KALKASKA — There are seven candidates in a race for three open seats on the Kalkaska Village Council, plus two write-in candidates looking to fill an open partial term.
That's a marked change from the way things usually go in Kalkaska, said Lauren Clark, treasurer for the nonprofit Kalkaska For Peace organization. Typically, there are just enough candidates that nobody runs opposed, but not this time.
"I feel that huge wave of apathy here is now going the other way," Clark said.
On Tuesday, Kalkaska Village voters will choose from among both incumbents and newcomers to fill three complete terms, each four years in length, said Angie Koon, village clerk. She said the open partial term expires in November 2020.
Candidates for the three four-year terms include incumbents Timothy Ellis, Erik Hayes and Robert Larsen, all defending their appointed positions. Challengers include Annette Goodyear, Michelle Miller, Shana North and Cameron Porteous.
The write-in candidates for the partial term are Marianne Price, 61, and Robert Bishop, 54.
Ellis, 54, was appointed in April 2017 to replace Dan North. Larsen, 70, was appointed in March this year to replace Kathy Sanborn. And, Hayes, 28, was appointed in April this year to replace Denise Kelly.
Newcomer candidates include Goodyear, 40; Miller, 49; North, 34; and, Porteous, 30.
Incumbent village President Harley Wales is running unchallenged in the general election after he won his seat during a recall election in May that sought to remove former president Jeff Sieting. Wales said the political turmoil the village experienced during the last year ultimately had a positive effect by spurring a more engaged electorate.
"It has shown how one person or a group of people can make a difference in their community," Wales said. "I think people are excited to get involved now and that really is where to make things happen, at the grass-roots level."
Clark recently organized a village candidates' forum held last week for the Kalkaska For Peace group. She agreed with Wales that the recent recall election may have helped to energize both local voters and candidates.
Elizabeth Dunham organized the recall against Sieting and campaigned against him based on village budget actions and on controversial Facebook posts — including one he shared that called for the killing of Muslims. She said the continued political interest across the Kalkaska community is a positive thing.
"I think there's been a spotlight put on our local politics and that has caused people to be more engaged," Dunham said. "The really important politics are the ones that happen at home, at the village, township and county level."
Video from the village candidates' forum hosted by Kalkaska For Peace can be viewed online on the "Kalkaska Public Meetings" page on Facebook.
Question No. 1: What are the main challenges the village of Kalkaska currently faces, and how do you propose to address them?
Question No. 2: Why have you decided to run for election to the Kalkaska Village Council?
Three open seats, each four-year terms
Answer No. 1: "The main challenges that Kalkaska faces is the lack of leadership and transparency. My family and I live and work in Kalkaska and my children attend or have graduated from Kalkaska Public Schools. I was named Kalkaska Citizen of the Year in 2017 and the hotel and resort that I have managed for three years was named 2018 Business of the Year. I am a proven and successful leader and I always have the best interest of the residents in mind when making any decisions for the community."
Answer No. 2: "I believe a leader should possess cooperation, communication and collaboration. Those are three qualities I have and maintain with the village management and its residents. As a successful businessman within the community, I know business and I will continue to manage the village as a successful business being transparent with both residents and businesses within our growing community."
Answer No. 1: "There are many challenges that the village of Kalkaska faces. Some of these challenges includes the debt we have accumulated from the lawsuits over the last year, lack of recycling opportunities, the beautification of our downtown building upgrade needs, lack of behavioral health support, the poverty level of the village, and most importantly the lack of participation from the community due to past and maybe present fears of village operations. I come to the village with a background in mental health as I am a local therapist. I have the compassion, education and experience to ensure my goals get accomplished. I would also work to advocate for benefits for those individuals to gain for spending money preparing or fixing their homes or business to beautify the town, and neighborhoods. To feel a sense of pride in the community you live, work and play. I also plan to assist the behavioral health system or lack thereof in our community so all community members have a place of support and feel a sense of peace."
Answer No. 2: "I have decided to run for the election due to the needs of our community and the comfort I feel in knowing I can be a strong advocate for the items I listed above. I have the knowledge, education and compassion to accomplish these things. I would like to support others and be a role model in our community in hopes in the future more individuals will feel comfort in knowing it is safe to participate and support their village."
Answer No. 1: "The biggest problem this village faces is division. I think events and community turnouts are better in non-hostile, pleasant environments where people can discuss or debate rather than argue or accuse."
