Large Voter Turnout in Kalamazoo County Goes Mostly for the Dems

voteBy Sue Moore

Kalamazoo County went heavily blue for Democrats in some mid-term races last Tuesday, including rejection of Republican State Senator Margaret O’Brien’s bid for a second term. She lost to Democrat Sean McCann.

In contrast, the voters stayed with Republican state representatives in the 61st and 63rd districts, handing Brandt Iden his seat for a third term. Matt Hall won an overwhelming victory in the 63rd.

Further down the ballot, two elections that meant a lot locally were for Vicksburg’s Village Council and Schoolcraft’s school board. Rick Holmes, Carl Keller and Julie Merrill beat Denny Olson and Ron Smith for Vicksburg council four-year terms. In Schoolcraft, Darby Fetzer and Rachel Phelps edged out Michael Rochholz and Wade Rutkoskie for six-year school board terms.

John Gisler retained his seat on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners but will be one of just three Republicans on the 11-member board that went overwhelmingly for Democrats.

In Wakeshma Township, the request for a 10-year road repair millage passed convincingly with 354 yes votes vs. 191 no votes.

Following are the actual vote counts:

Dist. 8, County Board

Candidate Party Votes
John Gisler Republican Party 6,043
Cody Dekker Democratic Party 4,249
Write-in Nonpartisan 3

Vicksburg Village Council

Candidate Votes
Rick Holmes 632
Carl E. Keller 569
Julie Merrill 680
Denny Olson 459
Ronald D. Smith 423
Write-in 17

Schoolcraft School Board

Candidate Votes
Darby Fetzer 1,111
Rachel Phelps 1,143
Michael Rochholz 1,034
Wade Rutkoskie 1,042
Write-in 19

61st State Rep District

Candidate Party Votes
Brandt Iden Republican Party 24,009
Alberta Griffin Democratic Party 22,725
Write-in Nonpartisan 164

63rd State Rep District

Candidate Party Votes
Matt Hall Republican Party 22,709
Jennifer Aniano Democratic Party 15,807
Ronald Hawkins Libertarian Party 1,059
John Anthony La Pietra Green Party 557
Write-in Nonpartisan 40

20th State Sen District

Candidate Party Votes
Margaret O’Brien Republican Party 48,197
Sean McCann Democratic Party 60,523
Lorence Wenke Libertarian Party 5,273
Write-in Nonpartisan 171

6th Congressional District

Candidate Party Votes
Fred Upton Republican Party 147,314
Matt Longjohn Democratic Party 134,069
Stephen J. Young U. S. Taxpayers Party 11,923
Write-in Nonpartisan 193





Schoolcraft Volleyball District Champions

DSC_9320fb copyBy Mark Blentlinger

Thursday, November 1st, in the gym of Schoolcraft High School, the Eagles were about to face off with the Comets of Kalamazoo Christian, for the District Championship. The 2 teams had seen each other twice previously in the season. The Eagles won the first meeting. The Comets were able to take the SAC tournament from the Eagles, in the second meeting, beating them 2-1, the weekend prior to the District tournament starting.

With the Championship and the continuation of the season on the line, both teams fan bases were in full force to cheer on their team. During the introduction of players, the lady Eagles tossed mini, autographed volleyballs into the crowd.

During play of these 2 teams, the atmosphere in the gymnasium was electric with every single point scored. Regardless of which team scored the point, the crowd would erupt as if that was the winning point.  Both teams were playing with so much energy, neither team was going to go down easy. The Eagles were able to come out on top in Set 1, winning it 25-15.  Set 2 was played just like the first, with the Eagles topping the Comets again, 25-15.

Set 3 started out with the Comets taking an early 7-3 lead.  The Eagles were able to work their way back and both teams went point for point with each other.  The Eagles were able to pull away taking Set 3, 25-19 and winning the District Championship.

