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Bipartisanship gets things done

August 23, 2017

By Randy Richardville and Buzz Thomas

A Unique Partnership
The Small Business Association of Michigan has always been a nonpartisan organization advocating for small businesses with both Democrats and Republicans. The political environment in Washington, Lansing and around the country has prompted the organization’s leadership to reemphasize the idea of nonpartisan and bipartisan working relationships. In other words, people can work together to support issues whether there is a “D”, an “R” or an “I” after their names.  As two former legislators, our careers featured a cooperative effort of working across party lines without the negativity and partisan name-calling that is all too prevalent today.

“Randy and Buzz are not only small business owners in Michigan, but they have helped SBAM look “behind the curtain” of legislative cooperation and how to get things done while not sacrificing their individual values and ideals,” said Rob Fowler, SBAM President & CEO.

Civility in Discourse
Recently, John Rakolta Jr., CEO of Walbridge, Inc. received a lifetime achievement award from the Michigan Chapter of the Urban Land Institute. The award honored John and his family-owned business of over 100 years for achievement and community involvement. A solid Republican leader and supporter, he stated the following about today’s political landscape during his acceptance speech: “Not in my lifetime, nor in the past 100 years has anger been so high. Hardly a minute goes by without major insults, trashing, smearing and character assassination. We believe nothing from the other side. We make no compromise and we take no prisoners. Both sides get stuck and nothing changes. We won’t make any progress if this continues.”
He went on to add, “Politicians and citizens would do well to try to understand the views and values of people who don’t share their party affiliation. Each side would find the other less threatening, and the hyper-partisanship gripping the country would ease, helping the government function more effectively and letting people from opposite sides of town be friends again.”

Emphasizing the “United”
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Southeast Michigan, has been a strong advocate for bipartisanship long before she was elected to Congress and remains focused on working with Republicans in Washington and around her home state of Michigan. She recently said, “We need to emphasize that when R’s and D’s work together we are united. United we stand and divided we fall. Just like our nation respects individual states and their rights, we need to respect individual values and opinions. At the same time, we can accomplish great things if we unite on issues of common good, like small business interests. After all, we are the “UNITED States of America.”

SBAM is Dedicated to Bipartisanship
We showed during our legislative careers that Democrats and Republicans can work together successfully. Now small business owners, we are friends whose companies sometimes collaborate on certain projects and clients.

“Buzz and I became friends over our years in state government. When you can set aside your differences and work on important issues, you can develop a trust, respect and friendship that lasts even beyond the legislature,” said Richardville.

Thomas agreed, “The experience of serving in the legislature is truly incredible. Why waste that opportunity bickering and complaining when you can learn and share perspectives with some pretty incredible people.”
SBAM is proud to have Buzz, Randy and their respective teams as SBAM members.

The SBAM Leadership Council recently added two former legislators to its membership. Buzz Thomas, a principle and founder of the Thomas Group consulting company, and Randy Richardville of R James, LLC, are both small business owners and former leaders in the state legislature.

Buzz Thomas served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1997 – 2002 and in the Michigan Senate from 2003 – 2010. A strong advocate of small business during his tenure, he was elected by his Democratic colleagues to be their leader in both the House and the Senate. His leadership skills and ability to work across party lines were hallmarks of his legislative career. Buzz and his business partner, Terence Thomas, provide counseling, advice, and strategic planning services to their client base in the greater Detroit region and beyond.

Randy Richardville, a former recipient of SBAM’s “Legislator of the Year” award, is a conservative Republican from Monroe. He and his son, Adam, formed R James, LLC in 2015. R James provides consulting services to businesses looking for access, acceleration and answers. The company opens doors and helps its clients “get things done.” Prior to the founding of this company, Randy was a Republican leader in the House (1999 – 2004) and in the Senate (2007 – 2014).

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