Tuesday is election day here in the U.S., and residents will be voting for president, vice-president, federal and state senators, representatives, judges, sheriff, and many varied city and township positions and proposals. Below are just a few of the races in our area. (Mostly just the contested ones.) To see what will be on the ballot for your township or city, please visit www.michigan.gov/sos, and click on Michigan Election and Voter information, and then on “View your sample ballot.” You will input your county, then jurisdiction (city or township), then precinct to see your ballot.
CITY OF CEDAR SPRINGS
Two people are running for two City Council seats in the City of Cedar Springs: incumbent Rose Powell, and Jerry Gross, who was recently appointed to fill the seat vacated by Robert Truesdale earlier this summer.
Rose Powell: Incumbent Rose Powell is seeking her second term as a City Council member. She has been married to Chris Powell for 46 years. They have three children: Gina, Brynadette, and Christopher. “It has been an honor to serve our community,” she said.
Rose said her primary reason for running for office was that she felt the citizens of Cedar Springs were betrayed when the Red Flannels were destroyed. “I hoped to help restore trust and confidence in our city government and city staff,” she said.
Besides one term on the council, Rose has also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the DDA, and the Community Building Development Team. She feels that the main strength she brings to the board is common sense and respect for others’ opinions.
Rose said the major challenges facing Cedar Springs right now is the need for a new firebarn and finding the money for it. She’d also like to see simple and inexpensive improvements to the downtown business district and storefronts.
Jerry Gross Sr.: Jerry Gross Sr. has been married to Barbara K. (Anderson) Gross for 43 years. They have two children, Lisa and Jerry Jr. (JJ); four grandchildren, and two stepgrandchildren. He has lived here for 43 years, was born and raised in Sand Lake, and graduated from Tri County High School. He spent four years in the Navy during Viet Nam. He has an associates degree from Ferris State University in social service technology, with a juvenile corrections major. He is semi-retired, and has worked part time as Nelson Township Zoning administrator and code enforcement for 10-1/2 years. He also worked half a year as Solon Township code enforcement, and has spent 36 years on the Cedar Springs Fire Department.
Jerry’s main reason for running for office: “To paraphrase something my father told me a long time ago: If you believe that there is a problem and you are not part of the solution, then you may be part of the problem.” He said that he believes that there may be too many decisions that have been made to satisfy personal interests or special interest groups and not always to the benefit of the taxpayer and residents of Cedar Springs.
He said the main strengths he would bring to the position are logic, reasoning, look at all angles before making a decision, and to remember needs before wants.
Jerry said that the major challenge facing our community is keeping up with the cost and commitments that they already have to the citizens of Cedar Springs, while developing the dreams of others in the community. “We have business, residential, and manufacturing areas that cannot be developed because we cannot provide the fundamental services that will draw growth into the city. We need to find ways to repair our infrastructure and roads without having to hope and pray we can find grants,” he said.
Supervisor Tom Noreen is on the ballot, but he is asking voters to WRITE IN his current Deputy Supervisor, Robyn Britton. Noreen had initially decided to run, but later decided that he would retire and missed the deadline to get his name off of the ballot before the primary. He won the primary over Britton by 20 votes. After the election, he spoke with her, and appointed her as his deputy.
“I thank the voters for their support and confidence over the years,” said Noreen, “but I encourage them to support Robyn.” Noreen said that if he wins, he would be retiring in December or January. Britton would not automatically become supervisor; instead the board would have to appoint either her or someone else.
Robyn Britton (R): Robyn Britton said she lives 27 minutes from the house she grew up in. “I’ve spent my whole life (48 years) living in either Solon Township or Nelson Township,” said Britton. “I graduated from Cedar Springs in 1986. I’ve been married to my best friend Scott Britton for 27 years and we have 3 amazing children, Hannah, Jesse and Jake. Both Hannah and Jesse are in college and Jake is a junior at Tri County High School. Both my husband and I have owned and operate Britton Builder’s Inc. for the last 25 years. I just recently left my position to start my own endeavor—a renovation company purchasing old homes and putting love back into them. And let’s not forgot my love for farming. We own and operate a 30-head Scottish Highland Farm. You want to talk about up and downs. All my friends that own what they call the ‘Real Cows’ get a chuckle at me because I love my Grass fed, big horn babies.”