After the game, Coach Onken remarked, “The girls came out in attack mode for the finals.  They really wanted this game, their constant enthusiasm showed that. The captains did an awesome job of keeping everyone pumped up and focused on the game plan.”  Onken was happy with the ball control and the attack, that was key. Tthe team minimized the unforced errors and kept the Comet defenders scrambling.

The stat leaders for the final were Andelyn Simkins and Maggie Morris having 11 kills each; Kayla Onken 6 Digs, Simkins 21, Kelby Goldschmeding, Madi Ballett 10 digs.  The team combined for a total of 8 aces and Kayla Onken led the team with assists at 28. Next up for the Eagles is Nile/Brandywine at Bronson, November 6th, at 7:30 for the Regional semifinals.

Gearig Finishes as Conference and Regional Champion in Bulldog Tennis

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity tennis team had another strong showing to close out the year. But it fell just short of its intended goal.

“I thought we were going to go to state but we didn’t,” Head Coach Warner Offord said after their Regional meet in Sturgis. “We had a good season.”

The team took third place overall in the Conference tournament on Oct. 9. Once again, it was the senior singles stars that finished strong. Ayden Flickinger, Jonathan Perkins and Corbin Wallace all finished in second place. Fellow senior Sam Gearig won the number four singles Conference title.

A week later he was also the only Bulldog left standing as he won again to earn a Regional title, beating out Niles, 6-0, 6-0, St. Joseph 6-1, 6-3, and finally Stevensville Lakeshore, 6-2, 6-1 as his teammates watched. They swarmed the court for him after his victory. “Sam Gearig did a fantastic job today,” Offord said.

“They played to the best of their ability, but some of the other teams were a lot better than us today,” Offord said. “We had opportunity but we just couldn’t finish it.”

This year’s team will lose almost all of its singles stars in Perkins, Wallace and Gearig. They’ll also lose Jacob Henderson, Ricky Laham, David Rutt and Kevin Veld on doubles. “Next year is going to be a long season, we’re going to have a rebuilding season next year,” Offord said. “I just hope that we get back to this position again and have an opportunity to go to state.”


Bulldog Cross Country Team is Lowering Its Times

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg cross country finally found some more favorable running conditions as the season wound down.

The Bulldogs faced another really tough challenge during a Wolverine Conference Jamboree in Three Rivers at Myer Broadway Park. The park’s hills and an unusually warm day made for slower than normal times for most all the runners.

“It’s not a fast course by any means,” Head Coach Lucas Wolthuis said. “It’s a true cross country course. It’s hilly, it’s competitive. It forces you to not only beat those around you but also beat yourself.”

Both the boys’ and girls’ teams ended up finishing second at the meet. Wolthuis knew there likely wouldn’t be any personal or season records at the meet. This race was more strategic on placing. “I think our kids overall did a good job of worrying less about the course and more about where they were in relation to the other teams,” he added.

At the Wolverine Conference Championship, conditions were much better. The boys finished fifth while the girls finished seventh. Freshman Sam Richardson set a new personal record (PR) for the girls and Ben Welch set a new season record for the boys.

The Bulldogs also did well at the Otsego Bulldog Invite at the end of September. On the girls’ side, Sawyer Barton, Avalee Goodman, Hannah Fenwick, Riley-Ann Bierema and Savina Centofanti all set new PRs. Angel Currie set a new season record.

The same event saw Jacob Malocha and Levi Thomas both run under 18 minutes while setting new PRs. Joey Loriso, Jackson Hambright and Ben Hambright both also ran new PRs under twenty minutes.

“Times are starting to drop and kids are starting to come around,” Wolthuis said.

Vicksburg Soccer Wraps Up Rough Season

vix soccerBy Travis Smola

The varsity boys’ soccer team wrapped up another rough season in Vicksburg with an 8-0 loss in District competition against Sturgis.

The team finished with a 1-13-4 record on the year. Their only win was a 5-3 contest against Parchment back in August. Late in the year, the team had some disciplinary issues and in their second-to-last game of the year, they only fielded 11 players against Three Rivers.

