City interns paint Holland mayor’s face in viral TikTok video

A pair of Holland city interns are behind a viral TikTok video featuring Holland Mayor Nathan Bocks that has more than 1.3 million views. 

It featured Bocks getting his face painted like a Minion and appearing before the City Council.

The interns, Mariah Vongphachanh and Jadah Burciaga, understood the assignment. They have been tasked with growing the city’s year-old account on TikTok, the fast-growing social media platform that features short videos. 

The interns took over the social media channel in July and have been making fun videos, including quizzing people at the Farmers Market to name downtown restaurants.

Skilled at building audience

“We wanted to gain a bigger audience. We knew in order to do that we had to follow a trend,” Burciaga says.

Vongphachanh spotted a TikTok video of a teen painting her younger sister's face like a Minion. But the girl cried when she saw the results because she was expecting a butterfly. 

“I thought it was really funny, and so I sent it to Jadah and I said, ‘We have to do this with the mayor. It will be so funny.’”

They figured they would recreate the same video but replace the promise of a butterfly with a tulip. Then the mayor would be upset when he had to lead a council meeting looking like a minion instead of the city flower. 

A screenshot from the TikTok video.

Fortunately, Mayor Nathan Bocks has been game for such requests from the team. 

“We kind of pitched him the idea and told them like, hey, this is kind of what we're thinking, fully expecting him to be like, I'm not gonna do that,” Vongphachanh says. “But he went along with it, and he was super excited about it.” 

Their supervisor, multimedia specialist Eric Bruskotter, had the idea to use the City Council chamber’s cameras and edit the video to make it look like Bocks was wearing the paint at a City Council meeting, even though that didn’t happen. 

“We thought, wouldn’t it be funny if we made it look like he showed up at the City Council meeting like this,” Bruskotter says. “I think we fooled a lot of people. People loved it. I give the two interns all the credit because they came up with the idea.”

Mayor comfortable on social media

Bocks is a pretty savvy social media personality known for his hashtag #AndWeGetToLiveHere.

“The mayor loves being on camera for us,” Bruskotter says. “I think one of the joys that he gets from this job is that he gets to be that face of the community. He keeps saying yes. I haven't heard him say no yet.”

Since the city’s multimedia department was created more than a decade ago under former Mayor Kurt Dykstra, it has won shelves of trophies, including two Emmys (out of seven nominations) and 8 Telly Awards.

But more importantly, the city’s multimedia team is helping both residents and those outside the city learn more about the community. 

Holland city interns Mariah Vongphachanh and Jadah Burciaga

“We've grown all of our audience in every form of social media exponentially,” Bruskotter says. “It’s a good way to get a lot of information out quickly.”

The city’s Facebook page has more than 33,000 followers – which is about equal to the city’s population. Its Instagram account has more than 8,500 followers.

“We’re trying to showcase the good things that we have around here that people don't necessarily know about but are right around the corner from you,” explains Bruskotter. “The city manager and the City Council recognize this, and they love watching the videos and sometimes being a part of them.”

Fun work with serious purpose

The department’s three summer interns provide a major lift for the lean two-person staff, which is charged with producing short videos ranging from the many ways nonprofits are making a difference to how Holland businesses contribute to the community.

Bruskotter says he understands that when it comes to social media, the interns bring a lot of expertise because they use it daily to express themselves and connect with others. They understand the trends and the lingo.

“I just say, I trust you guys to keep it safe and I’m going to give you some leeway. They ran with it and grew the page,” Bruskotter said. “It started with 400 followers, and within a month and a half or so they've gained over 5,000 followers.” 

This year’s intern talent is homegrown. Burciaga is a Black River graduate who attends the University of Texas.  Vongphachanh is a West Ottawa graduate who attends Ferris State University. 

Bruskotter says many of his interns are graduates of the Careerline Tech Center, where they studied video production during high school.

“They're a big part of getting interns in here every summer. I've been working with Bill Wolbrink, a teacher there. He's been doing such a great job teaching these kids.”

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.