Area voters had a chance to see and hear views of some of the candidates in the upcoming Primary Election Tuesday and some who will be on the November ballot.
The Clare County Review and the Doherty Hotel sponsored the two and a half hour event Monday evening at the Clare hotel.
Master of Ceremonies and Review Publisher Mike Wilcox spoke briefly at the beginning, saying each candidate would be allowed five minutes to present his or her views and goals, and introduced each candidate, beginning with State Representative Joel Johnson (R), who is seeking voter approval in November for another term in the House of Representatives for the State.
Johnson discussed the “tough times” Michigan residents have faced, the State budget and long-term debt. “We have balanced the (State) budget on time for the last two years,” he said.
His opponent for the 97th District seat in the house, Chris Breznau (D) spoke about the need for “a quality education,” and suggested the legislature work more closely with the agricultural community. “I would be working with the legislature to make it work,” he said.
Next came Incumbent Clare County Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Ambrozaitis (R), who will face challenging Attorney Jon Ringelberg (D) on the November ballot.
Ambrozaitis, who said she has lived in Clare County since 2003, outlined the improvements she has made in the prosecutor’s office including a check restitution program, truancy policy, OWI vehicle forfeiture program, new web site and Facebook page and said they are “working towards a paperless office.” She proposed development of a “multi-disciplinary task force or team, which would work together when questioning victims.”
Ringelberg outlined his qualifications for the Prosecutor’s position. Now in general practice, he is a former judge. He said his goals for the office would be “to limit plea bargaining, simplify office procedures and to pledge respect for public property, particularly political signs placed in public right-of-ways.”
County Clerk Pamela Mayfield (D), who faces a challenge in November from long-time Sheriff’s Department employee Kimberly Davis (R), spoke next.
Mayfield stressed the many facets and duties of the Clerk/Register of Deed’s office. Formerly Chief Deputy Clerk, she has been with the office since 2001 and said, “I am the best candidate for the position.” She continued, “We maintain the offices by statute (by law). It takes a lot of knowledge.”
Davis, a life-long resident, has been with the Clare County Sheriff’s Department for 26 years. She said, “I am running because I believe the citizens of the county deserve respect and courtesy overall.” She listed her qualifications: “experience in county budgeting and being well-versed in labor relations, human relations and handling payroll.”
Two candidates are seeking the November Republican slot on the Primary ballot Tuesday , former Undersheriff Rick Miller, and Mark McClellan, retired Sgt., Detective, Training Officer and handler for “Watson” the bloodhound K9 officer.
McClellan listed his experience with the Sheriff’s Department over his more than 30-year career, saying he has had “more training than anyone. I’ve always wanted the (Sheriff’s) position,” he continued, “but I wouldn’t run against Sheriff Jeff Goyt.” He said if elected he would, “be a straight shooter, tell the truth and have a working undersheriff. He would go back to Class-A uniforms and insist those under him “act professionally.” He said he would have an open-door policy. “I feel I am the most qualified for the job,” he said.
Rick Miller recently retired as Undersheriff after 36 years with the Clare County Sheriff’s Department. He said he was recruited by Ghazey Aleck under former Sheriff Ray Lippold. “I’ve always served at the best of my ability, held every command position and have more training than anyone. I have a letter of endorsement from Anthony Gomez of the State Police and developed the largest Neighborhood Watch program in the State.”
County Drain Commissioner Carl Parks will face challenger Phillip R. Duggan in the Democratic Primary. He said he took over the position “not knowing much about it.” He said he went to school and learned all about the job. “Since I took office, we have cleaned out 52 drains. I sit on 13 lake improvement boards.”
County Road Commission candidate Don Kolander (R) will challenge Incumbent Michael Duggan (D) in November. Kolander, owner of the Sportsman’s Bar in Harrison for 33 years, is a member on the County Parks and Recreation Board, the Clare County Visitors Bureau and currently is a driver for special needs students for the RESD. He said, “As commissioner I will try to balance the budget and keep policies in place. I will try to eliminate employee grievances with a more open-door policy.”
Several County Commission incumbents and challengers attended Candidates night.
County Commissioner Jerry Burger (R), will face challenger Dale Majewski (D) in November for the District 1 seat, which encompasses Redding Freeman, Garfield and part of Lincoln Townships.
Burger said if re-elected, he will “continue to work on efficient, complaint government.” His goals include information on the internet, and his top priority is emergency services. “I will seek funds for parks, tourism, veteran’s services and senior services,” he said, “and always continue to promote Broadband services.”