That left an opportunity for some new players who hadn’t gotten playing time before and freshman Adrian Knauer scored for the Bulldogs in his first game all year. Unfortunately, Vicksburg fell in the contest, 6-1. Vicksburg had some good pressures on net a few times, but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

“We played really well the first half, but then the second half we made some mistakes that cost us,” Head Coach Lohou Boulnemour said.

Vicksburg Volleyball Just Misses Share of Conference Title

By Travis Smola

The Lady Bulldogs had a perfect 7-0 record against Wolverine Conference rivals until they matched up against Edwardsburg in mid-October.

The girls won the first set against the Eddies 25-22 after rallying from seven points down. But then Vicksburg lost in three straight sets, 25-23, 25-14 and 25-12. The loss meant the girls missed a share of the Wolverine Conference title. The following week, the Lady Bulldogs went on the road against Three Rivers and lost in very similar fashion. Vicksburg took the first set 25-17 before losing the next three sets 25-22, 25-19 and 25-23.

“We definitely didn’t execute the things that we should have, for sure,” Assistant coach Chad Miller said. The Wildcats team and fans were extremely fired up for the whole match-up. “Full credit to Three Rivers. Don’t take anything away from them, they played well,” Miller said.

The Lady Bulldogs were in all the games, but always seemed to be playing catchup from two points down to Three Rivers the whole night. Defensively, Miller said they could have played better. “We tried to correct it, we tried to move some pieces around, but we just couldn’t get there tonight,” Miller said.

“It’s a game of inches, it’s a 30 foot by 30 foot court on your side,” he added. “But if you’re not in the right spot by inches it’s just not good enough and we weren’t in the right spot tonight.”

He does still feel they’ve had a very successful year. There are just a few adjustments to make before the first game of Districts on November 1. Miller said they are looking forward to another chance for retribution against Edwardsburg.

Schoolcraft Soccer Wins First District Semi-Final Game


By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft soccer made marked improvements over last season. That culminated in the team’s first District semi-final win in an aggressively-played, 4-0 contest against Constantine.

“The boys played a great game today,” Head Coach Chad Earles said after the victory. “We got a little sloppy towards the end of the first half, but we got up early on them with two goals. Constantine, they’re a tough team. They played hard, they played very physical.”

Sophomore Myalz Berkheiser opened the scoring for the Eagles. Senior Chandler Guiter added to the score with two goals of his own. Senior Buddy Kelecava gets the credit for the last goal. It came on a shot that Constantine accidentally deflected into their net. The game marked the first time the Eagles have won in the semi-finals and first time they’ve made it to the District finals.

It’s a marked turnaround from last year when the team was losing by large margins. This year they’ve kept all but one game close while tallying an 8-9-1 record with a 4-3-1 record in the conference.

The boys moved on to face Dowagiac the following week in the District Final and got out to an early lead on a Jacob Steeby goal. But the Chieftains ultimately took the game 3-1 and ended the Eagles’ season.

“Our stats don’t show how good of a team we actually are,” Earles said. “We’ve lost a lot of close games because we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

Mill Project Approved by Unanimous Village Council Vote

By Jef Rietsma

Tearing the corner off a piece of notebook paper, Vicksburg Village President Bill Adams gave a visual example of how much work remains for redevelopment of the former Simpson Paper Co.

Adams, speaking prior to the council’s 7-0 approval of the $60 million planned-unit development Oct. 29, said the corner of the torn paper represents the amount of work already completed. The rest of the sheet, he said, signifies the work that lies ahead.

“We have voted on the small portion of the plan tonight,” Adams said, indicating he intended to present the two-piece puzzle to his wife as a means of explaining the current state of the project.

Village Manager Jim Mallery said in a perfect situation, village staff “would have been here with all the details. But working with the developer, we felt it best to proceed this way in order to receive the county- and state-level economic incentives, and then move forward.”

