Upton, Clements ready for second go-around
For the second time in two years, incumbent Republican Fred Upton and Democratic challenger Paul Clements face each other, Tuesday, Nov. 8. Laurence Wenke is running as a Libertarian.
The district covers Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties, and most of Allegan County.
Clements, 55, is a Kalamazoo native and political science professor at Westerrn Michigan University. This is the second time he is running for office.
Upton, 63, is seeking his 16th term and serves as chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. His role with the committee ends with this term.
Wenke, 71, of Galesburg, had served in the Michigan House of Representatives. Tonya Schuitmaker defeated Wenke in the 2010 Republican Party primary election for the 20th state Senate district.
Regional ballot proposals
Voters to decide South Haven Health System's future
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven-area voters will be asked this week to approve the affiliation of South Haven Health System with Bronson Healthcare.
If a majority of the voters in Tuesday's election approve the ballot proposal, the affiliation will take effect Jan. 1.
South Haven Community Hospital would become Bronson South Haven Hospital, and all other system assets – including the Wellness Center and Urgent Care clinic – will also be part of the affiliation agreement.
Property owners in the nine affected governmental units would no longer pay a property tax for the hospital if the ballot issue is approved.
“These are challenging times for stand-alone community hospitals all around the country,” South Haven Health System President and CEO Joanne Schroeder said, explaining the need for the new partnership. “All of these hospitals, including South Haven Health System, have been grappling with a similar set of pressures beyond their control: significant decreases in reimbursement payments; increased competition; and steep costs associated with much-needed capital improvements.
“It has become clear that joining forces with a larger, better-resourced health care system is necessary for small hospitals to continue to provide local access to care.”
Operations of the hospital and other health care system assets would be transferred to an affiliate of Bronson Healthcare. The Bronson group has said it will invest $18 million over five years in the hospital.
Bronson Healthcare would also establish a new foundation fund dedicated to philanthropy for the service area, and invest $1 million over five years in the foundation fund.
The current hospital board would become an advisory council. However, one local representative would be appointed to serve on the Bronson Healthcare Group board of directors.
Bronson South Haven Hospital would maintain an emergency department for at least five years, and longer “so long as it is legally permissible and financially sustainable,” Schroeder said.
The millage raises about $500,000 a year, but the health care system’s annual budget is $46 million, she said. For that reason, simply increasing the levy is not a viable option, she said.
Here are the nine affected jurisdictions, and the current levy amount in each:
South Haven, 0.3282 mill; South Haven Township, 0.3338 mill; Arlington Township, 0.3413 mill; Bangor, 0.3459 mill; Bangor Township, 0.3361 mill; Casco Township, 0.2575 mill; Columbia Township, 0.3458 mill; Covert Township, 0.3361 mill; and Geneva Township, 0.3551 mill.
LMC makes case for capital fund millage
By RALPH HEIBUTZKI
For the Tribune
BENTON HARBOR — For an additional $24 per year in property taxes, Lake Michigan College can fund a variety of building projects that will enable it to deliver a well-educated, well-trained work force.
That’s how President Emeritus/Acting CEO Bob Harrison sees LMC’s 0.48-mill, 10-year capital millage proposal, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot. LMC’s district covers Berrien County, Covert Township and the South Haven school district.
“We have community members stand up (at presentations), and talk about what Lake Michigan College has offered them, a family member or a relative. They talk about veteran’s services, the Early College program, how we’ve helped changed peoples’ lives. Generally, the feedback has been very positive, about the value that the college offers,” he said.
If voters agree, the millage will raise about $40.3 million for money-saving improvements and energy efficiencies, as well as modernized classrooms, safety and security improvements, and Student Support Services area improvements, on all of LMC’s campuses.
The college also anticipates using $7.5 million that it’s collected from a community-wide capital campaign, and $8.5 million in state grants, and other investments, to help complete the projects.
“It’s important to look at what the college has already done,” LMC Foundation member Scott Dienes said. “Over the years, they’ve (LMC) been very careful, and saved money. We’ve raised money, so a lot of hard work in the community’s already done, to raise money.”
The $40 million being raised through the millage would be enough to meet about half of LMC’s capital needs “over, probably, the next 10 to 20 years,” Harrison said.
That funding would help offset a decline in state aid, which has shrunk from about 32 percent of LMC’s budget, in 2001, to its current level, of 16 percent. It’s is a record low, an overview posted at the college’s website states.
The impact of LMC’s capital millage would amount to $2 more per month – or $24 more per year – in property taxes for a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000, Harrison said.
