Most people don’t realize that both Betsy and Dick Devos are now working in Washington. The new US Education Secretary has been sweeping the nation with reforms and educational choice, but it was just in September 2017 when her husband joined her on Capitol Hill. Now Dick Devos will be working with the Federal Aviation Administration in a step that many in the industry praised despite him never being an airline executive or transportation authority.
What makes Devos such a great choice for the council? For one, he has been a pilot for many years, and he has a passion for aviation. He is also legendary for his work and partnership with the CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. It all started back in the 1990s when Devos was working as the CEO and President of Amway. He wanted to work on other projects in his hometown that would affect change and grow the city’s commerce.
He saw plenty of opportunities, but the airport, which had been around since the early 1900s, was a major part of his plan. He wanted people to look at Grand Rapids as a business travel destination and a key airport in between international flights through the United States. He began working with the airport in 1999 at the time of the airport’s re-launch. Ticket growth was still down, so Devos talked to his colleague, the CEO of Air Tran Airways. He convinced the CEO to open up new terminals at the airport, including flights to Orlando, St. Louis, Las Vegas, and Denver. The new flights were such a success that the airport was able to expand a bit more.
However, there were some dark times. When Air Tran Airways was purchased by Southwest, there were fears that the airport would close down terminals because of poor growth. Devos called up the CEO of Southwest and talked to him about the future of the airport and further growth opportunities that were still on the horizon for the airport. IT turns out that he was right. The airport didn’t lose any terminals and continued to grow until it needed a huge expansion, which it received in 2018. The expansion would cost $45 million but would bring about a new business traveler center and food court upgrades.
It’s these savvy business decisions that made Dick Devos a legend in aviation business and what got him appointed to the council. He will now meet with the council every quarter to talk about policies, regulations, budgets, and future growth.
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Sean Penn has worked in many creative formats. He is well known as an actor, director, the former husband of the phenomenon that is Madonna, and now he has demonstrated that his creativity extends to the written word. Penn’s first novel is called Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff and the work is winning accolades from sources ranging from Sarah Silverman to Salman Rushdie. The book takes a look at the issues of our time, from a president called “Mr. Landlord” to the #metoo movement. In his first novel, Penn seeks to express his political engagement through his protagonist’s antics and adventures.
At the age of fifty-seven, when many creative types are content to rest on past successes and to reprise the triumphs of earlier times, Penn is forging new ground with his writing. As he told Rolling Stone magazine, “What surprised me was why I hadn’t done it sooner.” Talking with Marc Maron of the WTF with Marc Maron Podcast, Penn discusses his attraction to and reasons for delving into the world of literature. “It’s more of a conversation about where I feel I can be productive,” he says, claiming that he’s ready to embrace the solitary literary lifestyle and commitment that writing entails.
Penn explains that he fell in love with acting in the 70s. However, he has recently become tired of how the film industry has become more commercial. He is also tired of how the movie industry influences individuals’ views of society, and how the current state of media and film has “image builders” at the forefront of the scene. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Penn would create a novel that “gleefully skewers our culture’s worship of the notion of branding,” which is an assessment from Vogue magazine regarding Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. “Let’s just say I’ve got somethin’ cookin’,” Penn said, when Vogue inquired about a sequel. With his hints about another novel in the pipeline, Penn seems committed to the writing lifestyle. As he told Maron, “I’m ready for the writer’s life with my golden retriever sitting there.”
Those familiar with Dick Devos, the billionaire political and community activist from Michigan, may know him as the CEO of Amway, which is the company that his father co-founded. He also is known as the husband of the current Secretary of the US Department of Education, Betsy Devos, who’s currently serving in the Trump administration after a long career as a GOP Party chairwoman and GOP mega-donor.
Dick Devos has a long history of involvement in community projects as well as in conservative causes. Back in 1991, Devos (who was then on his way to becoming the Amway CEO) became involved when a plan was announced to create a massive sports and convention arena north of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Devos became concerned that the creation of the arena would have a negative impact on the city, just as it did in Detroit, when two major arenas were built there in the 1970s. Those arenas marred downtown Detroit when the two teams, the Lions and the Pistons, moved out of Detroit, and Devos didn’t want to see Grand Rapids suffer the same fate.
Using His Influence
As he worked towards stopping the plan, Dick Devos got involved in forming a group of business leaders in Grand Rapids, and called the group “Grand Action.” This group got involved in developing other structures in downtown Grand Rapids that did a lot to alter the city skyline. Those structures include the Van Andel Arena as well as the Devos Place Convention Center.
Following the success of his work with Grand Action, Dick Devos and his wife Betsy continued on in their work as GOP mega-donors involved in political and social causes. They found they had influence in some areas, including vouchers for private schools, luring a major airline to the Michigan Airport, and in transforming Michigan into a right-to-work state that now has a lesser union influence.
Some Successes, Some Failures
Not every political action taken by Dick Devos has succeeded, however. Back in 2000, Dick and Betsy Devos put their influence behind an amendment to the state constitution that pushed for tax funding for school vouchers for private schools. The measure was voted down, and Dick Devos also failed in his bid to become the Governor of Michigan.
Still, Dick and Betsey continue to have political influence, as Betsy Devos has shown in her current position in the Trump administration.
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