IONIA — With humble beginnings from the small village of Hubbardston, Janae Cooper now finds herself with responsibilities that stretch to every corner of Ionia County.
On Tuesday, Cooper was sworn in by 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ron Schafer as Ionia County clerk after being elected in November.
“I’m a lifelong resident of the area, so I’m really excited,” Cooper said. “I was always interested in helping out my community, I wasn’t specifically seeking it out when I fell into this position, but it presented itself to me one day and I decided to try it out. I found I have a niche for it.”
As county clerk, Cooper and her staff will be responsible for multiple duties including handling all vital records in the county, such as birth and death certificates. Cooper will also serve as clerk to 8th Judicial Circuit Court, processing all pleadings within the court, as well as handling all county elections “from start to finish.”
“It’s a very fast-paced office, but elections are actually my favorite part of the job,” Cooper said. “I find it extremely challenging, but I think that’s what I like the most about it.
Cooper was previously chief deputy clerk under outgoing county clerk Tonda Rich, who did not seek re-election.
“I learned a lot from my predecessor, and I will miss her,” Cooper said.
Cooper and her husband, David, are both graduates of Carson City-Crystal High School, and Cooper said she is excited to be able to represent the Hubbardston area as clerk of Ionia County.
Cooper’s staff includes of deputy clerks Shirley Austin, Stephanie Leuenberger, Juliana Harrington and Amy Gorham, all of whom were also sworn in Tuesday.
Kyle Butler was also sworn in Tuesday as Ionia County prosecutor.
Butler was appointed to the position last March when Gov. Rick Snyder appointed former prosecutor Schafer as judge. Schafer was officially elected to the bench in November.
“I’ve been in an interesting situation, having been appointed in March, but then I immediately found myself in a highly contested campaign,” Butler said. “So it’s been difficult to focus like I’ve wanted to as a prosecutor with all of that looming. Now that this really puts all of that to rest I can clarify my focus and move on with my ideas and my visions, which are to further what Judge Schafer implemented when he was prosecutor.”
Butler said he would like to increase communication between the prosecutor’s office and victims, making the office more efficient in the way cases are processed.
“I would like to divide up cases where one prosecutor stays on a case from start to finish, instead of multiple prosecutors handling different portions of a case,” he said.
Butler was previously assistant prosecutor for the county, a position he held since he was first hired in 2007 out of law school.
“Although I’ve been in the office for almost a decade, and built a lot of experience, nothing can quite prepare you for this specific role,” he said. “I really appreciate the patience from my staff during this time. Between that time and being appointed I gained a lot of experience and training, and developed relationships with law enforcement and community leaders.”
Butler’s staff, including Chief Assistant Prosecutor Lori Kirkhoff, Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Stinedurf, Assistant Prosecutor Adam Dreher and Assistant Prosecutor Erica Parker were also sworn in Tuesday.
After being appointed in November 2015 and winningelection in November, Robert Rose was sworn in as Ionia County drain commissioner on Tuesday.
“It’s a big honor,” he said. “It really humbled me, the support I received. Now I just want to do my best. They’ll be some adversities coming, but I can’t dwell on them. As long as I do my work by the drain code and think of the people, that’s the best I can do.”
Rose said after a brief training period in January, he and his staff will be ready to get to work.
“I have a lot to learn, and every day is going to be a learning opportunity,” he said. “But my staff is great, without my staff, I couldn’t do this job effectively.”
Rose added that he’s proud to hold an elected position within the county where he’s been a lifelong resident.
“It’s such an honor to have the county vote me in. My roots go deep in the county, I’m a seventh-generation county resident, living in Saranac, so I’m very humbled,” he said.