Watson Twp. seems to be guilty of ‘crony government’

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

“Pay attention. Connect the dots. Follow the money.” — Me in following political developments for more than 50 years.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a crony simply as “a close friend or companion.”

In business and politics, it has the negative connotation of a collection of like-minded individuals who are “all in it together” and have each other’s back. It smacks of tribalism and clubby behavior.

During my colorful and lengthy career in community journalism I’ve seen examples of cronyism, like when John F. Kennedy appointed his brother attorney general in 1961, but I confess I’ve only recently come across perhaps the best local representation yet — in Watson Township politics.

Go back to October 2016, when the Watson Township Board was made up of four Democrats and one Republican, one of the very few municipalities in Allegan County with a Democratic majority. Four years later the makeup was totally reversed, and some observers maintain the lone remaining Democrat, Clerk Kelli Morris, might as well switch parties.

You have to give a lot of credit to Supervisor Kevin Travis, the Republican who unseated Democrat Pam Brown in 2016 and then made some moves that are nothing short of cronyism.

The first thing Travis engineered was the appointment of Jay Eveland as an unpaid grant writer. She later was appointed to a seat on the Planning Commission. I hear tell she’s a good friend of the supervisor’s.

Then came the traffic death of Democratic Trustee Chuck Andrysiak, who was succeeded by a Republican appointee, Jack Wood, whom I hear tell is a neighbor and friend of Travis.

Two more examples came shortly afterward when Travis, with the consent of the Township Board, appointed a second township attorney in Tom Sivers, who was even given a name plate for meetings. Sivers stepped down only recently and was succeeded by the appointment of Michael Villar, a known friend and ally of Travis, who very publicly supported him in his quest in 2020 to unseat Prosecuting Attorney Myrene Koch and stick it to another enemy, Circuit Judge Marge Bakker.

Then came the action by Travis and the board to hire a zoning enforcement officer, a female former Kent County deputy, who was tasked with performing duties usually reserved for Professional Code Inspections. Granted, Travis insisted PCI wasn’t as aggressive as he’d like in cleaning up instances of rural blight, but the move did increase township expenses. And the township just last month hired its third zoning enforcement officer in just two years.

Travis shepherded the candidacy of Republican Stephanie Caulder for treasurer in the 2020 election, unseating incumbent Democrat Sue Jones. Interestingly, both Caulder and Wood served on the board for less than a total of one term before resigning.

Now comes the hiring of a new township treasurer, who happens to be the wife of the latest zoning enforcement officer. So it’s been a revolving door, with the Friends of Travis usually getting the nod and the job. There’s an old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Let’s be clear: Mr. Travis is not doing anything illegal here. But I have serious questions about ethics. 


  • It seems to be the new normal for the conservative fascist. We’ve seen it happen in Ottawa county and now it’s spreading.

  • Whenever there is a slow news day, you always like to stir up drama, even if it’s weak at best. I’ve called you out for that in dorr, and now you seem to be heading south.

    I’m not well versed of the details of the above, beyond reading your articles, but a few thoughts come to mind:
    1) just how lucrative are all these “buddy deals” you paint as big breaking news items? An “unpaid grant writer,” for example. Did you uncover some front where this job comes with a pension or other wild perks? It sounds like she was appointed to a volunteer job. Scandelous! The Golden parachute on that one is appointment to the planning commission? Woo-hoo
    2) a supervisor builds a team. Do you expect a leader, whether it’s a ceo, president or a supervisor, to surround himself with allies or enemies? You claim to “hear” a lot of stuff. A previous article about the treasurer leaving stated the options were Ms. Davis, or the daughter of the previous treasurer who was voted out of office. Curious how you “hear” all these very benign and uneventful bits of info just days after the family member of a previous board member didn’t get a job in the township. If I’m not mistaken, it seems some of the previous democrat (go figure) board members were involved with some drama on Facebook after the previous elections to attack the current board. I don’t know Ms. Jones or her daughter, so I can’t say whether there is anything there or not, but even as an outsider, that piqued my attention and I would have to consider that in my hiring decisions.
    3) your article said Ms. Davis was hired in a meeting Kevin didn’t even attend, and she was voted on 3-0 by the remaining board members. Meaning Kevin didn’t even hire her. Did any of the board members express any concerns?

    Do you have any actual information of wrongdoings by the supervisor, or any other board members, or are you just reverting back to your usual name smearing to “sell papers?”

  • ‘Defamation- slander & libel….. damaging someone’s good reputation. ‘ Poor, little old man…. Your lack of professionalism is visible as you don’t invest in the true standards of journalism but simply perpetuate your imagined reality.
    Let’s begin: I am a democrat/ independent , not a facist, not a crony, not a friend of Kevin Travis or anyone else on the board. I moved out here and offered to serve when Pam Brown was supervisor. I respect the work of all parties and individuals who serve to build and keep the Township solvent. I am a ‘willing’ volunteer who seeks active citizenry. The reality is that Kevin Travis is not afraid of a democrat or independent, he is not easily bullied, and at this time has ‘his vision’ and direction for the township. His board are really good community servants, and those assigned to ‘positions’ of support are simply trying to serve.
    Please try to get it right! Once again, my name is – Jay Roberts-Eveland

  • What a weird article. Serving the public is constantly becoming less attractive. So many people would never be bold enough to put their personal time on the line or be vulnerable with their plans, but they love to complain about those who do.

    This article says “Let’s be clear: Mr. Travis is not doing anything illegal here.” But it’s clearly implied that the author believes they are being dishonest. However, nothing is laid out in the article except “I hear tell”, which is the most Busch League way of citing your source.

    Write something with substance if you are going to imply misdeeds. Just reading through the posted articles (if you can call them that) are:

    •I don’t like Watson Township
    •School Extracurricular
    •Local Athlete
    •I Don’t like Watson Township

    Seems like there’s an axe to grind.

    • Unfortunately, this is how this editor rolls……….He works from hearsay, personal opinions and “credible ” sources. Let’s all meet at Culvers in Wayland and discuss over a coffee…..


      • His “opinion” is usually little more than a political hack job, throwing out insinuations without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing, and his usual target is conservatives.

        This particular article smacks of local pot-stirrers “informing” him in retaliation of someone not getting a job. It makes me think the board made the right decision to avoid more problems.
        But more importantly, it kinda throws his credibility as a journalist into question.

  • For the record, I have not had any contact with Mr. Young. Any “hearsay“ did not come from me. Ralph Capone, you keep hinting at something that isn’t there. The board made their decision. That’s fine. Their choice. Public positions are time consuming. You need someone willing and able with hopefully some common sense to fill them. They make tough choices about your township and rules for it, and how to spend tax dollars that you paid for. Go to meetings, stay informed, see how your tax dollars are spent. Voice your opinion for a township that you want to live in.

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