Britton said the main reason she is running for office is for her children. “I’ve tried to teach my children if you don’t like something do your best to fix it. Well, if I’m going to ‘Talk the Talk’ I better ‘Walk the Walk.’ I had the fortune to work with some amazing people during my time working for Cedar Springs Police Department; it gave me a real insight on our community and the people servicing our community. It’s a tough job. The biggest thing I learned is if one person tries then others will follow or at least pay attention. I’m not a politician. I just feel that it’s my responsibility to be the best person I can be and try to make the community I raised my children in a place they may want to raise their children in.”
What does she feel she can bring to the position of Supervisor? “Own and operated a building company for nearly 25 years, negotiated buy sell agreement hundreds of thousands dollars, and worked in the corporate world for 15 years. My background has led me to work with architects, engineers, subcontractors, financial institution, state and local government officials etc. I love people and I make no bones about it – I love to talk and meet people listen to their views and ideas, but more importantly I want them to know they matter regards of who they are,” she said.
Britton feels the that the major challenges facing Nelson Township are communication, accountability, and just plain common sense. “Fixing the problems start with the people. Five boards can’t fix everything that’s going on in this community. If you want this community to prosper it has to be a joint effort.” She feels that the Supervisor and community will have to do it together, and she urges the public to attend their meetings the second Tuesday of every month.
There are four people running for two positions for Solon Township trustee: incumbent V. Fred Gunnell; Mark S. Hoskins, who has been an interim trustee; Christine M. Witt; and Bruce Gravelin.
V. Fred Gunnell (R): Fred Gunnell is running as a Republican for his seat as Solon Township trustee. He’s lived in Cedar Springs and the surrounding area, including Solon Township, for over 40 years. He graduated from Cedar Springs High School, and married Carollee Crane, who also lived in Solon Township. He graduated from Mich. State Univ. with a Master’s Degree and took some post-graduate work at Western Mich. Univ. and Univ. of Mich. His professional career was at Mich. Tech. Univ. for 25 years. He’s been serving Solon Township for about 22 years. First, as a planning commissioner, and later as a trustee to the Solon Twp. Board since the mid nineties.
Other boards he’s served on include the Michigan Township Association, the Cedar Springs Education Foundation, several Rotary Clubs, Red Flannel Rod and Gun club member, chairman of the trustees of Cedar Springs United Methodist and member of their administrative board, and as President of the Cedar Springs Historical Society.
Mark S. Hoskins (R): Mark Hoskins is running as a Republican for a seat on the Solon Township board. He grew up in the Cedar Springs area and graduated from Cedar Springs High School, as did several of his children. He and his family have lived in Solon Township for the last 11 years. He began working as a realtor in 1985, and currently works for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Rockford.
His primary reason for running for office? “As a Christian, I believe it is important to be an active participant in the community in which I live, to have input into decisions that are made and to use my time and ability to serve the residents of Solon Township,” he explained.
Hoskins has some experience in government service. He was elected to a four-year term on the Cedar Springs City Council in 1982, and has served on the Solon Township Planning Commission, Board of Review and Board of Appeals. In 2015, he agreed to fill the remaining term as trustee of the seat vacated by a former member.
Hoskins said his main strength is fiscal responsibility, morals of right and wrong, and just plain common sense. He said he sees Solon’s main challenge as their fire department. “It is my goal to retain our on-call firefighters and medical responders. I believe that losing so many of them is partially a result of our very fluid society. We need improved methods of training and ways to retain those who join the department,” she said.
Christine M. Witt (D): Christine Witt is running as a Democrat for a trustee seat on the Solon Township board. She was born in Muskegon, moved to Grand Rapids during college, and has lived in Solon Twp. since 2004. She is married and has two children. She will graduate with a law degree in Janauary, and has worked in local government for the last two years as a deputy clerk and archivist.
What is her primary reason for running? “I care about the community and want to be a part of it. I see Solon Township growing. I’d like to make sure that it retains its rural charm and strong community,” she said.
Witt said she has served on other types of boards in the past, and has a long history of volunteering. “I believe we should all lend a helping hand to keep our community strong,” she noted.