The capital millage would be the first one levied in LMC’s history, and would stand apart from its current operating millage of 1.78 mills, which is 24th out of Michigan’s 28 community colleges, Harrison said. LMC hasn’t had a new operating millage pass since 1996.
Much of the funding will focus on LMC’s main campus on Napier Avenue, but its Bertrand Crossing and South Haven campuses will also get their share of attention, Harrison said.
That desire is reflected in the modernization of classroom and teaching spaces, for which LMC proposes to allocate $7.6 million in millage funding, and $7.7 million in college, private and state grant money.
That mixture would cover upgrades for 50 classrooms, and two lecture halls, at Napier Avenue; the Bertrand and Napier Student Success Centers; the Business Education and Resource Center; and classrooms at the South Haven campus.
• Critical deferred maintenance at all campuses, for which LMC will use about $21 million of the millage funds, plus $7.2 million in college, private and grant funds.
• Instructional technology and program equipment ($5.2 million, millage funds, plus $8.4 million in college, private and grant funds).
• Wine and Culinary Center ($2.7 million, millage funds; $2.5 million, college, private and state funds).
• Energy efficiency improvements ($2.1 million, millage funds; $2.1 million, college, private and grant funds).
• Safety and security upgrades ($1.7 million, millage funds).
In some cases, LMC will use its state grant – or the funds it raised through the capital campaign – to offset the various projects’ costs, Harrison said.
The college decided to study its needs at Napier Avenue first “because we have the matching dollars from the state, so that seemed like a good place to start,” he said.
However, no specific priority list has been drawn up before the Nov. 8 election, Harrison said.
“Our first priority is to get Election Day behind us. Once we get that done, we’ll look at what the voters have told us, and we’ll adjust our capital planning,” he said.
A capital millage can only be used for buying, building, renovating or repairing assets – such as academic equipment or classroom renovations, according to a summary posted at LMC’s website. It cannot be used for basic operating expenses, like payroll or utilities.
If the millage passes, LMC will create a special committee of district residents to oversee use of the funds, Harrison said.
“The (LMC) board will appoint that (committee), assuming the millage passes. They’ll make sure that we’re only using it for capital projects,” he said.
If the millage doesn’t pass, “then we’ll reassess whatever decision the voters make,” Harrison said. “We’re all for hoping for a (positive) millage vote.”
State House races
Democrat Anne Brown hopes to capture 66th House seat
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — It’s been a challenge for a Democrat seeking to win the 66th House seat in recent years.
Republican Aric Nesbitt, Lawton, has been state representative for the past six years and has easily defeated his rivals the past three election cycles.
But he’s leaving office due to state term limits. The district covers Van Buren County and a small portion of western Kalamazoo County.
Democrat Annie Brown of South Haven, who lost to Nesbitt in 2014, is making her second attempt at winning the seat.
She’s being challenged by Republican Beth Griffin of Mattawan.
Both women are small business owners who say they will look beyond political divisions and work on behalf of all district residents in Lansing.
Here’s a closer look at the two candidates, in alphabetical order:
Brown, 55, has served on the South Haven school board for 12 years and is a former board president. She and her husband, Jeff, own the Filbrandt Family Funeral Home in South Haven. They have three children.
In the mid-1980s, Brown was an assistant to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and later was a writer for state Speaker of the House Lewis Dodak. She is also a former editor of the South Haven Tribune. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hope College, with a minor in English.
In this political race, she’s earned endorsements from the Michigan Association of Firefighters, Michigan Nurses Association, Michigan Education Association and the Sierra Club, among other groups.
Her top three goals as state representative will be fighting for middle-class families, improving mental health services and ensuring adquate public education funding, she said.
“I have experience owning a small business, and I’ve been an elected official for 12 years,” she said. “I am going to be a strong advocate for our working-class families and the people who really don’t have a voice in Lansing.”
She continued: “I will always be a strong advocate for the people of the 66th District. I am fearless. That’s why I am getting so much support. (People) know I have the courage to speak up for people.”
She said her opponent has taken campaign funds from special interests such as the DeVos family. By contrast, she said most of her funds have come from small donations.
“Our supporters are just average families,” she said. “We feel that government should work for everyone. I’m unbought and unbossed by special interests.”
Griffin, 49, is vice chairwoman of the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners and has been on the county board for four years.
Before being elected to the county board, she taught six-grade special education and eighth-grade English in Parchment. She and her husband, Gregory, have two children and own Premco Financial Corp.
