TRAVERSE CITY — City voters will have nine candidates to choose from during this fall's election for four open seats on the city commission.
Rick Buckhalter, a frequent commission critic, will challenge incumbent Mayor Michael Estes, and seven candidates have filed nominating petitions to vie for three city commission seats. Commissioner Jody Bergman will seek her third four-year term while others hoping to earn commission spots include: city planning commissioners Jan Warren, Gary Howe, and Tim Werner; former county Commissioner Ross Richardson; Traverse City Light & Power board Chairman Patrick McGuire, and John Reid, who has no prior political experience.
"To win this race is going to be a lot of hard work," Reid said. "I've already been out talking to people, knocking on doors. I'm trying to get my name out there."
McGuire has changed his cell phone answering message to inform callers they have reached a candidate for city commission, while Howe has begun an online fund-raising campaign that has raised about $6,000.
Other candidates have moved a little slower. Richardson said he's just doing prep work, designing yard signs, logos, and literature, while Bergman hasn't decided yet what she'll do.
Most candidates expect traffic, road improvements, and the future of the city fire department to become the top issues of the campaign.
"The fire department is going to be a big one and we all know its going to come down the pipe soon," said Reid, who opposes the proposal to join the three-township authority that makes up the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department.
Bergman said she hasn't heard anything yet from Metro that would lead her to favor a consolidation but will wait to see what a formal proposal brings. She said the city needs to resolve it one way or the other.
"We need to either seriously consider a Metro proposal or determine how our fire department will best be sustained," Bergman said. "Right now we are in limbo and not doing either one."
Estes remains one of the few candidates who publicly favors joining Metro as a way to lower fire service costs if the city can cut the right deal. Buckhalter opposes it.
McGuire said traffic was the top issue people raised while he was circulating petitions.
"It may not be the biggest issue but it's the one everyone wants to talk about," McGuire said. "It's probably because it's so difficult to solve."