By David Fleet
From halls of Goodrich High School to the floor of the House of Representatives a former Atlas Township resident has now landed in the State Senate.
In November, Republican Jim Runestad defeated Democratic challenger Julia Pulver for the State Senate District 15 which includes: Commerce, Lyon, Milford, Novi, West Bloomfield and White Lake townships. Also, the cities of Northville, Orchard Lake, Walled Lake and Wixom, along with the villages of Milford and Wolverine Lake.
Runestad, R-White Lake, one of 38 new senators beginning in 2019 will serve as assistant majority caucus chairman in the State House for the 2019-2020 legislative term.
In November 2014 Runestad, a 1978 Goodrich High School graduate, was elected to the House of Representatives District 44 that includes Milford, Highland, White Lake, Waterford and Springfield townships. Runestad, then defeated Democrat Mark Venie in the general election.
Runestad, an Otter Lake native, moved to Atlas Township with his family when he was 8-years-old.
“My family purchased an 80-acre farm near Jordan and Irish roads in the township, said Runestad, 59.
“All the way through high school we put up hay, produced 50 gallons maple syrup, had orchards, raised, horses cows and pigs. 5,000 bales of hay.
That rural lifestyle was one of the key elements adding to the diverse backgrounds of students and families that comprised Goodrich High School.
Some students came from more affluent backgrounds, some are auto workers, some are professional. It’s really a unique blend that builds well-rounded individuals. I was also a member of the Future Farmers of America.”
Runestad attended Mott Community College and Northern Michigan University before enrolling at Central Michigan University where he earned a bachelor of science degree in education.
“I finished at CMU in 1984 needless to say, the economy was not so great, especially for a teacher,” he said. “There was just no pay so I started selling insurance and later worked for ITT Technical School where I was a student recruiter. Then in 2000 I worked in the life insurance industry before starting my own company Runestad Financial Associates.”
In 2009 Runestad was first elected as Oakland County Commissioner for the sixth district. He reelected in 2011 and 2013. As a county commissioner, he had been assigned to sit on every committee and voted by his peers to chair both the public services and planning and building committees.
“I was always reading about politics in the abstract,” he said. “My degree from CMU was in education, but along with that was political science and history so government had always been an interest of mine. Finally, one day my dad said, “You are always just talking about government and politics, why don’t you do something about it?,” he said. “Honestly, before than our family never had any political aspirations.”
Runestad was assigned to the 98th Michigan House Committees on Insurance, Local Government and Vice-Chairman of Families.
“The state level is challenging and it’s an enormous amount of work seven days a week,” he said.
As a House member, Runestad understands moving legislation through government.
“Our government is constructed to stop bills,” he said. “To move a bill to law you need a good bill, and persuade a lot of colleagues along the way. To do that time and time again requires about 80 hours a week of work. Then about 40 hours a week when in the district.”
Runestad will continue to promote House Bill 4691 which, if passed would create a presumptive starting point of substantial equal parenting time with divorces involving children. The presumption would be undone if there was unfitness shown by either parent by a preponderance of evidence.
“Right now it’s a 20-80 (parenting time) split for most counties,” he said. “That’s standard parenting time. You could have very good parents then the system removes one. That leaves scares on the children, having both parents is a benefit to the children.”
Jim and Kathy Runestad have five children, Joel, 40, Justin 37, Lena, 31, Lee, 29, and Kayla, 16. The couple also have 11 grand children.