Her top goals in Lansing will be job creation, stable road and bridge funding, and balancing the state budget on time and reducing wasteful state spending, she said.
“We are trusted to be good stewards of tax dollars,” she said. “I want to protect the taxpayers from high taxes.”
Of her endorsements, Griffin said she’s most proud of those from the Farm Bureau, Michigan Manufactuers Association, Police Officers Association of Michigan, Right to Life and the Small Business Association of Michigan.
“My experience as a county commissioner, balancing the budget, is valuable to take to Lansing.”
“I understand the importance of maintaining a healthy savings account, being fiscally transparent and accountable to the taxpayers.”
owners about job creation, and about what they need. That’s my focus. I support job creation, fiscal responsibility and keeping taxes low.”
“I want to help improve the quality of life for everyone in Southwest Michigan. I am really excited for what is in the future.”
Compare and contrast
Perhaps not surprisingly, the national presidential election and national issues are entering the candidates’ district campaigns.
Griffin said she does not support the federal Affordable Health Care Act but noted that Brown does.
Brown said she does support the federal program, but believes changes are needed.
“It is a good plan and it has helped many people,” Brown said. “But it has some glitches in it and can always be improved.”
Griffin said she will vote for her party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump. She said while he was not her top pick, she will vote for him because she feels he will nominate better candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court if the need arises.
Griffin also defends her work with the conservative political organization ACT for America, for which she served as a chapter president. The group was formed in 2007 with a stated purpose to “promote national security and defeat terrorism.”
“I’m concerned about Islamic terrorists,” Griffin said. “Many members of our community are concerned. The federal government has dropped the ball. I did all I could (working with the group).
Griffin admits she made mistakes by using her county board email account to send some campaign-related emails - and learned a lesson.
“I’ve sort of been more careful” since then, she said.
The state Democrat Party has filed a formal complaint over the email issue with the Secretary of State.
Whiteford seeks first full term as 80th District state rep.
Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, hopes to secure her first full term as state representative for the 80th District.
Whiteford, who was elected in March to complete the term of former State Rep. Cindy Gamrat, will face Democrat challenger John Andrysiak of Martin in the general election, Nov. 8. Gamrat earned the Republican candidacy after defeating Abigail Nobel of Salem Township in the August primary.
Whiteford, 51, is a former pediatric nurse, with a current license, and earned a bacheler's degree in nursing. She and her husband own a financial planning firm in South Haven, Whiteford Wealth Management Inc. She's vice chairwoman of the Allegan County Republican Party, and founded the Allegan County Republican Women's Club. She is also a former South Haven Downtown Development Authority board member.
In an earlier interview she said, "I believe in lower taxes, less government and more freedom. I know that limited government, individual responsibility and economic freedom results in more jobs, more opportunities and hope for a brighter future. I will also support our right to life and will defend our Constitution and second amendment rights."
An attempt was made to contact Andrysiak this past week, but he said he is not answering questions from the media regarding why he is running for office.
Van Buren County races
Sergeant, retired manager vie for sheriff's seat
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — A Democrat and Republican are competing for Van Buren County Sheriff's position, Nov. 8.
The winner will succeed long-time Sheriff Dale Gribler, who is retiring at the end of this year.
The two candidates are Daniel Abbott and Robert Overheul.
Abbott, a Republican, is currently a road sergeant for the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department. He has been with the sheriff's department for 23-1/2 years.
"My goal is to continue to take our department in a positive direction," Abbott said. "I've got my vision with different areas inside the department that I would like to implement as well."
He said he would seek more funding through grants and to possibly get more staffing.
Another goal, Abbott said, is to be active in the community and to work closer with the public, prosecutor, fire departments and emergency medical services.
Abbott is a graduate of Bangor High School and went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He has served as a Rocket football and Little League coach.
Overheul, 78, a Democrat, lives in South Haven. He is a retired salesman, manager and machinery appraiser.
Overheul said he has been studying both of the U.S. Constitutions for the past 30 to 35 years. He said he sits on the executive board of nationallibertyalliance.org and is the director and moderator of the Sheriff's Committee for that organization.
Overheul said he has been studying the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department for three to four years.
"The current sheriff's deputies are professional. but there are a lot of improvements to be made to the sheriff's department proper," Overheul said. "It needs some help. I won't make any bones about that."
Overheul is a graduate of South Haven High School and said he has extensive management training.
He was on the South Haven Fire Department for 14 years and was a Boy Scout leader for five years. He was also a member of the South Haven Boy Scouts Council for three years.
