These new signs would bring back the decades-old slogan, “It’s The People.” Courtesy|Ted Jansen

After hearing Vice Pres­ident of the United States Mike Pence ref­erence “that timeless wisdom enshrined on that old sign on M‑99” during his 2018 Hillsdale College com­mencement speech, city res­ident Ted Jansen said it was time to bring the “It’s The People” sign back to Hillsdale.

“I said, ‘You know what, he just gave us a million dollars of PR’,” Jansen said. “People want that rec­og­nized — the goodness of the city.”

Jansen has cur­rently received about half of the $800 in dona­tions he needs in order to put up a newer version of the old sign, which will be labeled, “Welcome to Hillsdale, It’s The People,” and will be located on the property of Frank Beck Chevrolet on West Car­leton Road. A similar sign had stood along M‑99 until the fall of 2016, when the Hillsdale City Council and Hillsdale College coor­di­nated to replace the signs with “Welcome to His­toric Hillsdale, Home of Hillsdale College” signs, funded by the college. The removal of the old brand stirred con­tro­versy among city res­i­dents, and many now say they are happy to see the “It’s The People” sign returning to Hillsdale.

Jansen said shortly after starting his sign project he received five or six phone calls from city res­i­dents.

“One of them told me, ‘Mr. Jansen, I’m 84 years old. I was going to get my hair done this weekend, but I’m going to give you $25 for my hair appointment to donate to the sign’,” Jansen said. “I said, ‘Ma’am, I’ve been col­lecting the funding, and if I run short, I’ll give you a call back. I really appre­ciate the offer.”

The caller, Jau­retta Lamb Moore, told The Col­legian that she was a member of the very first kinder­garten class to attend Joseph Mauck Ele­mentary School, which property is now owned by the college, and that eight of her high school grad­u­ating class­mates of 1952 still live in the vicinity of Hillsdale. Her father, Willard Lamb, was an outdoor cus­todian for the college during the Great Depression era, and her cousin, Donald Lamb, was a member of Hillsdale’s Hall of Fame. Moore herself for­merly advised a college service club, the Hillsdale Kiwanis.

“I was born and raised in Hillsdale, and for sure, it’s the people,” she said.

Another res­ident, 80 years old, called Jansen saying she is a former English teacher and that the new sign should read “Welcome to Hillsdale” instead of “Welcome Hillsdale,” like the old sign, since the latter version would be “gram­mat­i­cally incorrect.” Jansen com­plied, and also decided to make the new sign slightly larger — 5x8 feet instead of 4x8. The sign also has a more “modern” appearance, according to Jansen.

The “It’s The People” slogan orig­i­nally came out of a contest among ele­mentary school children around 1990, according to county res­ident and Hillsdale Garden Club member Connie Brum­baugh. The Garden Club then raised $4,000 to create two signs with the slogan at the bottom, and pro­vided land­scaping around them.

Jansen reached out to several busi­nesses to find a location for the current sign, and even­tually Frank Beck Chevrolet agreed to display the sign on his property. Garin Ellis, general sales manager at Frank Beck Chevrolet, who coor­di­nated the agreement, said they are hoping to have the sign up by the end of the year.

“I talked to the Beck family, and they said ‘absolutely,’” Ellis said.

City Council Member Bruce Sharp said Jansen spoke with the council a few times about funding for the sign, but the council turned him down.

“If we did that people would come to us for every­thing,” Sharp said. “If he wants to get private dona­tions, good, more power to him… I’m not com­fortable paying tax dollars on a sign when we have all these other projects going on.”

Sharp added that while a number of people ini­tially caused a stir about the sign’s removal on social media, “most people don’t care about the sign anymore.”

Jansen said he was not a part of the con­tro­versy sur­rounding the decision to replace the old sign in 2016. He says the college sign is “fab­ulous” and “really well done” and that he’s not trying to compete with the college’s sign.

“People say it’s con­tro­versial,” Jansen said. “The only con­tro­versy was the way it was taken down. I love the college sign, it’s a beau­tiful sign. We’re just bringing back what we also enjoy having.”

Jansen has con­tributed to several projects around the city in the past.

“I rescue things that need to get rescued,” he said. “I just say, let’s do it. I don’t know what my next crusade is, but for now, it’s the people.”