Byrd: 'Very humbling' to win support in at-large council race –

HOLLAND — Council member Quincy Byrd thanked voters Wednesday for supporting him in his first challenged campaign for office Nov. 2.
Byrd defeated Ken Freestone to win re-election to his second full term with 2,795 votes, 55.2 percent of the vote, to Freestone’s 2,268. The engineer and U.S. Army veteran was appointed to a partial term on council in 2015 and ran unopposed in 2017.
“It’s very humbling for me to be in this position,” Byrd, 49, said. “When I came to Holland, no one knew who I was, and here I am, some years later, and people from all walks of life are supporting me.”
“It spurs me on to continue to be the advocate for the community, listen to people in the community,” Byrd said. “I know there’s going to be people who don’t agree with me, and that’s fine.”
Byrd, Holland’s first Black council member, has lived in Holland for about 20 years. He lost his job at Trans-matic during the Great Recession and he and his wife, Sara, faced homelessness before Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity stepped in to build them a house — the house they still live in today.
“I don’t have an agenda,” Byrd said. “Holland has been so good to me. When I was down at my lowest, it was churches, nonprofits, individual people, individual families, it was the whole gamut of people coming together to help me out in my time of need, and I just want to continue that for everyone who comes to Holland and everyone who lives in Holland.”
Byrd ran on a platform of being “a voice of inclusion” and unity on the council, incentivizing developers to build affordable housing, being fiscally responsible and supporting public safety. Byrd earned the endorsement of the Holland Police Officer’s Association.
During the George Floyd protests of summer 2020, Byrd spoke out about his experiences being targeted by police in the past because of his race, but Byrd has also been unwavering in his support of the Holland Department of Public Safety during both the George Floyd racial reckoning and a lawyer’s recent allegations of bias at the police department.
Freestone, 65, said Thursday he had gone “through the stages of grief” after his loss to Byrd but planned to turn the energy from his campaign into community organizing.
“All of a sudden it just struck me, all of the opportunities that are out there for me now because of the people that supported me,” Freestone said, explaining he hopes to organize community and neighborhood discussions of local issues.
“My plan as a council member was to have those meetings in every ward and invite the council members of each ward, too,” Freestone said. “I think there’s difficult discussions about race and equity and inclusion to be had, and I’m not afraid to have those conversations.”
Some Freestone supporters were critical of Byrd’s vote against the non-discrimination ordinance passed by council in August 2020, notable for its protections for LGBT people. Byrd had raised concerns about the freedom of religious organizations under the non-discrimination ordinance.
Freestone, currently employed as logistics and sustainability coordinator for Community Action House, said he had hoped to be a “voice of diversity, inclusion and equity” on council if he had been elected. His other two biggest priorities were “aggressively addressing the climate crisis” and improving affordability of housing and access to food.
Freestone was the city of Holland’s residential energy advisor for the Home Energy Retrofit Program and has in the past worked for Macatawa Greenway and other nonprofits. He was named to the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame in 2019.
“I want people to understand that I think about Holland every day, and I’m guided by sharing resources and educating people as to where the resources are in our community so they can do it themselves,” Freestone said. “I want to continue being that resource for the community, that voice for continuously improving and always moving forward.”
— Contact reporter Carolyn Muyskens at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens