TRAVERSE CITY — For the first time in more than two decades a new face will represent the 4th district on the Grand Traverse County board.

Following the retirement of longtime commissioner Addison “Sonny” Wheelock, Jr., three republican newcomers ran for the seat and with 29 percent turnout, Penny Morris was leading Hal Gurian by 102 votes and Todd Knipe by 154 votes.

The winner will face democrat Brace Kern in the general election.

Morris, a small business owner, operates Crystal Bindi Studios, volunteers with local nonprofits and said she ran to give voice to those not always heard.

She said she was inspired to get involved in the community after the outpouring of support she received following the 2004 death of her teenage daughter in a car crash. She began volunteering at nonprofits, leading counseling groups and fundraising for scholarships and that led to an interest in politics.

She wants to facilitate communication between first responders and ensure law enforcement is funded appropriately for the needs of the county, she said.

“I have worthy opponents, Mr. Knipe in particular is in the race for the right reasons,” Morris said late Tuesday. “The race has been a positive experience and I hope the results hold. I have a heart for speaking up for people who don’t have a voice and I would love to do that for my township.”

Gurian and Knipe are both military veterans; Gurian said his priority was fully funding the pension debt and credited Morris for running a good campaign.

Knipe said he was drafting a congratulatory letter to Morris on her likely win.

“It certainly looks like Penny has it and I will fully support her in the general election,” Knipe said. “She will do a great job.”

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