Have a fun and safe Halloween!

On Saturday night, the streets will be filled with goblins, ghouls, ghosts and all manner of other characters both scary and delightful, as young people of all ages celebrate Halloween.

Halloween is a fun and exciting way for children to dress up, use their imaginations and receive some sweet treats in return.

As children in costumes fill the neighborhood, the Senate Republicans urge caution to keep our kids safe. If you are driving, please take your time and be alert for kids crossing the street.

For parents with older children who are trick-or-treating without an adult, remind them to stick together as a group and only go to familiar neighborhoods. Tell children both young and old to stay in populated, well-lit areas and use a sidewalk if available.

Following a few simple tips can help ensure that your family has a safe and Happy Halloween.

Nationwide Nofs: Cross-country trips put focus on family

Blog - Nofs interview 1In this series of one-of-a-kind interviews, the Michigan Republican Senate Blog will be taking a nonpolitical glimpse into the lives of our members — outside of public office.

Sen. Mike Nofs recently sat down with the Michigan Senate Republican Blog to talk candidly about his life before being in the Legislature.

Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Battle Creek, Nofs has put service to his fellow man at the forefront. It was a lesson he learned very early in life from his father, Big Jim, or “Coach” as most of the community referred to him.

“Coach — you know I am not sure I knew his real name was James until I got older,” Nofs jokes. “I know people say this about their parents but my dad was truly loved in our community. I didn’t realize until later in life that it was because of what he did for the community — not what he did in the community that endeared him so much.”

Nofs has carried that lesson of service throughout his career, serving first as a public safety officer at the city and county level, and later moving on to the Michigan State Police, where he retired in 2002 as the Battle Creek post commander after serving 25 years of distinguished service.

Prior to being elected to the Senate in a 2009 special election, Mike also served six years in the Michigan House of Representatives as well as 10 years as a member of the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners — five of those years as chairman.

Son to James and Florence Nofs, Mike grew up as one of eight kids in a small, three-bedroom home on Arlington Drive in Battle Creek. He recalls his father working four jobs during the year to provide for the family, yet still managing to make time for him and his siblings. Mike says that growing up with that many brothers and sisters taught him a lot about sharing and doing one’s part to help each other.

“It was cozy,” said Nofs. “We had my four sisters in one room, us three boys in another room and the baby slept in with mom and dad. I have a twin sister, and we were the middle kids. It was a tight squeeze, but we all knew what we had to do to help make the house run smoothly. My dad had to work multiple jobs to make sure we were taken care of. It wasn’t easy, but it made an impression on all of us kids.

“Dad was a teacher and a coach, and he taught swimming to local scouts. I’m not sure how he managed it, but we didn’t go hungry. We realized early on that if it was important to us and we were willing to work for it, we could achieve our goals in life.”

Nofs admits that growing up in a modest household was not all struggle and strife.

“My brothers and I helped my dad every summer watering the greens and fairways at the municipal golf course,” Nofs said. “I learned to drive a jeep there. My dad stuck a pillow under me so I could see, and I drove the water wagon around the course as my brother changed the sprinklers. We kids never got paid for helping, but my father used the money he earned from that job to take us all on a two-week family vacation each year — a luxury we could never afford without it. That job not only taught me the value of a hard day’s work, but the importance of family.”

These annual trips allowed Mike to visit all 48 contiguous states as a boy. He recalls being able to see all of the national treasures and parks throughout the U.S. and actually seeing history instead of just reading about it in books. Today, he feels blessed to have been able to experience that, even though it often felt like one chaotic adventure.

“It was like a National Lampoon vacation movie,” Nofs laughs. “Ten of us all crammed into a station wagon — luggage on top with a big canvas tent for all of us to sleep in — traveling across the country. I remember my dad made a wooden rack on top of the car that held 10 beer cases, the old sturdy ones with the flip-up lids. Each one of us had to pack all of our clothes for two entire weeks into one of those. Trust me, you learned quick to pack the necessities and use every corner to make sure you had enough socks for the trip. We learned a lot about how to take care of ourselves and each other on those trips. Like a Tale of Two Cities, ‘it was the best of times and the worst of times,’ but those memories stuck with me over the years, especially now that I am a grandpa.”

Mike’s not just a grandpa, but a grandpa nine times over! He has five grown children and can’t help but smile when he talks about the nine grandchildren he is blessed to have — although he admits he doesn’t plan on loading them up in a station wagon for a two-week tent vacation any time soon.

“My grandkids are everything to me,” said Nofs. “Time I get to spend with them is always time well spent. I like to help out my grandsons in Boy Scouts work on their projects or take all of them fishing. I don’t mind helping them out but I draw the line at campouts — my (nights of) sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag are over. I also enjoy going to my granddaughters’ sporting events. Soccer, gymnastics … you name it, I try to be there as much as I can to cheer them on.

“When I leave work and get back to Battle Creek, my grandchildren are my dose of reality. They keep me grounded and really inspire me to do my best for them and their futures here in Michigan. They are what is important and remind me what life is really all about.”