Assistant prosecutor, attorney compete for District Judge race
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — With Seventh District Court Judge Robert Hentchel retiring at the end of this year, two candidates are vying to take his place.
Both Cirilo Martinez and Michael McKay are competing for that six-year term during the November election.
Martinez, 42, lives in Paw Paw, and is married with two children. He is an attorney in private practice in Kalamazoo.
Martinez was born in Mexico but spent his early years in Texas in a family of migrant farmworkers. They relocated permanently to Van Buren County in 1991.
He is a graduate of Paw Paw High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in American Culture and Spanish from the University of Michigan. He was awarded a law degree from Loyola Iniversity of Chicago.
Martinez has not been elected to public office before but he is a former chair of the University of Michigan Advisory Committee.
Locally, he a a member of the Knights of Columbus of Paw Paw, Lions Clubs International, a past board member of the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, past member of the Michigan Home based Child Care Council board and a sponsor and volunteer head coach of Paw Paw Youth Baseball.
Martinez said he has 13-1/2 years of law experience. "I have the most diverse experience," Martinez said. "I handle civil litigation both at the state and federal level and I also handle criminal defense work at the state and the federal level."
"The next judge will be expected to handle both civil and criminal cases and I feel that I am well prepared to handle both," Martinez said.
Running against him is Michael McKay, an assistant prosecutor for Van Buren County.
McKay is 44 and lives in Mattawan. He is married with three children. He has not been previously elected to public office.
McKay is a graduate of Marquette High School and holds a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice and psychology. He became a Michigan State Police trooper and was assigned to Van Buren County in 1997 at the South Haven post.
He was seriously injured twice while a state trooper and had to have surgery. After 10 years he left the state police and earned a law degree from Michigan State University's College of Law. After that he served for a year at the Berrien County prosecutor's office. He's been at the Van Buren prosecutor's office for four years.
McKay is a board member of the Wings of God Transition Home for women coming out of jail. He is also a board member of the Red Arrow Soccer Club.
McKay said his goal is continuation. "My goal is to be able to step in and help the court system do what we do already," he said, "which is provide a very high level of service to Van Buren County citizens."
"We have to replace a judge that's been there for 20 years," McKay said. "That's a lot more difficult than it sounds: To be able to step in and do what he's doing."
Deputy clerk, village administrator seek county clerk's seat
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — The Decatur village manager and the county's chief deputy clerk are squaring off to see who will be the next Van Buren County Clerk.
Current County Clerk Tina Leary is retiring and is running for the township clerk's job in Hamilton Township.
Suzie Roehm, 52, of Decatur, is on the GOP ticket for the four-year job.
She has been chief deputy clerk for 13 years and has worked in the clerk's office for 21 years.
"I am running because I believe I am the most qualified candidate for the position," Roehm said. "Because of my 21 years of experience and with also acting county clerk in 2004 when (former county clerk) Shirley Jackson retired, I have the broad and in-depth knowledge needed to lead the office."
Roehm is a graduate of Decatur High School and attended Davenport University. She holds Level 1 and Level 2 accounting certificates, has training with the Bureau of Elections and the State Court Administrator's Office.
She is finishing her second term as a Decatur Township trustee and is a lifetime auxiliary member of the Decatur Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6248, participant in Steve's Raider Stomp and is a volunteer for the Michigan Natural Association.
Aaron Mitchell, 35, of Paw Paw, is running as an independent candidate. He is currently village manager for Decatur and prior to that served as the village clerk and treasurer. He also served as deputy clerk in Antwerp Township for eight years.
"I would look to improve communications from the county clerk's office to all the individual township and municipal clerks," Mitchell said.
He plans to have a semi-annual luncheon where people get together and talk to each other about their municipality and to improve transparency.
Mitchell is a graduate of Edwardsburg High School, attended Southwestern Michigan College and has a bachelor's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University.
He has been a member of the Paw Paw Public Schools board since 2014 and is its vice-president and legislative representative. As village manager he is a member of the Decatur-Hamilton Fire Board.
Mitchell is also an elder for Red Arrow Ministries and a member of the Paw Paw Lions Club.
Former SH city council member, township board member hope to capture District 1 county commission seat
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — With John "Mike" Henry stepping down as Van Buren County District 1 county commissioner, a Democrat and Republican are seeking to succeed him during the Nov. 8 election.
District 1 comprises South Haven, South Haven Township and Covert Township.
Candidates are Mel Jessup, Republican, and Gail Patterson-Gladney, Democrat, for the two-year term.
