LANSING – Mike Green loves where he lives.
He’s in the final weeks of 22 years dedicated to serving his home in a variety of ways. But while Green is preparing to end an eight-year stint as state senator from the 31st District, representing Bay, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, he’s not done serving local residents. He’s just going to do it in a new way, as a member of the Tuscola County Fair Board.
“I still have a few good years left,” said Green, “and I love my community. I love Tuscola County. That’s an area where I hope we can make it a little bit better.”
Green’s time in government service has gone in fits and starts. It began in 1985, when he won a seat on the Tuscola County Board of Commissioners. He served for eight years before losing his seat. He then ran for and won the seat of a retiring Dick Allen as state representative for Tuscola and Huron counties. He served for three two-year terms – he was part of the first wave of state officials elected under term limits – then sat out two years before running for the state senate, he said, “and got creamed by Jim Barcia,” who now is the Bay County executive.
“After that, I thought there’s really nothing else to run for and I didn’t want to just wait around for him to finish his term,” he said, “so I started a couple of businesses.”
Green, who was a tool and die maker at General Motors before retiring with 30 years in the skilled trades, started Green’s Log Rails and Custom Log Furniture in 2003. Eight years later he was asked to run for state senate again.
“I didn’t want to,” he said. “I turned everybody down. Then finally the leaders of the Senate called and twisted my arm and promised they’d help me this time, which they didn’t against Barcia.”
The results, especially in Bay County, were different. Green won and has continued in the role ever since.
One accomplishment he’s most proud of spans his two positions in state government. His efforts to clear up the process of getting a concealed carry firearm permit began while he was in the House.
“We could never finalize it,” he said, “but we moved it enough to where good, honest, law-abiding citizens could get concealed weapons permits.
“When I got to the Senate I was able to work – but it took four years to do it – to straighten the whole thing out to where people now if they can prove they are honest, law-abiding citizens can get the permit without going to a gun board.”
Other mile-markers on his road to success are the milk processing plant in Cass City, the to-be-built soybean plant in Gilford Township, the growth of organic bean farms around the county – “Small businesses have been started because of that” – and Star of the West’s growth in Richville. He’s also proud of the hand he lent to those developing along the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City. He will be honored by the Bay City Chamber of Commerce for those efforts.
He also helped keep the Caro Center open when the state was closing state psychiatric hospitals everywhere else. He and state Rep. Ed Canfield then worked to get the state to place its new psychiatric hospital at the Caro Center. Construction on that facility is set to begin next year.
And then there was the $250,000 he helped secure in June for a community center at the Tuscola County Fairgrounds.
“We did a little bit,” he said, “but not as much as I would like to have seen. Progress is slow.”
One disappointment was not being able to be Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, though he was elected vice chairman. He also served on the Senate Appropriations Committee and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee and as chairman of three subcommittees for the Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources.
“Through that,” he said, “I was able to appropriate quite a bit of money to people who were taking agriculture products and processing them and get them to settle in the Thumb.”
Green said he was drawn to serve in government by “life,” or rather his involvement with Right to Life.
“It was something many people were concerned about,” he said. “I was concerned about it and wanted to do something to fix it, at least through government. That got me attracted to doing something through government. That is not the whole reason I ran but it got me first associated with the government. That issue is not my only issue but it got me involved in wanting to make a change.”
He never intended for his involvement to last this long.
“I never thought I’d have a ‘career,’” he said. “I try not to say I had a ‘career’ in government but when you look back I spent a lot of time in it. I never thought I would be in it that long, but it is like so many things, one thing builds on another.”
Now he’s handing off the mantle to his son, Phil, who was elected in November to fill Canfield’s seat. “If anyone did follow me, it was going to be Phil,” Green said. “He’s more like me. He’s more of a people person. The others (the Greens have five adult children) are too but they’re not that type. It takes a certain personality.”
The House his son will enter, however, is much younger than the one in which Green first served.
“The House has gotten much younger,” he said, “because people can’t take that step in the middle of a career. So people are beginning to run before they start their career. Or they are running after they are done with their career.
“We’ll have members of the House come over to testify at one of our committees and they’ll look like – I have to be careful when I say this – but they look like high schoolers. I am not saying they can’t do the job but they are very young and a lot of the things they do send to us we file away and don’t act on because have they ever thought about this consequence or that consequence?
“Now the speaker is in his late 20s or early 30s. Boy, that’s young. What kind of life experience do they have? Do they understand how this is going to work?”
That experience, Green said, has changed his mind on term limits. He said he’s against the existing limits but would support some kind of limit, just not as restrictive as today’s.
“They are in there (the House) for six years and they are just getting to know what to do (when lawmakers hit their limits),” he said. “Some of them leave and some of them do run for the Senate, so it is good they can build on their experience. But it is very, very difficult to get any major, big legislation passed, because everyone is afraid.”
Green plans to build on his experience too, just in a different role. More specifically, an unelected role.
“My wife said if I ever ran for anything else, I’d run with a new wife,” he said with a laugh. “She’s excited to beat the band that I’ll be home. But I have looked at some other options. I still have a lot of knowledge that it seems wrong to just throw that away, so I probably will get some clients and lobby a little bit for them. But only clients I like.
“I really would love ag clients because that is where my heart is. …. This is the breadbasket of the state. I tell people that wherever I go.”
Lobbying won’t necessarily take him from home because not all lobbying has to be done in the halls of power. “A lot of it,” he said, “is just understanding the system. I can still do a lot of work on the computer, learning what bills are moving in and out and how to react to them.
“And I still know the people there.”
When not lobbying for others, he’ll be working to improve the county fair. He has a personal stake in that effort since his grandchildren now show horses and livestock at the event.
“There are a whole lot of county fairs around the state that are a whole lot nicer than ours,” he said. “For some reason, we’ve not been able to develop our fair like other counties have. I hope to change that.”
Mark Haney is a staff writer at The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.