Vernon J. Ehlers (born February 6, 1934), American politician, is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1993, representing the 3rd District of Michigan (map). The district is based in Grand Rapids and was once represented by former President Gerald Ford.
Born in Pipestone, Minnesota, Vern Ehlers attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids from 1952-1956. He earned an A.B. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956, and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from UC Berkeley in 1960. After six years of teaching and research at UC Berkeley, he moved to Calvin College in 1966 where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department.
He began his political career in 1974 while still at Calvin, when he was elected to the Kent County board of commissioners. He served four terms, then spent 10 years in the Michigan state legislature--two years in the state house and eight in the state senate.
In 1993, he won a special election for the 3rd District, which had been vacant since Congressman Paul B. Henry died six months into his fifth term. He won a full term in 1994 and has been reelected five times with no significant Democratic opposition.
In the 109th Congress, Ehlers serves on five committees. On the Science Committee, he serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards. On the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in the 107th Congress, Ehlers led the development of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which authorized spending $270 million over five years to clean up sediments in the Great Lakes. Ehlers is also a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, House Administration Committee, and Joint Committee on the Library of Congress.
Ehlers is a moderate Republican. He has voted with congressional Democrats on issues such as affirmative action and environmental protection. He is one of the few Republicans to oppose the death penalty and he also opposes the Flag Desecration Amendment. He is a member of Christine Todd Whitman's Its My Party Too and the Republican Main Street Partnership. Despite West Michigan's stereotype as a bastion of rock-ribbed conservatism, the 3rd has tended to elect moderate Republicans. It has also elected the only Democrat to represent a West Michigan-based district since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.