Witt said the main strength she’ll bring to the position is a background rooted in the understanding and analysis of legal issues, current and former work experience in local government, and a desire to expand the work she does in the community.
Witt said she sees Solon’s major challenge as keeping up with growth and the resources necessary to support it. “I would work diligently to understand the issues, examine the information, and hear public input. I would also look for ways to streamline processes and maximize efficiency if needed.”
Bruce Gravelin (NPA): Bruce Gravelin is running with no party affiliation. He originally came from Ottawa County, but has lived in Solon Township for 32 years (since 1984). He is a Metroligist\Tool & Die Maker at GM. “I have a wife and two wonderful adult children. I am in my early 60’s and I was born in the early 1950’s,” he said.
Why is he running for office? “I see an opportunity to better my community. Instead of a division between the other communities within Solon Township I feel we should work together to form a partnership that will benefit us all in the long run,” he explained.
Gravelin said he has served on numerous team problem solving oriented committees while working for GM for the last 33 years. He said his main strength is “a multitude of life skills including ISO-9001 and ISO-14001 Lead Auditor certifications, with on the job work skills which give me a unique insight on how to problem solve and achieve all of the goals that the individual citizens of Solon Township require.”
Gravelin said the major challenge facing Solon Township is that property taxes should be established in a more impartial manner that will benefit individuals, businesses, and the township. He noted that infrastructure also needs a more aggressive strategy to improve the community’s quality of life. He also said there should be more transparency in the decisions made in Solon Township.
VILLAGE OF SAND LAKE
Residents in Sand Lake will be voting for a new Village President, and three seats on the Village Council. Two trustees are running for Village President. Thomas Norton is on the ballot, and Bette Towsley is running as a write-in candidate.
Thomas Norton: Thomas Norton is running for Village President. “We live in the village of Sand Lake and my family has been part of that community most of my life. I’m a small buisness owner which started about 2 years ago and has been going very well. I am married and have 3 kids that are very happy to go to the Sand Lake park and I can say are all loved very much by myself and people in the community,” he said.
What is his reason for running? “My main reason for running for Village President is to make sure our road construction project of Lake St. is completed, then to lay out a plan to fix roads throughout the village. Secondary reason is to start working on making sure there are budget standards to continue to have snow clearing of sidewalks, police and fire departments. My third reason for running is to make sure that there is a more open meeting format. The agenda needs to be expanded to have more input from the community during meetings than we have now. For example, two sections for public comment,” he explained.
Norton has served as a trustee on the board for two years of a four-year term, and was elected as a write-in candidate. “I am very happy to have been on the budget committee and balanced the budget while maintaining services,” he said. He has also served on the police committee.
Norton feels the main strength he brings to the office the ability to negotiate. “Since being on the council I have negotiated the reopening of the boat landing, with the majority of the council oddly enough opposed during the meeting by my write in opponent. I also have negotiated the telecommunications contracts, which saved the village thousands of dollars and hadn’t been done in years.”
He said he also brings leadership. “I have led soldiers in the army and have had a knack for vision of where we need to go to put ourselves on solid footing. This is the reason why the majority of the council has had me do negotiations and agreements that would traditionally be done by the village president.”
Norton said he feels the major challenges facing Sand Lake will be roads and budgets, and the next biggest challenge will be “making sure we begin to improve our infrastructure projects and have standards met and enforced when it comes to testing water and enforcing law.”
Bette Towsley: Bette Towsley is running as a write-in for President of the Village of Sand Lake, a seat her husband Roger Towsley currently holds. She has been married to Roger for almost 54 years. “We came to Sand Lake after living in Trufant on a small farm for about 5 years, and were headed back to the Grand Rapids area. We got sidetracked here and have now lived her about 43 years,” said Bette. “I am a 40-year-old in mind, physical strength and spirit—72 by this world’s time clock. We are parents of four kind, thoughtful and successful adult children.”
Bette said one of her main reason for running is availability. “I feel availability is very important in daily operations as well as attending informative and often beneficial meetings. I am retired and available on a daily basis. I am physically active, care for people, am free to volunteer and actively serve not just as President of the Village Council, but to serve the community or individuals in whatever capacity as I see occasion or need,” she explained. She noted that there is also another reason. “Recently, there have been concerns of change that have come to my attention that I feel would not be beneficial for the Village and its residents. As President I would hope to foster a healthy, friendly community for the peace and success of the Village as a whole.”
