WHMI’s story about the meeting by clicking here.