Serving Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and Surrounding Areas
South County News Features Local Candidates
By Sue Moore
2014 is an election year with the main ones being the race for governor and senate. The South County News has prepared statements from the many candidates running for local offices and three campaigns for state house seats.
These contests typically do not get much attention from the media, but they actually directly impact the daily lives of those who live and work in the south county area.
The November 4 ballot is rather lengthy and voter turnout is critical in local races, such as Schoolcraft School Board, and the state senate ballot where a lot of money is coming in from outside the district. The senate race pits Margaret O’Brien, originally from Fulton, with a Kalamazoo City resident, both of whom are state representatives now. O’Brien has worked tirelessly for Vicksburg through some of its roughest days when the village needed the state to back off and take a more collegial view of its debt restructuring.
The newspaper has offered all of the candidates for village council posts, school board, county commission, state representative, and state senate a chance to state their qualifications in 100 words or less and submit a photo of themselves so voters might recognize them as they campaign door to door in the waning weeks of the campaign.
Sean McCann, Democrat – State Senate 20th District which encompasses all of Kalamazoo County I want to serve Kalamazoo County in the state Senate because I believe in the value of public service. I have served our community first as a student leader, then neighborhood director, city commissioner and now state representative. I love this community, and I want to serve all the residents of Kalamazoo County and advance my top three priorities of quality education, economic development and excellent constituent service. I believe that through quality education from pre-K through college or trade school, we can develop a talented workforce that will attract new companies and new jobs to Michigan. My name is Sean McCann, and I am asking for your vote this November.
Margaret O’Brien, Republican – State Senate 20th District which encompasses all of Kalamazoo County Growing up on a dairy farm, I learned the value of hard work. And as I de-tasseled corn and put myself through college, I experienced firsthand how important it is to have a can-do attitude. The past four years, I have taken my experience of small business, community volunteerism and family to work for you. As your senator, I will bring my bipartisan leadership, can-do attitude and work ethic to continue Michigan’s recovery. I grew up on dairy farms in Pavilion and Texas Townships, the third of four children (three brothers, only girl). I currently live in Portage, am married to Nick, and am the mom of two college students: Tyjon and Samantha. I have been a social worker at Catholic Charities, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Advantage, a Portage City councilwoman, eight years, and state representative, four years.
Lorence Wenke, Libertarian – State Senate 20th District which encompasses all of Kalamazoo County I am the Senate candidate with the most government experience and most private sector experience. Legislators influence the direction of state government. My real world experience demonstrates my proven success in job creation in the private sector, and my 14 years in elected office show a record of leadership, courage, and responsiveness to citizens. Wenke Greenhouses has four locations in two states and employs 200 people. I have experienced public policy on the front lines. As chairman of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners and as a state representative for six years, I learned the importance of good governance and the impact that government has on the lives of all citizens.
State House of Representatives
Bill Farmer, Democrat – State Representative 63rd District which encompasses Brady, Pavilion and Wakeshma Townships I am a candidate for this office because Lansing politicians are not representing working families’ values. They have mistakenly given huge tax cuts to large corporations and the very wealthy, hoping this would create jobs. This money was taken away from our children’s education, retirees, and low income and working families. This is unfair and it didn’t create jobs. Many of these large corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes. I am committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, preparing our children to be successful in school, decreasing our state’s prison population, and creating a healthy environment and sustainable economy with growing opportunities for our families. I will do this by deeply investing in our public education. I will represent you and invest in our communities. I know what it means to represent the values of working families.
Dave Maturen, Republican– State Representative 63rd District which encompasses Brady, Pavilion, and Wakeshma Townships I feel the time is right to take my local legislative experience to the state level. For over 26 years, I’ve had the privilege of serving the South County, first as Brady Township Trustee and then as a Kalamazoo County Commissioner, where I’m currently board chair. My approach has always been to look to the future, and not kick the can down the road. As a county commissioner, I’ve led legislation to reduce government debt and rein in legacy costs, easing the burden on our future generations. I look forward to bringing this approach to Lansing and to representing the people of this great community.
John Fisher, Democrat – State Representative 61st District that encompasses the west side of Kalamazoo County I am running for state representative to bring to Lansing responsible, thoughtful leadership that works for the common good. As a local church pastor for the past 37 years, I have been privileged to serve people through the fullness of their lives, from baptisms, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. I have stood with and for diverse groups of people to advocate their issues, and I am here to bring my spirit of collaboration. We must work together to reinvest in education, to rebuild our roads and bridges, and to ensure that we work together to focus on the common good.
Brandt Iden, Republican – State Representative 61st District which encompasses Schoolcraft, Prairie Ronde, Townships and Portage. What I’m hoping resonates with the voters of the 61st District is my commitment to service. As a four-year Kalamazoo County Commissioner, I’ve served the people of this region by working hard to protect their interests and values. In the nonprofit community, I served with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for six years and I currently serve Junior Achievement of SW Michigan, championing enrichment programs for our area youth. As a small business owner, my goal is to serve my customers’ needs each and every day. Now, I look to take this spirit of service to the Michigan House of Representatives. I look forward to serving you in Lansing.