What is the main strength she would bring to the position? “Availability and willingness to serve whenever and almost whatever is needed. I was Village Clerk about 8 years, custodian for 2 years and have been a council member twice. As clerk I found everything passed through me—mail, phone calls, communications of every sort; thus I feel it important to have a good relationship and communication with the Clerk as well as the Treasurer, Police, Fire Dept., DPW and the community,” explained Bette.
The major challenge she sees is the role of President at the meetings. “I do not have the knowledge of much that comes natural to men. However, I am counting on the understanding of all while I learn, and hope to be able to depend on the Council and Council member Dave Dewey in particular, who is wise and has served as President and Council Member over a period of over 25 years (or more).”
Sand Lake Village trustees – 3 seats
Nyha French: Nyha French is running for Sand Lake Village trustee. She is 36 years old, married, and has four daughters, ages 18, 12, 11 and 9. “I have lived in Sand Lake Most of my life. I grew up in Sand Lake and worked at my grandfather’s hardware store, grandmother’s gift shop, and mowed lawns for those in need,” she said. “I have worked with the people in our community for a long time now. I am also a part of the Sand Lake Fire department and have been a First Responder and Fire Fighter for the past 2 years. I love serving the community in this way. I work at Williamson Family Medicine in Rockford as a Medical Assistant.”
French said her main reason for running for office is to “help improve our little town. To hear the concerns and ideas of our community and help address and or achieve those concerns and ideas. I want to be a part of making our community a better place,” she explained.
What is the main strength she would bring to the position? “I would have an open mind and hear all options before making a decision, not only that but my decision would be based off what is factual and right for our community. I want to hear the people of Sand Lake and what their concerns are for our community and help improve in any way I can.”
Tonia Parkhurst: Tonia Parkhurst is running for Sand Lake Village trustee. She is 42, and a 17-year resident of the Village of Sand Lake. “I was born and raised in the greater Grand Rapids area. I graduated from Aquinas with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems with a focus in Systems Analysis. I am the Senior Technologist for TrackCore, Inc. located downtown Grand Rapids. I’m happily married with four grown children and two beautiful grandchildren.”
What is her main reason for running? “Sand Lake is facing some major issues and challenges. I would rather be part of the solution than part of those who gossip and complain after the tough decisions have been made,” she explained.
Parkhurst served on the Village council once before. “I’ve served several years previously on the Village of Sand Lake Council as trustee, including being part of the budget committee. When I chose not to continue in the trustee position several years ago, I continued my service on the Planning Committee for the Village of Sand Lake.” She has also served as a leader in Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and filled various positions in Boy Scouts.
What is the main strength she’ll bring to the board? “In addition to the experience gained from serving previously on the board, I bring a strong analytical mindset, a desire to do what is best for the Village and a strong background in technology and problem solving.”
The major challenges she sees facing Sand Lake include limited funds, poor road conditions, limited community involvement and communication, as well as needed image improvement of the downtown district. “These challenges cannot be overcome by a single person; it will be a group/community effort to overcome them,” she said.
Incumbents Danielle Hardenburg and James Ward are also running for their seats as trustees, but did not return a candidate survey.
Proposals on ballot for all of Kent County:
John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum millage: The John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum are seeking a millage to establish dedicated funding for the care of animals and artifacts, to provide enhanced educational programs and for the repair and renovation of exhibits. This proposal will create a dedicated source of funding for these publicly owned institutions. This is a 10-year, .44 millage that starts in 2016 and ends in 2025. If passed, the proposal is an annual increase of $37.44 per year or $3.12 per month, for the average homeowner in Kent County. All millage dollars will be split equally between both institutions and go through an independent financial audit every year.
Kent County 911 surcharge: The ballot question asks to increase the current 9-1-1 surcharge you already pay for phone service in Kent County. An additional $0.70/month per line for a total of $1.15/month would address 9-1-1 Dispatch technology improvements and fire dispatch operations. Residents with one phone would pay approximately $13.80 a year per phone. Visit https://accesskent.com/Sheriff/surcharge.htm for more information on who the money would be used.