Jessup, 69, of South Haven Township, is running as a Republican. He has served as a South Haven Township trustee for the past 8 years, but has chosen not to seek re-election to that position when his current term expires. He also served on the South Haven Township Planning Commission for 14 years.
If he's elected to the county commission he said he would focus on several issues, including developing a nine-acre piece of property in South Haven Township near the Van Buren Trail as a recreational park.
He also said he's concerned about the future of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert Township. Palisades' owner, Entergy Inc.,'s contract to supply electrical energy to Consumers Energy will expire in 2017. Plant officials have said they feel confident a new deal will be reached, but Jessup remains concerned.
“If we lose Palisades that would mean a loss of 500-600 jobs,” he said. “We ought to be figuring out what to do if the plant goes away.”
He also is concerned what the outcome will be for New Covert Generating Plant's tax issue. Several years ago the plant's owner appealed the amount it was being charged for property taxes and won. However, the county and Covert Township appealed the ruling, which has still not been settled. If the appeal ruling stands, the county and governmental units, such as Covert Public Schools and Covert Township, stand to lose several million dollars in tax revenue in the future.
“We ought to figure out what to do in a worse-case scenario,” Jessup said.
Jessup graduated from South Haven High School and obtained a bachelor of science degree in Business Education from Ferris State University, where he also minored in industrial engineering. He retired as a railroad engineer for Amtrak.
Patterson-Gladney, 67, who lives in South Haven, is the Democratic candidate.
She is employed at South Haven Memorial Library as the children and teen librarian and served on the South Haven City Council for six years. She also served as a member of the South Haven Housing Commission and South Haven Community Development Commission.
"During the time I was on the city council I was able to work with the community and the city to bring about positive change," Patterson-Gladney said. "I received a special tribute from the State of Michigan for the work I did while I was on the city council. I would like to serve the people of the county to also bring about positive change."
In addition to her government involvement in South Haven, Patterson-Gladney has been involved in community groups, as well.
She is a founding member and president of the Ward One Communication Action Committee, a founding member of the Elkenberg Park Redevelopment Committee, a member of the Kibbie Christian Reformed Church, a member of Black History Leadership Society in South Haven, and former member of the South Haven Center of the Arts. She also owned a day care for 10 years.
Patterson-Gladney is a graduate of South Haven High School and has a bachelor of arts degree in pre-social work at the University of Michigan. She also did some post-graduate work.
VB county chair faces challenger for District 3
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — A newcomer is taking on an incumbent for the District 3 county commission seat in the Nov. 8 general election.
Larry Dolfin, an independent candidate, is vying with incumbent Richard D. Godfrey, a Republican, for the two-year seat.
District 3 comprises the townships of Bloomingdale, Pine Grove and Almena, including the city of Gobles and village of Bloomingdale.
Dolfin is 62 and has been employed as a deputy boiler inspector for the State of Michigan for the past three years. Prior to that he owned Power Mechanical Service and was a Bloomingdale Public Schools bus driver.
Dolfin said he is seeking election primarily to improve the county's roads.
“Working to improve the roads in our district will be one of my biggest priorities,” he said.
He's also seeking election to give voters a choice of candidates in a county that is Repubilcan led.
"As a long-time voting resident of Van Buren County, I have noticed that many of the local public offices have only one candidate on the ballot,” Dolfin said in a written statement. “I think it is wrong that one party’s 'bosses' can choose and decide who our elected officials will be — knowing that they will face no opposition. It is not beneficial to all of the residents of Van Buren County and concentrate power in the hands of a few 'connected bosses.' I also think that just toeing one party’s line is not effective to good government.”
Regarding his involvement in the community, Dolfin is a member of the Bloomingdale Conservation Club and served on the Bloomingdale Elementary School Parents-Teachers Organization for 11 years.
He is a graduate of Reed City High School and has a bachelor of science degree in technical and scientific studies from Western Michigan University. He also did post graduate work at WMU toward a master of business administration degree.
Godfrey, 73, is a retired college professor of statistics and vice-president of Bloomingdale Communications.
He became a county commissioner in May of 2010 when Denise Noble stepped down. He's been the commission chair for four years. Prior to that he was Bloomingdale Township treasurer for two years.
Godfrey said he thinks that economic development and creating jobs are the most important issues facing the county board. The county has worked on job training with the van Buren Intermediate School District. It has also hired an economic development expert. Godfrey favors expanding broadband internet services in rural areas of the county.