There’s plenty of work ahead, but for now, backers of the ambitious plan to redevelop the former mill will take a moment to celebrate the council’s milestone vote.
Buoyed by the unanimous decision, the crowd of more than 150 – most of them proponents – applauded as the meeting adjourned at Vicksburg High School’s Performing Arts Center.

Chris Moore, a Vicksburg native who is backing the Paper City Mill project, said there was good reason to celebrate a vote that has been several years in the making.

“We’re a lot closer to the start line now … it’s such a huge project, you have to think about the thing incrementally,” the 53-year-old Moore said. “So, there is the initial study, figuring out the brownfield issues, then the next step is to get the traffic plan, the sound plan, the parking plan and all that stuff put away. It’s all incremental and if you don’t think of it incrementally, your head will blow up.”

While behind-the-scenes work takes place over the winter, project manager Jackie Koney said visually, the public will see progress commence in the spring. She made a reference to the Transformational Brownfield Redevelopment plan under review by Michigan Department of Economic Development.

“We are waiting on it and if awarded, it truly (would be) transformational,” Koney said.

Supporters indicated the need for such a destination with the facilities the development will provide, while others noted it would help preserve a building and property that impacted thousands of area families over nearly a century before closing in 2001.

Vicksburg native Joe Krill, a Stryker employee, said Paper City has the potential to impact the county’s larger employers. He said large meeting spaces – which are included in Paper City’s plan – are needed in the area to enhance manufacturers’ recruitment and retention of prospective and current employees.

The village council’s vote followed the Vicksburg Planning Commission’s Oct. 17 unanimous recommendation for approval. The recommendation was sealed after commission members in last-minute negotiations won concessions from Moore reducing permissible sound levels and late-evening hours for entertainment at the site.

Vicksburg-area resident Don Wiertella was the first of eight people to address the council. He reminded the members that Mallery and the planning commission’s support spoke well of the project.

“I believe that the mill project will be successful and will allow Vicksburg to become a destination village and not a travel-through village,” said Wiertella, a former Michigan Department of Transportation engineer who oversaw traffic studies at locations such as the Pontiac Silverdome and Michigan International Speedway. “I believe that what is in the best interest of the village is a yes vote on this project.”

Jo Ramsdell, a Vicksburg resident, said the Village Council “is the equivalent of a watchdog whose job is to bark and alarm when something or someone suspicious approaches, to sniff out potential problems and to stand your ground to protect our interests. You have done your jobs well.”

“Chris Moore has offered Vicksburg an amazing opportunity,” Ramsdell said. “We, the residents and the voters, are the watchdog owners. We hear the barks and the growls, we step out from our doors with caution, but when we realize it is actually Santa walking toward us, delivering gifts, it is our responsibility as owners to tell our watchdogs to sit, stay, but don’t go away.

“We know that many gifts come with warnings and they need to be monitored when in use, but that does not mean the gift is no good, or even worse that it should be returned,” she added.

Virginia Corners Homestead Circa 1840 on Home Tour

virginia corners 2
Don and Cheryl Ulsh stand on the east side of their Virginia Corners historic home.

By Linda Lane

Aaron Burson Jr. might be a great-great-great-great- grandfather to some families in Schoolcraft. He’s the man who built the Virginia Corners home for his family in 1840, 178 years ago, moving west from Virginia to settle here with three other families. The stately Greek Revival home at the corner of Oakland Drive and U Avenue has nurtured over six generations of families.

Virginia Corners is currently owned by Don and Cheryl Ulsh. Very active within the community, Don currently serves as the Schoolcraft Township supervisor and is president of the Vicksburg Rotary Club.

“It’s an honor to own a home like this with so much history,” Ulsh said. “When we purchased the property, we were told, ‘You never own Virginia Corners, you are just stewards for a while.’ We’re very sensitive and careful about making any changes or modifications to this historic home.”

