TRAVERSE CITY — Incumbent Brad Jewett, a Republican, and challenger Melissa Hogan, a Democrat, are both seeking the Grand Traverse County Board seat representing residents in District 3, a horseshoe-shaped area bordering Traverse City.
Both say using economic resources wisely and paying down the county’s pension liability are priorities.
Jewett, 50, who is serving his first term as a commissioner, said the current board has accomplished much in the past two years, even under challenging and unpredictable circumstances.
“We’ve reduced taxes, we’ve increased services, this board has paid more on the pension liability than any other board previously and we’ve increased our fund balance,” Jewett said. “And, we’ve done all this during COVID-19.”
Jewett, a married father of two who co-owns Culver Meadows adult foster care homes with his wife, Trina, said being fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money is his first priority.
“There’s always different issues, different topics that come up all the time, but our primary focus is to make sure we’re fiscally responsible and we’re lowering taxes for our taxpayers,” Jewett said. “I would like to think that the board will continue to move forward together, even though we agree to disagree at times.”
“Our primary focus,” he added, “needs to be our constituents.”
Hogan, 51, mother of one son and who has 12 years of previous experience working for Munson Hospital as a physician’s assistant, said she spent months researching board decisions before deciding to run.
If elected, Hogan said she would focus on finding solutions to local problems instead of weighing in on political issues like the Second Amendment or the Line 5 tunnel, which has caused unnecessary and even intentional divisiveness.
“Broadly speaking, the biggest impetus for me to run was I felt there was a significant amount of disregard for the very real problems that have been facing our community for decades,” Hogan said. “Affordable housing, infrastructure, water resources that we are known for and that drive our economy — there is just this degree of apathy. There’s no good faith effort to find solutions to very solvable problems.”
Hogan said paying more than required on the county’s unfunded Municipal Employees Retirement System liability was a solid strategy but she said she would not support moving MERS to a private financial manager, something she categorized as too risky.
If elected to a second term, Jewett also said he’d make paying down the pension debt a priority.
“I’d like to make sure we take care of the pension liability,” Jewett said. “Because the sooner we take care of it, the more financial freedom the county will have in the future.”
Jewett also said he’d like to continue his committee assignments — he serves on the Central Dispatch Policy Board, the Traverse Transportation Coordinating Committee and the Bay Area Transportation Authority, among other boards, and pointed to helping to secure a $13.78 million federal grant for a new BATA facility as one of his accomplishments.
Candidates for county commission may have big things they want to accomplish, but board members must stick to the job at hand, he said.
“As a commissioner, our primary job is to set the budget and set and approve policies,” Jewett said. “That’s our primary job. We don’t control the road commission and the different entities that are still part of county government. We have no say over those entities.”
Hogan said she has met with county staff, business owners, executives who run apprenticeship programs in construction, plumbing and electrical trades, to gather ideas on how to best solve the affordable housing problem in the area.
They are full of ideas and would be willing to share them with the commission if asked, she said.
“We have experienced, capable folks that live in our community,” Hogan said. “Why not reach out? Why not ask them to help us come up with how can we implement land use, grants, tax credits, permitting policies and county or township-owned land in a way that addresses this problem and provides housing for our workforce?”
The right group of elected officials, willing to work together and enlist the collective wisdom of county residents could make good progress on the issue, she said.
Hogan also said she was supportive of a new senior center, would like county commissioners to address flooding and septic issues in the county and she said her contacts in the Health Department would be an asset should she be elected.
Jewett said after his first term, he’s well acquainted with the commitment the job requires and would like to continue to serve constituents in a second term.
“There is a lot of time that goes into this, but I’m happy to serve the community I live in, I work in and I raise my family in,” Jewett said.
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