He was part of the collaboration on creating the multi-county West Michigan Veterans Treatment Court, which is the only one like it in the state. Van Buren originally partnered with Allegan and since then Ottawa County has joined.
Godfrey favors the county collaborating with other governmental units.
"If we work together we can accomplish many goals," he said.
Godfrey is active in the Bloomingdale community. He is a board member of the Wings of Hope Hospice and a member of the Bloomingdale Area Historical Association, Eagle Lake Association, Bloomingdale Area Improvement Club, Bloomingdale Masonic Lodge, and Farm Bureau. He's also been a member of the Grand Rapids Public Museum and on the Kent County Parks and Recreation Commission.
Godfrey graduated from Allegan High School, earned a bachelor of arts degree in business from Alma College and a master's of business administration from Central Michigan University.
Township board races
Several contested races on tap in Covert Township
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
COVERT — Covert Township voters Nov. 8 will settle contested races for treasurer, clerk and trustees.
Treasurer Marilyn Rendell, Democrat, faces a reelection challenge from Zella Crump, who is not affiliated with a party.
For clerk, Democrat Daywi Cook and write-in candidate Isaiah Young are vying for the term. Clerk Dennis Palgen, Democrat, is not seeking a new term, because he’s running unopposed for supervisor.
Trustees Gaetano “Tom” DeRosa and Kenneth Harrington face a reelection challenge from Lonzey Taylor.
In the treasurer’s race, Rendell, 66, is seeking her second four-year term.
“I have the experience. I’m quite detail-oriented when it comes to working with the numbers,” she said. “As a board member, I am conscious of keeping us moving forward.”
Crump, 74, is a retired Benton Harbor schools secretary and has been treasurer of Covert Congregational Church for four years.
“I think I can be an asset to the community. I have a lot to offer the people of covert,” she said. “I am for the people of Covert. I believe that any money should go to Covert residents.”
In the clerk's race, Cook, 31, has been deputy township treasurer since March 2013. She is also chairwoman of the township Park Committee.
She said her experience with the township, along with her prior experience in the private sector, will help make her a good clerk.
"I have a reputation for being a creative problem solver and forward thinker, both traits that come in handy when planning and executing a project," she said. "I will continue to try and create a community where I can be proud to raise my children."
Young, 40, lost to Cook in the August primary, running as a Democrat. He’s now running as a write-in candidate.
In the trustee race, DeRosa, 49, a Republican has been on the township board for four years. He also serves on the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. He and his wife, Elizabeth, own the KOA campground in the township.
“It’s always about giving back. It’s civic pride. I was brought up in Covert,” he said. “Economic development is huge. It helps our citizens. I hope to serve with the people of Covert for another four years.”
Harrington, 53, a Democrat, has been a township trustee for eight years. He is a Michigan Department of corrections fugitive investigator.
"I enjoy serving the citizens,” he said. “My experience, dedication and continued leadership make me a great choice. I have very good interpersonal skills. I work well and effectively with others and believe team work enhances overall success," he said.
Taylor, 58, a Democrat, serves on the township Planning Commission. He’s a quality ispector with the Michigan Blueberry Growers Association.
"My objective is to bring a fresh set of eyes, and a fresh set of ideas, to help revitalize Covert again,” he said. “I feel I am attuned to the people, and I know what the needs are."
Columbia Township voters to settle several contested races
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
GRAND JUNCTION — There’s a bumper crop of candidates vying for Columbia Township Board terms in the Nov. 8 election.
Voters will settle two-way races for supervisor and clerk, and a four-way race for the two available trustee seats.
Vying for the supervisor’s position are former Supervisor Dean Beckwith and
challenger Linda Norton. Neither candidate is affiliated with a political party.
In the clerk’s race, Clerk Stacey Corke, Republican, is being challenged for reelection by Ada Lepore, a Democrat.
Trustees John Huizenga, Republican, and Rosemary Hurley, Democrat, face reelection challenges from Republican Kathy Curtis, who is now township treasurer, and Ken Corke, who is not affiliated with a party.
Karen Gruss, now deputy township treasurer, is unopposed for treasurer. She’s a Republican.
In the supervisor race, Beckwith, 77, served as township supervisor from 1998 to 2004. He is a retired minister, and serves on the Van Buren Senior Services board. He has three children. He and his wife, Laura, live at 08150 51 1/2 St.
“Columbia Township is in such turmoil and has been that I would like to see it put back into a peaceful situation,” he said. “We have more in common than we have that divides us.”
