Distinguished Democrats: Gary Stark

Gary describes himself as “a concerned citizen with lots of experience, doing what he can in the time he has, to work towards what he believes in.”

As a retired professor of German History at GVSU, he can’t help but think about what can happen in America if people are not vigilant and involved in upholding democracy. His advice to young leaders new to the Kent Dems is: “Become involved. There are a whole range of things people can do to bring about change, especially on the local level. Everyone can be doing more; should be doing more.”

Gary decided to become involved himself after attending the 2017 Women’s March on the Mall in D.C., right after Trump got elected. He was impressed with how Katie Fahey, the organizer for Voters Not Politicians (VNP), took an idea to end statewide gerrymandering to reality. He enjoyed using his skills as a presenter for VNP to promote a cause he believed in. Using Katie as an example, Gary said, “You are more powerful than you think you are.”

When Gary decided to check out the Kent Dems, others took note of his leadership abilities and persuaded him to be the Chair in 2017. It was a steep learning curve for him to learn the culture, get to know the members and figure out how things are done. He is proud that along with Jeff Winston, they were able to secure the new headquarters which has made a huge difference. 

During the 2020 elections while he was Chair, the eyes of the nation and the world were on Kent County as one of five “bellwether” counties in the country. Gary said it was “kind of fun” to be dealing with the media and doing telephone interviews from all around the world as Kent County Dems came through and turned the county Blue for the first time in a long time. 

After the election, Gary decided to step down from being the Chair on a high note and reduce stress associated with the job. In 2022, he agreed to chair the 3rd Congressional District and helped to get Hillary Scholten re-elected. He enjoys working with other county parties and to see how well the Kent Dems are doing compared to others in the District. 

Gary is currently the First Vice-Chair, Chair of the Endorsement Committee, Chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, and serves on the Fundraising Committee. He also serves on the MI Voter Protection Hotline trouble-shooting voter issues. He enjoys being behind the scenes as a facilitator and helping to get critical infrastructures in place.  

Gary is motivated by a desire for fairness, a sense of justice, and an empathy for people who have been discriminated against. His advice to others is “to pay attention to what is going on in the world. Take on responsibility. Be someone others can count on. Step up and do what needs to be done.”