His opponent Dale Majewski (D) listed his qualifications including 30 years in manufacturing, 30 years on the Lincoln Township Fire Department with 17 years as Fire Chief and his membership on the Lincoln Township Zoning Board of Appeals.
Don David is Commissioner for District 5 and has been board chairman for six years. District 5 includes Franklin, Hamilton Arthur and the northern two-thirds of Sheridan Township.
He said he feels the Commission has done well in their efforts to conserve money. “There’s very little wasteful spending,” he said. He said the budget has been reduced from $13 million annually to $10.4 million is the new budget. “This job has many challenges,” he said saying that even a well-deserved one percent increase to employees over three years won’t leave enough money to meet the budget.” He continued, “We have many hard decisions coming. Some will reduce services and some will cost jobs. There’s no way around it.”
Former Magistrate Rick LaBoda (D) will challenge David in November. He said in the time he worked with the District Court he gained “good solid working relationships for good solid intelligent decisions.”
District 6 Challenger Jim Keyser (R), will challenge Incumbent Karen Lipovsky (D) on the November ballot. District 6 includes Winterfield, Summerfield, Frost, Greenwood and the northwest corner of Hayes Township.
Keysor, a 40-year resident and business owner in Harrison, said, “We need a lot of change in this county. I believe I can be instrumental. We need to regain Central Dispatch control under the Sheriff’s Department again. We have a very intrusive government,” he added, citing building permits should only be required for structural changes. “
Three township candidates attended Monday’s forum: David Bye, who is one of three Republicans seeking the Supervisor’s position in the Primary Election; Incumbent Grant Township Supervisor Dan Dysinger (R); and Tom Kunse (R), who is seeking a trustee seat.
Bye, a Crooked Lake resident, said he has a “broad range of experience” and feels he is the “most qualified candidate with proven leadership.”
Dysinger , who was first appointed to the Grant Township Board in 2004, said the board always tries to answer any community questions, which usually related to lowering taxes and budgeting. “It’s a great group of people (the board),” he said, “fully dedicated to the people of the township.” He urged voters to “maintain the present board.” Trustees Dick Zinser and Margery Bell’s positions on the board are being challenged by Republicans Keith Yats and Tom Kunse.
Kunse also spoke saying, “Let’s get some people in who don’t all vote the same way. There is very little difference in the way they (the board) votes.”
The non-partisan candidates for Circuit Judge and Probate Judge were the last to speak at Candidates night, although a brief question and answer session followed at the end of the evening.
Three attorneys are seeking the Probate/Family Court seat which opened with Thomas McLaughlin’s retirement: Former Prosecutor Norm Gage, Tara Hovey and Marcy Klaus. Voters will pick two for the November ballot.
Gage said he has 20 years of experience with juvenile court, with child abuse and neglect, senior citizens and mental health issues. “I’m well known and very involved in the community.” He continued, “My 20 years of experience is relevant, dealing with custody issues, child support, abuse and neglect cases. People would get a fair hearing and a decision based on what the law says.”
Hovey, an attorney in the County for the past 17 years, called the Probate Court “a court of crisis, dealing with very personal family issues. You want a judge with experience in real life.” She claimed that experience, coming from a single parent home and putting herself through school. “I would try to be the best possible Probate Judge,” she said.
Klaus is a Clare High School graduate with degrees from Michigan State University and Valparaiso University College of Law. She has practiced in Clare County since 1999. She said, “I’ve handled divorces, custody cases, families with children and estate planning. I have practiced in front of Judge McLaughlin for 13 years. When you walk through the doors of that court room you want to be treated with respect, dignity, patience and kindness. I promise to treat everyone with dignity and respect and put families first and to listen to each and every one.”
55th Circuit Court Judge Roy G. Mienk is seeking re-election for another six years on the bench. He will face challenger and former Prosecutor Ghazey Aleck on the November ballot.
Aleck spoke first saying, “Most people don’t know what a Judge does. Thirty percent of voters don’t cast a non-partisan vote and there are very few lawyers willing to run against a sitting judge. I want to make a difference. All you should want is a judge that handles cases softly and firm.” Aleck said Judge Mienk was “unfair” in recent cases, not allowing him, as an attorney a say.
Judge Mienk outlined his duties saying over the past year the court has handled 550 cases and that is only about one-third of the case load. “I’m proud of my record of asking if anyone wanted a say. I strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect.” He outlined accomplishments during his term including education for jail inmates, the recovery court program for those convicted of drug and alcohol problems.