“This was a weird coincidence, but when staff members were cleaning out an old vault in the Township offices, they happened upon a photocopy of a land grant deed to a property. I looked at it and said, ‘That’s our home’s property!’ It’s a copy of a land grant registered in Washington D.C. and was signed by President Andrew Jackson on June 1, 1831.”

Somehow the deed had been registered in the Kalamazoo County Registrar’s office in 1991, the year the Ulshes purchased the home. But Ulsh has no idea who went to Washington D.C. to obtain a copy of the land deed. A thick abstract of the property chronicles each owner since 1831.

The home originally had two kitchens, one called and used as a “summer kitchen” with a tiny fireplace. Previous owners discovered the fireplace when they pulled off some newer wall covering on the room while renovating. The Ulshes currently use the space as a small bedroom.

“If I put a level on any window sill, I can tell you, it is perfectly level on every one of them. It’s the quietest home I’ve ever lived in. There are no creaks or squeaks in floors. It’s just incredibly well-built and has withstood the years,” Ulsh said. With five bedrooms, almost all of the 2,400 square-foot home is original, except for a 6-by-12-foot porch on the west side of the home.

Another unique aspect of the house: it’s on one of the highest spots in the township, another tidbit Ulsh learned from a topography map he found at the Township Hall. He doesn’t know if the original settler selected the site because of that. But the Ulshes have never had a problem with water in the basement.

There are also four original outbuildings on the property and a sign of another. “When it’s really dry for a period of time, we’ve found a defined circle, maybe 18 inches in diameter, that we’re not really sure what it might have been originally. Maybe a well? We’re not sure. We keep talking about digging up that area to see what it might have been,” Ulsh said.

“We removed five layers of linoleum from the kitchen floor when we renovated. The contractor couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘The oak flooring is in such good condition, it doesn’t look like it’s ever been walked on.’ There literally weren’t any scratches or damage to the original tongue and groove flooring,” Ulsh said. Previous owners passed on several original tools from the home and barns, including the original tool used to create that tongue and groove flooring in the kitchen.

The biggest downside to owning a historic home? Maintenance. “It’s expensive to maintain the roofs and to keep everything painted,” Ulsh said.

Historical Homes Tour of Schoolcraft

By Linda Lane

Six gems of historical homes in the Schoolcraft area will be open for the public to tour from 4-8 p.m. Dec. 1. Visitors touring the homes will have the opportunity to see the beauty of the homes up close, decorated for the Christmas season.

Also provided with the tour is a light dinner of soups at the Schoolcraft Library, as well as sweets and coffee at the Schoolcraft Ladies Library. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the Schoolcraft Community Library and are limited to 200. Proceeds will benefit the Schoolcraft Library, the Schoolcraft Ladies Library and the Schoolcraft Historical Society.

Homes showcased on the tour:
• Dr. Nathan Thomas House, hosted by Jody and Colleen Flinton.
• Virginia Corners, hosted by Don and Cheryl Ulsh.
• Amish built barn, hosted by Francie Brown.
• Lyman Daniels home, hosted by Kirk and Kelly Bergland.
• The Underground Railroad House, hosted by Schoolcraft Historical Society.
• Wind + James (the old Arco building), hosted by Windy and Jamie Clark.

Event organizers are Deb Christiansen and Kelly Bergland. The $25 per person advance tickets will be $30 the day of the tour. This includes a wristband, keepsake color book, map, and booties for a self-paced tour of the homes. Tickets need to be purchased by Nov. 15 to insure receiving a keepsake book at the event. Others will be mailed. If those interested in attending “like” the Pure Schoolcraft page on Facebook, they can get a coupon code for $5 off the ticket price.

Visitors touring the homes must be 16 years old. Food and photography inside the homes are not allowed. People can drive or walk to the homes listed on the Schoolcraft map. For more information on tickets or volunteering, visit or find Pure Schoolcraft on To purchase tickets, click on the link to Eventbrite.