Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

November 28, 2010

Dick Posthumus brings plenty of experience to Snyder's team

LANSING (AP) — Dick Posthumus wasn't looking for a job when he fired off an e-mail in mid-October to Rick Snyder, a fellow Republican who would soon be elected Michigan's next governor.

Posthumus, a former state legislative leader and lieutenant governor who most recently helped run a west Michigan furniture company, was merely offering some advice to Snyder — a former Gateway computer executive and venture capitalist making his first foray into politics with his gubernatorial run.

Posthumus told Snyder that he has a chance to make history as he seeks to govern Michigan out of tough times that have ravaged the economy and the state budget. But Posthumus also noted Snyder faces a big challenge because he's an outsider who has no experience with getting things done at the state Capitol in Lansing.

"I told (Snyder) I thought he had a great opportunity, but at the same time I told him he had a real challenge in that because he was so much from the outside he didn't have people around him who really knew the process," Posthumus said in a recent phone interview with The Associated Press. "Getting things done in the public sector is different than in the private sector. I suggested he look to get somebody who really understood that."

Snyder liked the advice so much he decided to hire Posthumus as a senior adviser leading the administration's relations with the Legislature. It took some arm-twisting, but the governor-elect finally persuaded the 60-year-old Posthumus to come out of retirement and help his team.

"Dick Posthumus has as much or more knowledge of how state government works than anyone in Michigan, and he also knows what it takes to run a business," Snyder said earlier this month when announcing the appointment.

Posthumus will have some family ties in the Legislature when he returns to the Capitol. His daughter, Lisa Posthumus Lyons of Kent County's Bowne Township, will be a state House freshman Republican starting in January.

Republicans will hold sizeable majorities over Democrats in both the House and Senate as Snyder takes office, vowing to improve the state's business climate and re-examine government spending. The Posthumus appointment as legislative adviser has been well-received by leaders in both parties.

Posthumus, after spending much of his career at Michigan's state Capitol, found himself on the outside after losing to Democrat Jennifer Granholm is a bid to become governor in 2002. Granholm won 51 percent of the vote compared to 47 percent for Posthumus, who had served the previous four years as lieutenant governor under longtime ally Republican Gov. John Engler.

His ties to Engler date back to when both were farm kids studying agriculture at Michigan State University. Posthumus helped Engler pull off a Republican primary upset over incumbent Rep. Russell Strange in 1970, launching a political career that would help shape Michigan for decades.

Posthumus was elected to the state Senate and represented his west Michigan district from 1983-98. He served as Senate majority leader from 1991-98 before joining Engler in the governor's administration.

After losing his own gubernatorial bid, Posthumus moved to the private sector with Compatico Inc. — a Grand Rapids-based office furniture company — in 2003. He served as the company's president and CEO before retiring this year.

He stepped down because his wife, Pam Posthumus, was sick. She died of cancer in August.

Dick Posthumus, and those closest to him, say Pam Posthumus would have wanted him to rejoin state government in an effort to improve Michigan for future generations. The state had a 12.8 percent jobless rate in October, second-highest in the nation, and Michigan's population has stagnated as young people seek employment options out-of-state.

"I know she would have wanted me — for our grandkids — to get back and see if we can make a difference," Posthumus said. "So I'm doing it for her."

Lisa Posthumus Lyons, her husband and four children live just a few miles from her father's west Michigan home near Alto. The region outside of Grand Rapids is loaded with corn and soybean fields and other farmland, much like the elder Posthumus worked for decades even while serving in the state Legislature.

It's a conservative, family-oriented region that helped shape the politics of both father and daughter. Posthumus Lyons, 30, was a legislative aide before moving to a public policy and community outreach job with the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors.

"Both my parents set a good example for service — use the skills God has blessed you with to make this place better," Posthumus Lyons said. "There needs to be leadership in Lansing in order for my kids to stay (in Michigan) and for my friends' kids to stay as they grow."

The decisions facing Posthumus Lyons and other lawmakers will be tough ones, Dick Posthumus said, as they look to cut government spending and craft policies aimed at sparking job creation. His advice to lawmakers is to remember their roots and work together to build a better future for Michigan.

"Michigan is like a troubled company in the sense that its finances aren't in order right now and its people are in trouble," Posthumus said. "We've got to make some very difficult decisions — and we've got to be able to do that and look beyond the politics. Don't look for blame. There's enough blame to be tossed around for everybody. So this isn't about blame. It's got to be about finding an answer."

AP-WF-11-27-10 1448GMT

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