January 22 01:18 AM

Community connections

81st District State House candidate pedals across state to talk with, listen to residents

He'll start Saturday in Muskegon and make several stops along the way including one in the Imlay City or Capac area where he plans to share his thoughts on how rural communities can stay connected.

June 06, 2018
TRI-CITY AREA — On his quest to land a job in Lansing, Josh Rivard will pedal more than 250 miles across the state to talk to the people who call Michigan home.

Rivard, the lone Democrat seeking the 81st District seat in Michigan's House, will bike across the Lower Peninsula, starting in Muskegon this Saturday en route to his hometown of Algonac. His path of travel will take him through Capac and Imlay City sometime on Sunday.

The 81st District includes western St. Clair County—Capac and it's surrounding townships.

"I think it's important that as elected officials, we understand and showcase to our constituents that they're not alone in their struggles and that their neighbors—whether they are down the road or across the state—are also facing similar problems. We can better understand and solve these issues by taking a look at the bigger picture and start understanding that the entire state is much more connected than we think. By riding on the roads and trails that connect these communities I want to show that Michigan is much more connected than it seems and we need to approach these problems in that way," Rivard said in an email interview.

He plans to make stops at various places to discuss regional issues and how they affect residents in St. Clair County's 81st District. Those stops and subsequent discussions will be livestreamed on social media.

So why choose two wheels over four? Rivard feels the slower pace makes it easier to connect to a community. As a teen he took part in a handful of bicycle rides around the state with his youth group.

"These rides taught me how the little things we take for granted in our hometowns and the little quirks and history of our areas are more interesting than they appear," he said.

Josh Rivard, a candidate for the 81st District House seat, will bike across Michigan and document his trip and discussions through social media.
"In our cars, we tend to zoom past small communities as we favor the expressways over the quiet county roads that connect us. On a bicycle we ride these roads and see our towns less as blips on a map and more as places where families and memories are built."

Before he starts out at 6 a.m. from Muskegon, Rivard will take time to talk about the state's outdoor recreation industry and "how we can expand it and generate more revenue through conservation than exploitation."

At a park in Grand Rapids he plans to discuss income inequality and in Ionia, Rivards will touch on agriculture issues.

His next stop will be in Flint where, naturally, the water crisis will take center stage.

"After Flint I will be going through Imlay City, Capac and Emmett Township to talk about how rural communities can stay connected and how we can be clever in our resources to make sure those in the country have the same access to services that those in the cities do," he said.

According to his trip map, Rivard will follow old M-21 from Lapeer to the Polly Ann Trail and take it into Imlay City. He'll travel down Fourth Street to M-53 before returning to the former state highway on his way to The Wadhams to Avoca Trail in St. Clair County.

His next destinations will be Fort Gratiot and then Algonac.

"I will have a skeleton team with me to record and help me with social media. I will have alerts put out when I'm getting ready to head into a stop or I'm about to livestream one of my stops on Facebook and Instagram. I will also be posting on Twitter and Snapchat throughout my ride if people want to keep tabs on where I am and if they want to join up with me on the ride," Rivard said.

Rivard was the only Democrat to file for the House seat in the 81st District. Come November, he'll face off against the Republican who emerges as the top vote-getter in an eight-way race.

The GOP field of candidates includes Dan Tollis of Marine City, Gary Eisen of St. Clair Township, Eric Stocker of Marysville, John Mahaney of Port Huron, Kenneth Nicholl of Yale, Michael Pratt of Allenton, Dan Turke of China and Joel Williams of Emmett.

The seat is currently held by Republican Dan Lauwers who's term-limited. Lauwers is seeking the 25th District Senate seat in upcoming elections.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.
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