Nofs is hopeful that he will leave office with the 19th District and the state in better shape than when he started, so that his grandchildren will have opportunities to work and stay in Michigan. Nofs said he fears that society today wants to cushion our youth or convince them that there are no failures in life. He feels that is setting them up to do exactly that — fail.

“I have always told my kids and my grandchildren that it is okay to fail,” said Nofs. “You might have lost that game today or got a bad grade on your test, but it’s how you pick yourself up from that failure and strive to be better, to give 110 percent to your team or ace that next test that defines and builds your character.

“Things can be tough and you can go through some difficult times. By working hard and dedicating yourself to the task — and ultimately accomplishing what you set out to do — is how you find success. Success cannot be handed to you, it has to be earned. That is how we learn to be better sons, fathers and citizens in our community.”

A Day in the Life … with Sen. Ken Horn

In this first edition of the “A Day in the Life” series, Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, offers viewers a glimpse into the life of a Michigan state senator.

The Michigan Senate Republican Blog recently gave the senator a video camera for a day to record the happenings of a session day — from getting ready at 4:30 a.m. to leave the house to returning home in the evening.

The B-24 Liberator becomes the official airplane of Michigan

Following the B-24 Liberator becoming the official airplane of Michigan, Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, spoke on the Senate floor about the American heavy bomber that became a fixture over the skies during World War II.

The airplane was assembled in Michigan at the famed Willow Run Plant. The famous icon, Rosie the Riveter, was based on an actual woman who worked at the plant building B-24s.

The B-24 Liberator took down 2,600 enemy aircraft and helped hunt down and destroy submarines over the Atlantic and targets in the Pacific.

Blog - B-24 Liberator 15

Supporting our students, ensuring teacher effectiveness

Senate Republicans have finalized legislation to require Michigan schools to base certain percentages of their teacher and administrator evaluations on student growth and assessment data.

Senate Bill 103 also affords school districts the flexibility to decide on their own evaluation tool to ensure student success and growth. No two schools are the same, and emphasizing local metrics helps fit individual district needs.

SB 103 is another example of smart, commonsense legislation under Senate Republican leadership. It creates accountability for both the student and the teacher to deliver the best classroom learning environment possible, and ensures we have the best teachers in our classrooms.

Strong leadership matters.

MSU v. U of M: A State and Caucus Divided

As Michigan-Michigan State week ends with Saturday’s big game, the Michigan State Republicans are divided on who will emerge victorious in the 108th meeting between the two schools.

While the Wolverines hold the overall series lead 68-34-5, the Spartans have won 6 of the last 7 meetings.

Go Blue!
Go Green!

Who do you think will win?

If you want to see what some national experts think, see this article in today’s Detroit Free Press.

Getting to Know… Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Olive Township, kicks off a “Getting to Know You” series on the Michigan Senate Republican Blog with a revealing and light-hearted interview that lets viewers in on who he is, where he’s from and what is important to him.

Among the items discussed are his first job, his favorite Pure Michigan activity and what superpower he would want.

‘Michigan Says Thanks’ to Vietnam veterans

This week I was honored to sponsor an event on the Capitol lawn paying tribute to veterans of the Vietnam War era.

The “Michigan Says Thanks” event highlighted the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and Vietnam War era families, and it paid tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the war.

The ceremony was more than I hoped for. The turnout was fantastic, and we spent time thanking and honoring veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States.

Giving Vietnam veterans and their families due honor and respect was long overdue. Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life.

More than nine million Americans served our country during the Vietnam War era. Michigan Says Thanks focused on the more than 237,000 Vietnam era Michiganders who reside here today.

Twenty-five historical stations were displayed on the north and south lawns for event attendees to visit. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) hosted one of the historical stations. An MVAA service officer answered questions and made follow-up appointments regarding benefits such as disability compensation, pension, aid and attendance, and dependent indemnity compensation.

The major sponsors of Michigan Says Thanks were Vietnam Veterans of America Detroit Chapter 9, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Domino’s Pizza, and Breitung Township Traveling Memorial.

A lapel-pinning ceremony was held throughout the event. Volunteers from the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration fastened lapel pins on veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, regardless of location.

The symbolism attached to the Vietnam veteran lapel pins is significant. The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period. All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.

We can never fully repay those who served us, but we were able to say thank you at this event. May we continue to remember the sacrifice veterans and their families have made for us.

Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Sens. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage; Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; and Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan; remind Michigan families of the importance of learning the risks, symptoms and treatment options in a Breast Cancer Awareness Month public service announcement.

During the month, the Michigan Senate Republicans join in renewing the fight against breast cancer, working to raise awareness and supporting those who are fighting or have survived the disease.

Sen. Mike Kowall on “Michigan Says Thanks” to Vietnam War era veterans

Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is hosting an event on October 8 honoring veterans of the Vietnam War era on the Capitol lawn. Kowall encouraged his constituents and all interested Michiganders to attend.

“Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life,” Kowall said. “We will spend some time thanking and honoring veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States.”