Norton, 53, is Breedsville’s secretary, and former Breedsville treasurer and clerk. She is also a former Breedsville village trustee. She is a medical biller with South Haven Family Physicians. She is divorced, has two children and lives at 222 4th st., breedsville.
“I’ve had a lot of dealings with grants, and government in a small community,” she said. “I could do some good for Columbia Township. I’m very easy-going and I’m willing to listen to the community and what their needs and concerns are.”
In the clerk’s race, Corke, 48, has been clerk for five years. She was previously manager of J.C. Bait and Tackle in South Haven. She and her husband, Ken, raised one child and live at 07953 Center St.
“I have the experience. I already know how to do the job,” she said. “I think I put forth responsible leadership. I’ve proven I have done a good job.”
Her challenger Lepore, 62, was township deputy treasurer and secretary for four years, until June. She is still the township secretary. She’s also a cashier at Menards in South Haven. She raised two children from a previous marriage. She and her husband, Matthew, live at 54460 14th Ave.
“I’ve done bookkeeping and management my whole life,” she said. “I am hard-working and dedicated. Every day is a learning experience. I learn something every day. I like working with people.”
Here’s a closer look at the trustee candidates:
Corke, 54, is a union carpenter and a lifelong township resident. He and his wife, Stacey, raised one child and live at 07953 Center St.
He said he’d like to reduce township serivces.
“We are the only township open five days a week,” he said. “There’s no reason for it. They need to close the doors and only open them for two days a week. We’re also paying for a secretary we don’t need. We have unnecesasary overspending from the board.”
Curtis, 70, is township treasurer but chose to seek a trustee spot instead of a new treasurer’s term.
“I just feel I am better qualified,” she said. “I’m not afraid to work and do things. I really care about this township and the things in it.”
Huizenga, 82, has been on the board for two years. He has been president of the township Neighborhood Watch for 11 years. He is a customer service representative for McFadden’s Friendly Motors in South Haven. He and his wife, Carol, raised four children and live at 08908 CR 215.
“I want to remain on the Township Board as a trustee,” he said. “My job is to represent the people in the township. I’ve attended every meeting. I watch and observe and listen to the people.”
Hurley is 78. No other information was available.
Two-way race for supervisor on Bangor Township ballot
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
BANGOR — Democrat Gary Householder and Republican Mike Sullins both want to be the next Bangor Township supervisor.
Supervisor Cindra Bishop is not seeking a new term.
Householder, 48, is meat manager for Harding’s supermarket in Bangor, and a tax preparer for H&R Block in Kalamazoo. He is making his first bid for a public office.
“I’m just somebody new trying to make a difference,” Householder said.
“I’d like to make a difference in our commumity, and listen to the people and see what their needs are. I’ve been in the retail business for 30 years. I do listen to the public and am very helpful. I’m also good at books and number and math.”
Sullins, 44, is chairman of the township Board of Review. He’s been on the Board of Review for two years.
He is a blueberry farmer, and also owns Mike Sullins’ Excavating.
“I’d like to see our township thrive and keep moving forward,” he said. “I feel I know our community well enough. If there’s an issue the people can come to make and we can get it addressed. I would like to follow through on keeping our road program moving forward. I have a background in road building. I want to move forward with new ideas: That’s the big thing.”
Other township candidates are unopposed.
They are Clerk Linda Poland; Treasurer Sandra Karr; and for trustees, Davide Houdek and James Karr. They are all Republicans.
School board races
Eight candidates vie for four board seats on Covert school board
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
COVERT — Covert schools’ voters will settle an eight-way race for four available school board seats in the Nov. 8 election.
Only two of the four board members whose terms are up will be seeking reelection.
They are Valerie Bury and Dana Getman. Board members Maxine Jeffries and Beverly Smith are not seeking new terms.
Vying with Bury and Getman for the board terms are Diana Parrigin - who lost to Bury in a recent recall election - and Shirley Ashley-Kener, Elizabeth DeRosa, Cheryl Edrington, Flozene King and Adan Pedroza.
Here’s a closer look at the candidates, in alphabetical order:
Ashley-Kener, 69, is a retired Covert schools middle school paraprofessional. She is past president of the Covert Lions Club and was chairwoman of the Miss Covert queen committee for 20 years.
“It’s all about the children,” she said. “I hope I have a little bit to bring to the table.”
Bury, 63, has been on the board since May, after defeating Parrigin in a recall election. She is a retired educator who was on the school board for four years in the late 1980s. She worked in Coloma and Hartford schools.
