Rep. Miller gives Gershwin prize to Willie Nelson

Detroit News staff

In Washington last week, U.S. Rep.Candice Miller joined Library of Congress Acting Librarian David Mao and other congressional leaders in presenting singer and songwriter Willie Nelson with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

The prize was created by the Library of Congress in 2007 to honor an individual’s achievement in “promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.” Previous winners include Billy Joel, Carole King, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

“For more six decades, Willie Nelson has pushed the boundaries of country music, even incorporating elements of jazz, blues, folk, rock and even Latin styles, creating a truly unique musical character,” Miller said, noting Nelson is the first country singer to receive the prize.

It did create one of those only-in-Washington moments, as Miller — a retiring conservative Republican member of Congress who is exploring a run for governor in 2018 — feted Nelson, a Texas native who plans to sell his own brand of marijuana for recreational use.

Bush snags Bishop support

Congressman Mike Bishop has endorsed Jeb Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, increasing the former Florida governor’s support among elected officials in Michigan.

Bishop, a first-term Rochester Republican, joins freshman U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, in backing Bush. Both lawmakers represent parts of Oakland County.

Five of Michigan’s nine GOP members of Congress have endorsed in the 14-candidate race. Retiring Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, supported former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina after her appearance at the mid-September Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island.

Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in September. Third-term Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, kicked off the endorsements in May by supporting fellow libertarian-leaning U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Amash had backed Paul’s father Ron during his runs for president.

Reps. Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls in the Upper Peninsula, Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, Tim Walberg of Tipton and Fred Upton of St. Joseph have yet to endorse in the GOP race. Michigan holds its 2016 presidential primary on March 8.

Journalist joins Snyder staff

Veteran newswoman Meegan Holland takes over Dec. 7 as Gov. Rick Snyder’s new communications director, continuing his administration’s second-term staff shuffle.

Holland’s 30-year career as an editor or reporter includes stops in Greenville; Port Huron; Rockford, Illinois; and Grand Rapids. She headed Booth News Service in Lansing, which covered state issues and government, became online editor for the Grand Rapids Press in 2007 and more recently directed MLive’s Lansing office.

Snyder called Holland “a leader in the (news) industry’s transformation.”

Holland said she looks forward to informing reporters and the public about thorny issues such as revamping the state’s energy policy and rescuing the Detroit Public Schools from overwhelming debt. Those will be on the Legislature’s agenda right after Thanksgiving.

Holland replaces Jarrod Agen, who becomes Snyder’s chief of staff. Current Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore is moving into a senior adviser role to the Republican governor.

Communications staff member Dave Murray becomes press secretary, replacing Sarah Wurfel, who has been Snyder’s spokesperson since he first took office in 2011. He’ll have two deputy press secretaries, Laura Biehl and Anna Heaton.

Wurfel departs for a job at the Truscott-Rossman public relations firm whose president and principal, John Truscott, was communications director and press secretary to ex-Gov. John Engler.

And that’s how things roll in Lansing.

Conyers contemplates time

In kicking off his campaign Monday for a 27th term in Congress, U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. addressed the inevitable question voters and reporters alike have for the 86-year-old Detroit Democrat.

“I don’t know if I’m running for another term after this,” said Conyers, who is the dean or the U.S. House of Representatives or its current longest-serving member. “I know the question is going to come up, ‘Is this your last term?’ And I can honestly tell you, I’ll answer it now: I don’t know where I’m going after this term. ... Let me get re-elected...”

Conyers started trailing off in his remarks and then reflected on his longevity in Congress. “Gosh, 50 years since January the 3rd, 1965.

“It’s been wonderful.”

Contributors: Gary Heinlein, Melissa Nann Burke, Richard Burr and Chad Livengood