Answer No. 2: "I have decided to run for election to the village council because I absolutely love Kalkaska, as flawed or wonderful as it is, it is the place I hope to always call home, and I want to be a part of its success."
Answer No. 1: "It's a big challenge just for everybody to work together. With the health care lawsuit taken care of, maybe now we can get back to business and get something done with the downtown, and everything else that needs to be improved across town. Also, we have budget coming up after the first of the year, so we'll be working on that."
Answer No. 2: "I'm trying to make a change and be involved. I see changes that still need to be done and hopefully we can work together as a council in order to get changes accomplished."
Michelle "Mickey" Miller
Answer No. 1: "Getting everyone to work together is the challenge, finding ways to ensure services at lower costs, and bringing business and housing to Kalkaska."
Answer No. 2: "I decided to run because I have been attending the meetings for about eight years and have paid attention to what's been going on. I felt that now was the time to run and sit on the other side to help make sure Kalkaska moves forward and not backwards."
Answer No. 1: "As we come out of the last 5-6 years of litigation and the financial upheaval of the lawsuit settlements, as well as the ugly recall of our president, we need to move forward and put these things in our past. Given the nature of the publicity that the village has had over the last year to two years the public really views the village government as being a negative influence in our county. I don't see it that way and I would love to change the way it's viewed as more honest and open and I believe that I represent an average person of our community that believes in our community. One that shops here and pays taxes here and has an interest in the growth of our little town."
Answer No. 2: "If elected I want to be able to bring a positive reflection of government and at the same time relate to the needs of the residents in order to be able to bring this village forward into the next 10 years that is hopefully filled with growth."
Answer No. 1: "The current and future challenges the village faces are empty store fronts, vacant commercial buildings for sale, and housing. I propose a 'vacancy tax' of 10 percent of the average price of rent per month to both building owners with empty store fronts for rent (vacant for 90 days) and buildings for sale (vacant for 180 days). This will drive rent and sale prices down to an affordable price and incentivize building owners to actively seek tenants and buyers and improve the appearance of their buildings. As we have already accomplished with the medical marijuana industry in town thanks to our community leadership, attract and assist developers to build all types of housing from apartments to large, multi-family homes."
Answer No. 2: "I am running for election because Kalkaska is in desperate need of intelligent, leadership-based individuals with a drive and passion to make decisions that better the village. I have proven to have these qualities in my five years of residence here in the village by owning and operating a successful auto detailing business, a Christmas tree donation drive called Trees of Hope giving over 30 families in need a Christmas tree in our first year, started an active and engaged social media community group called Kalkaska POSITIVEly that promotes positive engagement and experiences in the community, and went from Kalkaska DDA board member to DDA chair in just five months. Kalkaska is on the rise once again and I plan on building on this momentum to better our village even further."
One open seat, partial term ending 12/20/2020
Marianne Price, write-in candidate
Answer No. 1: "One of the main challenges the village of Kalkaska currently faces is the fund balance, which has dropped drastically. In looking over the budget, the fund balance for 2016 was almost $8 million. The ending balance for 2018 is almost $3.5 million. The village needs to quit spending over budget, build up the fund balance and I think save money in case of emergencies. This should be a top priority."
Answer No. 2: "We need leadership to take the village of Kalkaska in the right direction and help us grow in the future. I'd like to see Kalkaska as a bustling and vibrant community with a downtown that is attractive and inviting. I am hoping to bring ideas for future marketing campaigns, new and affordable housing and condos, promoting businesses so they thrive and bring new people in to enjoy shopping and dining. We have a wonderful community and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Robert Bishop, write-in candidate
Answer No. 1: "I see the main challenges are that the village is so divided. We need to start working together to bring back unity in the village to move on to make this village a stronger community. A stronger community will work together to accomplish great things together as a great community for the future of our village. I don't consider as leaders but mediators of the community. We work for the community not leading them."
Answer No. 2: "I want to make a difference in this community for the future of our kids and citizens of our community. We need to show we want to do for the younger families. We need to offer young families something to bring them here. Also we need to get involved with the community we already have. The older people need to know who we are and what is going on in this community so they are not left in the dark. It's the people we work for. I'm not a person with an agenda but to make the village a better place and my honesty. I thank my almost 30 years of military career for that of a hard worker who is very dedicated to what I do, plus to give my son who I have been raising on my own with special needs for almost seven years a great place to call home."