TRAVERSE CITY — Republicans dominated the Leelanau County ballot for years, but they’ll have some company this year.
Four Democrats registered to run for seats on the county board of commissioners as of Friday morning, an increase from regular election cycles.
Challengers cited the county board’s decision last year to dissolve the county’s Economic Development Corporation as a motivation for running. They also want county commissioners to take a more active role in taking care of county residents who have unmet needs.
“I’m running because I have not been happy with the black eye I think our current commissioners, including the one who holds the seat I’m running for, gave our county with statements and actions about county government not caring about economic development, not needing it, not needing to be part of that planning,” said Dave Barrons, a former weatherman who lives in Elmwood Township.
Barrons is slated to run against incumbent Debra Rushton.
Candidate Ty Wessell, former superintendent of Northport Public School, said he was disappointed about what he called missed opportunities, ranging from commissioners’ disbanding the EDC to not collaborating with the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, to refusing to sign on to the 211 phone program.
“I have been concerned as I got to commission meetings about the absence of some real thoughtful decision-making and sometimes an overly conservative political ideology,” Wessell said. “I think we need a little more moderation in our decision-making.”
All of the current county commissioners have filed to run, except for Rushton, who said she still plans to run, and Karen Zemaitis, who said she’s still thinking about it.
There’s still time for others to register before the April 22 deadline.
Patricia Soutas-Little, a Democrat who chairs the Leelanau Early Childhood Development Commission, is running for Zemaitis’ seat. Soutas-Little ran in 2012 and lost the race by 13 votes.