A standing-room only crowd filled White Lake Township hall Monday as State Rep. Jim Runestad was sworn into office during a local inauguration ceremony.
Elected in November after what he referred to as a “tough campaign,” Runestad steps into the seat vacated by term-limited Eileen Kowall represent Michigan’s 44th District communities of Milford Township – which includes the Village of Milford – as well as Highland Township, White Lake Township, Springfield Township, and part of Waterford Township.
“I think (Runestad) will do a marvelous job,” said Kowall, who attended Monday’s ceremony. “He’s hard-working, honest and connected to people. He’ll be a good representative for the people of the 44th District, and that includes me.”
State House 93rd District Rep. Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt Township – speaker pro tempore for the House 2015-2016 legislative session – spoke during the event, offering Runestad a few word of advice.
“The first thing I tell people who are going into politics is to make certain you are being respectful to every person you come in contact with,” Leonard said. “I don’t care if it’s a member of the opposite party, if it’s someone higher… or lower than you. One, it’s just the right thing to do, but two… you never know… if you are going to need that person. There’s a lot of people in Ionia County right now that never knew a lowly county commissioner by the name of Brian Calley would soon become the lieutenant governor of the State of Michigan.”
Leonard also advised Runestad to “make certain there’s no job below you,” and to “never forget to be thankful” to those who supported his campaign.
Before administering the oath of office, Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court Judge Michael Warren recited a portion of the Declaration of Independence, telling the crowd of supporters he’s known Runestad “a very, very long time.”
“He is going to take an oath to the Michigan Constitution and the United States Constitution,” Warren said. “Those constitutions are built on the Declaration of Independence, and it’s a passion he and I share; it’s not always true that all our elected officials know, in depth, our Constitution and Declaration, but Jim does. Over the years as a county commissioner he’s been on the forefront for making sure we remember those things.”
Runestad thanked his supporters, giving special acknowledgment to his wife and children.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be sworn in and start this new adventure,” said Runestad, who served six years with the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. “I feel I can make a big impact; I feel I was able to do a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish at Oakland County, and I feel I will be able to accomplish a lot of those same things at the state level.”
For starters, Runestad said he wants to bring the e-verify system, which he instituted in Oakland County, to the state level. The Internet-based system allows employers to determine a prospective employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S.
While committee appointments for the House had not been made before Monday’s ceremony, Runestead, an insurance agent, said he requested a seat on the health and insurance committees, as well as children, family, seniors and judiciary.
Committee announcements were expected Wednesday in Lansing.
A number of Runestad’s family members were on hand during Monday’s event along with dozens of supporters, elected officials from both the state and level and other community leaders.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Runestad’s wife, Kathy Runestad, after the ceremony. “I’m very proud of him and the work he’s done. He’s an honest, good, genuine person, and when he says he’ll get something done, he’ll get it done.”
Runestad’s brother and sister-in-law made sure to arrive early to claim front-row seats.
“We’re extremely proud; obviously this is quite an accomplishment,” said Ron Runestad, a Metamora resident. “Over the years, we’ve had some intense family discussions about all kinds of issues. It’s been a passion of Jim’s for a long time to be able to serve and make a difference.”
Sister-in-law Sherry Runestad agreed.
“I admire the passion he has,” she said. “It’s just something that burns from within.”
[email protected] | 248-390-7396
Local office hours
State Rep. Jim Runestad will hold local office hours the first Saturday of each month at the following locations:
Dave & Amy’s, 9595 Highland Road, White Lake, 8-9 a.m.
Colasanti’s Market, 468 South Milford Road, Highland, 10-11 a.m.
Bakers of Milford, 2025 South Milford Road, noon-1 p.m.