BIG RAPIDS - Approximately 50 people gathered inside Cranker's Brewery on Saturday, to see John Ruggles kickoff his campaign as the Democratic candidate to represent Michigan's 102nd District. Ruggles, who describes himself as a "conservative Democrat," is from the Remus area. He came to Mecosta County in 1968 to work on establishing the Head Start program and other job-training programs. "I ran a nonprofit agency that helped seniors and implemented many economic development projects," Ruggles said. One of the projects was the rehabilitation of the Nesbitt-Fairman buildings in downtown Big Rapids and many county parks, he said. In 1975, Ruggles entered the private sector by establishing a company working with local government on economic development. Ruggles believes his experience in business will help in Lansing when dealing with unemployment in Michigan. "I know small business and what it takes to provide jobs in our communities," Ruggles said. "I've done it." Mary Loesch went to Cranker's to hear what Ruggles had to say about equal pay for equal work. Ruggles told her this is an important issue, which Republicans refuse to recognize. "When Michigan's women succeed, Michigan succeeds," Ruggles said. "Equal pay for equal work will not be ignored when I get to Lansing." Loesch was one of the first to stand up and publicly cast her support behind Ruggles for a seat in Michigan's House of Representatives. "He means what he says," Loesch said. "What he is telling us is plain common sense." Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, currently represents the 102nd District, which covers Wexford and Mecosta counties and part of Osceola County, including Reed City and the townships of Burdell, Cedar, Hartwick, LeRoy, Lincoln, Richmond and Rose Lake. Ruggles, who loves the outdoors and considers himself a responsible bird hunter, expressed the need to take care of Michigan's natural resources. "It is as common sense as it get," Ruggles said. "When I'm in office, I will work to protect our environment. I will seek a moratorium on fracking, as they did in Ohio." The Big Rapids stop was the first of three events hosted by Ruggles. He was in Osceola County at noon for a hot dog picnic in Reed City at Westerburg Park. Ruggles spoke to attendees about taxes and how the current leadership is using seniors and students to pay for the tax breaks for corporations. "The single-business tax was unfair and it was right to get rid of it," Ruggles said. "The problem is we haven't replaced all the money and it was wrong to tax our seniors. It is outrageous to give big business more than $1 billion in tax breaks at the expense of students and seniors." Ruggles believes Michigan's tax code is a mess. If elected, he would propose a summit with all concerned parties on each side of the aisle to sit down and find a new tax system that works for Michigan. "While business taxes have dwindled, more than half of us are paying higher individual taxes," Ruggles said. "I believe we all can sit down and pound out a fair and sensible tax system in Michigan. We need to commit to work together, regardless of political party." Another issue that Ruggles feels strongly about is public education. He told supporters that if he gets to Lansing he will remember Michigan's youth and their educators. "I'm tired of watching Republicans ruin our schools," Ruggles said. "Republicans voted and cut education by $1 billion. I am tired of the assault on education. I say we give that money back to our schools and end corporate welfare. "Republicans want to give our public schools to private, for-profit companies. This is an attack on our democracy. We need top-notch education, if we want to make jobs. It is good common sense."