TRAVERSE CITY — After more than two decades serving as District 4’s county commissioner, Sonny Wheelock Jr. announced Wednesday he won’t be seeking re-election.

“It’s been a privilege,” Wheelock told his fellow Grand Traverse County board members. “I enjoyed most of it.”

The announcement was made at the end of the commission’s regular meeting, and delivered in Wheelock’s characteristically calm and measured manner.

“Wow,” Chairman Rob Hentschel said. “That’s a bombshell.”

Wheelock, 63, is a Republican, co-owns Wheelock and Sons Welding and has served as county commissioner for 22 years.

Prior to that, he spent 18 years on Long Lake’s Township board.

He told board members he’s already informed citizens and elected officials of Long Lake Township the night before.

“I wanted to give them the first notice,” Wheelock said. “Those people have been electing me for 40 years.”

He will serve through the year and finish his term, and had some advice for anyone considering running for his seat.

“Do your homework. Make sure your voice is heard.”

Hentschel said in a phone interview Wednesday the announcement caught him by surprise, and he praised Wheelock’s “institutional knowledge.”

“He knows a whole lot about Grand Traverse County, about how each department operates, and he’s been around longer than many department heads,” Hentschel said.

In his present term, Wheelock has often been a swing vote, siding with Commissioners Betsy Coffia and Bryce Hundley by not voting in favor of a resolution supporting Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel, for example, and voting with the majority at budget time, accepting the county administrator’s recommendations.

Reached later at his home Wheelock said he’d been considering his decision for quite some time, is satisfied he’s making the right one, but was glad to serve.

“I have voted to support things that were good for our community as a whole,” Wheelock reflected. “They may not have been what any one person wanted at that time, but I had the community in mind when I’ve made decisions.”

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