By Mike Kruzman /

A local legislator is critical of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s creation of the Office of Rural Development, calling the move “an election year stunt.”

On Tuesday, the Democratic Governor signed an executive directive to establish the Office as part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Republican State Representative Bob Bezotte, of Marion Township, on Thursday, expressed skepticism in a release. Bezotte claims that Whitmer has willfully ignored rural Michigan families during her 3 years in office, pointing to multiple examples. He accuses the governor of repeatedly favoring urban areas of the state over rural communities in budget proposals and doing harm to small businesses by shutting them down in the beginning of the pandemic and then vetoing funding and policy reforms that would have helped them stay afloat. Bezotte pointed to several other items vetoed by the governor which included measures and tax exemptions for expanding broadband into rural areas, liability protections for health care workers, sheriff department funding for secondary road patrols, and funding for rural hospitals. He also critical of her decision to ban elective medical procedures and the handling of COVID-19-positive patients in long-term nursing homes, early pandemic.

Bezotte said Whitmer’s policy directives and budget priorities have continuously put rural residents in harm’s way, and to truly help those families, she has a long way to go.

Whitmer said that by creating the Office, they are recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities in rural communities and are implementing policies and investments to put Michiganders first. She continued, saying it will play a crucial role in supporting MDRAD’s efforts as they all work to build a more prosperous rural economy.

Whitmer held a roundtable event with several stakeholders on Friday. A copy of the press release from her office is attached below.