TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College has gone from a nearly empty slate of board candidates to seven, most of whom filed just ahead of the deadline.
The top three vote-getters in the November 3 election will take the seats. All terms are for six years.
One seat currently belongs to incumbent Rachel A. Johnson, who has been on the board since 2016 and filed her paperwork to run in early July.
Other candidates are Vincent Cornellier, Lawrence E. Johnson, Dan Lathrop, Laura Oblinger, James F. Perra, and Kenneth E. Warner.
Two of the seats are being vacated by K. Ross Childs, who is retiring after 19 years on the board, and Janie McNabb, who joined the board in 2017.
Cornellier, 71, is retired from Munson Medical Center where he worked as a clinician in the pain clinic for 15 years and as the ethics coordinator for 10. He holds three degrees and early on in his career he was a teacher and principal at an alternative school in Troy, as well as a psychologist in private practice.
He is also an author and is working on his fourth novel.
“This is a good chance to give something back for all the education I’ve had,” Cornellier said.
Lawrence Johnson, 75, has lived in Traverse City for six years and said when he saw nobody had initially applied for the two open board seats he couldn’t let that happen.
“I’ve been a large part of the college community and I want to help out up here,” he said.
Lawrence Johnson taught criminal justice and has worked at Northern Michigan University, Ohio State University, the College of Coastal Georgia and at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor.
Rachel Johnson, 40, who is not related to Lawrence, oversees the member services department and energy use services at Cherryland Electric Cooperative. She believes that equipping students to succeed in a fast-changing, global, and technological world is vital to their success and to the region’s sustainability as a community.
“I am running for re-election because I believe my experience as an active young professional in the community gives me unique insight into the evolving skills gap in our region and what role NMC can play in preparing students for the future,” Rachel Johnson said.
Lathrop, 72, did not return calls or emails to the Record-Eagle.
Laura Oblinger, 50, director of client services for Rehmann, has been working on NMC’s Be What’s Possible fundraising campaign. That has shown her the value of helping the college and inspired her to run for office, she has said.
Oblinger attended NMC, where she eventually received a master’s degree from the college’s University Center. Her mother earned a nursing degree from NMC and she hopes it will be an option for her daughter, who is 14.
“We would be proud to have her go there,” Oblinger said.
Perra, 40, is the rector at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Traverse City. Part of his job is overseeing the volunteers involved in the church and especially in its outreach ministries. He has lived in Traverse City since February and was formerly a rector and pastor in Baltimore.
Before earning his master’s degree and becoming a rector, he worked as a paramedic for 10 years after receiving his certification from Kalamazoo Community College. It was a challenging program and he said he learned to respect what community colleges do.
“That level of education made a place in my heart and an understanding of what needs to be projected and what needs to be supported,” as a board trustee, Perra said.
Warner, 73, is retired from a 45-year career at the University of Michigan, where he was a professor in the School of Public Health, as well as the chair and then dean of the department for a combined 15 years. He and his wife moved to Traverse City because she grew up here.
He is impressed with NMC because the college does so well in so many program areas — nursing, maritime, aviation and more, he said. He’s also a proponent of community colleges.
“Community colleges provide a level of opportunity for a group that is otherwise underserved,” Warner said. “It opens doors for them.”