Governor Rick Snyder has just announced that former legislator Patty Birkholz will be appointed director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. The Office of the Great Lakes was created by the Michigan Legislature in 1985 to provide central leadership on Great Lakes policy issues. Birkholz will succeed Ken DeBeaussaert, who held the position for 8 years in Governor Granholm’s administration.
This is fantastic news for Michigan and the Great Lakes. When asked for input on the position by the Snyder transition team and staff leadership, Patty Birkholz was my (and many others) first choice. A Republican from Saugatuck (on the shores of Lake Michigan), Patty Birkholz has distinguished herself in a decade of service in the legislature, where she chaired the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee for the past 8 years. She played a huge part in passage of the Great Lakes Compact (often working behind the scenes to build support across the region) and steered the development of Michigan’s innovative water withdrawal law.
Senator Birkholz was also the lead author of the Michigan law that regulates ballast water discharges in the Great Lakes to prevent the spread of invasive species. When shipping companies brought a Constitutional law challenge against the ballast water regulations, Senator Birkholz and other legislative leaders joined the State of Michigan in successfully defending the regulations in federal court. I had the honor of representing Senator Birkholz and the other legislative leaders (pro bono, of course) through the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and we got a great result in the fight against invasive species.
Patty Birkholz has the knowledge, skills, experience, passion, and strategic ability to continue to advance Great Lakes policy from her new position. I expect her to focus on Great Lakes water management, controlling the spread of aquatic invasive species, and initiating regional collaborations and solutions for the Great Lakes. She is a superb leader and advocate for Great Lakes protection, and we are lucky to have her continuing to serve the state in the new Snyder administration.