TRAVERSE CITY — Mayor Michael Estes may have an opponent in this fall’s election, but the challenge isn’t coming from the quarter he expected.
Estes contends Traverse City firefighters sought candidates to run against him in the November election because of his push for the city to join Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department and disband the city’s standalone department
But thus far the only person other than Estes to request a nominating packet for the two-year mayoral position is city resident Rick Buckhalter, who attends almost every commission meeting and regularly speaks during public comment
“I don’t want to run, but I don’t like the way the (commission) is going so I feel I have to,” Buckhalter said. “But it’s not definite.”
City firefighters won’t put up a candidate because they haven’t tried to recruit anyone, said Chad Rueckert, president of the city firefighters’ union.
“I think I would know about it if we were,” Rueckert said.
Estes said he’s “delighted” to have an opponent.
“Elections are all about issues and when we get to discuss issues, it’s all for the better,” Estes said.
The race for three city commission seats doesn’t lack for candidates. Seven people declared intentions to run, including three city planning commissioners, a former county commissioner, the chairman of the city’s electric utility, and one current city commissioner.
Incumbent city Commissioners Michael Gillman and Mary Ann Moore said they won’t seek a second term. Candidates have until Aug. 13 to file nominating petitions and other required documentation with the city’s clerk office to make the Nov. 5 ballot. There is no primary and the top three vote-getters will take a seat on the commission.
“I was hopeful going into it that maybe there would be fewer candidates than last time, but now there is even more,” said candidate and city planning commissioner Tim Werner, who lost out on a seat in 2011.
Planning commissioner Gary Howe and former county Commissioner Ross Richardson submitted paperwork to run.
Others interested in commission openings include: Jan Warren, the city’s longest serving planning commissioner; city Commissioner Jody Bergman; Traverse City Light & Power board Chairman Patrick McGuire, and newcomer John Reid.
“There are a lot of good candidates and winning is going to be tough,” McGuire said.
Two others who took out petitions, Annie Campbell and Bradley Matson, said they won’t run.
“We vetted the current candidates and there seems to be some talent there already,” Matson said.