“I’m a good choice because I’ve been on the board and I’ve lived in Covert for 45 years of my life,” she said. “It’s important to me because the school’s in a lot of debt right now. I would like to see them get out of that debt. I would also like the school system to grow.”
DeRosa, 48, is a former Coloma school board member. She and her husband, Gaetano, own the KOA campground in the township. She is also a part-time physical therapist.
“I feel like I’m a good listener. I’m good at brainstorming and thinking outside the box,” she said. “My parents were educators. A good school district means a good town. I’ve got leadership and management experience.”
Edrington, 64, is a retired Covert schools food service worker.
“I think I would be a good school board member,” she said. “I am so passionate about the kids of Covert schools.”
Getman, 70, has been on the school board for four years and has been president since May. He’s owner and board president of Getman Corp.
“I’ve served on many boards and held leadership roles in business,” he said. “I think I offer something. I offer experience with a small company, and in dealing with finances.”
King, 77, is a retired Covert schools secretary and community liaison.
“I really want to try to make a difference,” she said. “I’m interested in making sure the kids have a quality education. I’m interested in the schools and the community too.”
Parrigin, 54, is a former Covert school board president who was recalled from office by voters in May. She had been on the board for six years, and had been president since January 2015.
“I would like to be back on the school board to continue to develop the school in a positive manner, as we were doing when I was on the school board,” she said.
Pedroza, 55, is self-employed as a roofer.
“I just want to participate,” he said. “I think that I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the community. I like to participate and volunteer. I’d like to be more closer to everything.”
Contested SH school board races to be settled by district voters
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven Public Schools voters will settle two separate contested races in the Nov. 8 election.
Vying for the three four-year terms are board members Joe DeGrandchamp and Doug Ransom, and challengers Kilby Brandt, John Frost, Loren Patterson and Donna Rummel.
For the one partial, two-year term, board member Stuart Price faces a challenge from Crystal Davis.
Longtime board member Annie Brown is not seeking a new term.
Here’s a closer look at the six candidates seeking the full terms, in alphabetical order:
Kilby Brandt, 74, is a retired hospital administrator.
“I feel I have an interesting combination of skills, in leadership and decision-making,” she said. “I understand educational matters. I miss being part of something that’s really important. I do have the time and I don’t have an agenda of any kind. I’m able to keep an open mind.”
Joe DeGrandchamp, 59, is board treasurer. He’s been on the board since 2007. He’s co-owner of DeGrandchamp Blueberry Farms.
“I’m a big proponent of kids having the right tools for success in their future,” he said. “I’m objective and unbiased. I do more listening than I do speaking, and come to conclusions after taking in everything. I know how to work in committees. I know how to work with other people.”
John Frost, 42, has a South Haven law practice. He also serves on the city Planning Commission.
“I’ve served on other commissions and boards. I know how to work well with other board members,” he said. “I have four children in the district. I have a vested interest in making sure all the children in the district have the ability to succeed.”
Loren Patterson, 31, is a brand marketing manager with Whirlpool Corp.
“Volunteering and making my community better is what I want to do,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of mentoring and tutoring. I’m just passionate about helping people learn and grow. I’m a people person, and I’d like to leverage my communication and collaboration skills.”
Doug Ransom, 43, was appointed to the board in May. He is a project manager for Communications by Design, in Ada.
“I’m willing to serve and I want to help,” he said. “So far, it’s been a really good experience. The people on the board are great to work with. For over 20 years I’ve worked with schools almost exclusively. It offers a unique perspective.”
Donna Rummel, 41, is an integrated English instructor with the Van Buren County Intermediate School District, and former South Haven high school English teacher and secondary instructional specialist.
“I have a deep knowledge of what’s happening. I’ve worked with administration. I’ve also worked as a teacher,” she said. “I love to work collaboratively and in teams. My goal has been and always will be to have a positive influence on education.”
For the partial term, candidate Crystal Davis, 34, is a paralegal with Frost Law, South Haven and a former school secretary and paraprofessional.
“I have children in the public school system. I also have a pretty good understanding of the inner workings of the schools,” she said. “I think there needs to be some changes with the school board. It needs more input from people with kids in the district, with a little different perspective.”
The other candidate seeking the partial term is Stuart Price, who was appointed to the school board for the second time in January. He previously served on the board in 2013. He is the district Band Boosters president. He is a project manager and estimator for Titan Interiors, Grand Rapids.
“I’m a good team player, and a good listener,” he said. “I just kind of like the direction we’re going and I’d like to keep the group together and keep things moving forward.”