Michael Stampfler, Libertarian – State Representative 61st District I am a life-long resident of Michigan and grew up on the family dairy farm in Barry County. After attending Hope College, I received two master’s degrees from Western Michigan University. I began my 35 year career in public administration at the City of Kalamazoo where I served as Airport Director and City Clerk before serving as city manager of Portage from 1985-2005. I was appointed by Governor Granholm to serve as Emergency Financial Manager of Pontiac in 2010-2011. I am married to LuAnn and have three children all in the U.S. Military: Capt. Abigail Stampfler Vincent, Lt. Michael Stampfler II and LtJG. Jeremiah Stampfler. I believe I can help the state of Michigan face the difficult issues ahead.
Kalamazoo County Commission
Bret Willis, Democrat – Kalamazoo County Commission – District 8 I am a lifelong Schoolcraft resident, graduating from Schoolcraft High School in 2000. I have two bachelor’s degrees from Western Michigan University. One is in marketing, the other in education with a political science background. I have proudly served on the Schoolcraft Village Planning Commission since 2009. Since I have grown up and lived in this area my entire life, I possess a great amount of pride for the area and its residents. I hope to win election to this seat so that I can help make the areas of my district a great place for folks to call home. I also feel that it is important that we build upon our great traditions and pride in our towns, yet continually be open to growth and improvements. It is an honor to be running for Kalamazoo County Commissioner for District 8.
John Gisler, Republican – Kalamazoo County Commissioner – District 8 which encompasses Pavilion, Brady, Schoolcraft, and Prairie Ronde Townships I served as a county commissioner for two years, in 2011 and 2012. My guiding principles are limited government, personal responsibility and individual liberty. I’ve been a Pavilion Township resident for 38 years and have been married to Gail for 48 years. We have two grown children and four grandkids. My 14 years as a manager with budget responsibilities coupled with an MBA in finance from Syracuse University will enable me to help keep Kalamazoo one of the most fiscally sound counties in the state. The county commission will be challenged to balance budgets in the face of an anemic national economic recovery. This must be done without raising taxes. As your county commissioner, I will limit government intrusion into our daily lives and encourage personal responsibility and individual freedom. I will scrutinize every expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Larry Provancher, Democrat – Kalamazoo County Commissioner – District 10 which encompasses south entral Portage I was born in and lived in the U.P., graduating from Lourdes High School in Marinette, Wi. I continued my education at Western Michigan University earning a BA and MA in political science. I also did postgraduate work at Bradley and Michigan State Universities. I started my 36 year teaching career at Otsego High School, for three years and then spent two years at Colegio Bolivar, Cali, Colombia, S.A., and then 31 years in the Portage Public Schools. Two years after retiring from teaching, I ran for the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners, won and served three terms. After that, I served several terms on the Community Mental Health Board. Most recently, I have worked on projects in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico and have worked with the Michigan Organizing Project and Michigan United on social justice issues.
Stan Runyon, Republican – Kalamazoo County Commissioner – District 10 which encompasses south central Portage I have many years of experience taking care of the funds of business entities in both the manufacturing and construction industries. I am a long standing member of the Institute of Management Accountants. I am active in the Kalamazoo County Republican Party and and the treasurer. I have been married to my wife, Sharon, for 42 years. We have three adult children and four grandsons. The purpose of the County Commission is to oversee the business of the county. My business background qualifies me to execute that fiduciary role on the County Board in a fiscally sound and pragmatic fashion, and to be a responsible steward of citizens’ tax dollars.
Jamie Jager, Democrat– Kalamazoo County Commissioner – District 11 which encompasses southeast Portage My campaign for Kalamazoo County Commissioner for District 11 is based on my love for the community I have lived in my whole life and the impact I want to make for its residents. I have a bachelor of political science degree with a public law concentration and a minor in psychology. That, along with my experience as a small business owner and my ties to the community, makes me a prime candidate. I want my campaign to be less about political affiliation and more about improving our county for all demographics and citizens equally, with bipartisan cooperation.
Scott McGraw, Republican – Kalamazoo County Commissioner – District 11 which encompasses southeast Portage My experience as a small business owner for nearly 20 years, coupled with my involvement in the local community, gives me the vision and depth of knowledge to help the county commission through a transition where at least six of the 11 commissioners are leaving. I am involved in many local and school groups, including Portage Rotary, Love INC, Farm Bureau, the Mustang Association and PCHS Football Boosters. As I have attended all the commission meetings this year, I’ve noticed several things that I would like to see addressed. One is to see increased communication and transparency from the commission. The citizens deserve the right to know how their tax money is being spent. Secondly, I would like to see all opportunities explored before we consider adding taxes. The 911 dispatch consolidation is a prime example. Consolidation should save money and adding a surcharge to everyone’s cell phone bills should be an absolute last resort. Finally, I would like to see innovative ways to encourage cooperation among departments and units of government.