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Solon Township August primary candidates

Election time is here, and there are a lot of candidates running for both local and state government. Voters will go to the polls on August 7 to make their selections.

Candidates for Supervisor

Robert Ellick, the current Solon Twp. Supervisor, has lived in the district 40 years, and is running as a Republican. He is a self-employed builder, and owns and operates Ellick and Sons. He has served in several capacities in the township, including a member of the Solon Zoning Board of Appeals, Chair of the ZBA, four years as trustee on the Solon Twp. Board, eight years as Supervisor, and had 30 years in business in Solon. Bob said he is running again to see Solon Township into the future with a new township hall, pavilions, and walking trails. “It will be a place the community can take pride in,” he said. Ellick feels the main strength he brings to the board is his common sense and logic. He said the main challenge facing Solon is the planning for the development of the new township land, fire barn, and continued paving of the roads.

Michele Andres is running as a Republican for Solon Twp. Supervisor. Michele, her husband Nick, and children Matt and Meghan have been residents of Solon Township since 2000. For the last 20 years, Andres has worked in supply chain management, and the last eight years in healthcare administration. She currently works at North Ottawa Community Hospital as Director of Supply Chain Management. “My primary reason to run for Solon Township Supervisor is to use my unique, varied and proven non-profit and government leadership experience to bring a servant leadership alternative to the residents,” said Andres. She said her main strength is organizational leadership and proven success and results in past organizational achievements. Michele has served on the Red Flannel board of directors since 2002, and been President since 2003; served on the Cedar Springs City Council 1998 to 2000; chaired the Solon Township Zoning Board of Appeals 2000-2004; served on West Michigan Regional Planning Commission 2006-2010; and served in several other agencies. Michele said Challenges facing all municipalities are reduction in tax dollars. “Collaboration with our neighbors to reduce the overall cost of government is vital. A strong, local economy is an important element of what a community needs to function… Continuing the business friendly attitude to partnership with entrepreneurs to facilitate growth along the 17 Mile corridor and developing the commercial, taxable areas will help the sustainability of the township.”

Candidates for Clerk

Mary Lou Poulson is running as a Republican. She is currently Deputy Clerk. She did not return a questionnaire.

Candidates for treasurer

Heather Zenker is running as a Republican for her seat as Solon Township Treasurer. Heather has held that position for the last seven years. She has lived in the township for 12 years with her husband, Kevin, and two sons. She said she has an extensive background in banking and customer service. She received her title of Michigan Certified Professional Treasurer from the Michigan Municipal Treasurer’s Institute. Heather said she is running for office because she loves working with the people of Solon Township. She is currently President of the Kent County Treasurer’s Association, has served as President of the Cedar Springs Area Parks and Rec, treasurer of the Red Flannel Festival, treasurer of the Cedar Springs Public Library Board, and more. Heather feels that her experience as treasurer for the township and experience with boards and committees will bring strength to the position. She said she would love to see the new township hall built and the grounds developed for a community park, as well as see continued development of the 17 Mile Road corridor.

James Dean is running as a Republican write-in candidate for Solon Township Treasurer. He has been a resident of Solon Township for almost 20 years. His family has roots in the community for over 80 years. He works at Meijer and is pursuing a degree in Business Management at GRCC/Ferris State University. James said he is running because he would like to make a difference and serve the people of the community where he lives. “Through more interactive communication, I will promote the voice of the residents of Solon Township and represent them to the best of my ability,” he said. James currently volunteers as Chairman for the Solon Township Site Plan Committee that has been charged with developing a master site plan for the property surrounding the future township hall. He has worked closely with the current township board, chaired meetings, and helped create and deliver a site plan survey to Solon residents. James said his main strength will be to bring a fresh perspective to the challenges facing the community today. “With hard work and determination, I will join with other community leaders to create a business and resident friendly environment where everyone will have the opportunity to express their ideas, opinions and concerns,” he said. He believes the biggest challenge facing the township (as with everyone) is spending their budget in the most responsible way possible. “I will work diligently with the township board to identify cost saving opportunities within our budgeted expenditures. Through careful review and analysis, we can eliminate excess spending and be more fiscally responsible,” he said.

Candidates for Solon Township trustee (2) positions, 4 candidates

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 18 years. First, as a planning commissioner, and later as a trustee to the Solon Twp. Board since the mid nineties. Fred said he is running for office because he has always supported strong local government and encouraged economic growth, yet with appropriate controls. “I believe in residents’ input in all major decisions the township board is required to make. The constituents must have a say in governing our township,” noted Fred. 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. He is currently President of the Cedar Springs Historical Society. Fred sees two major challenges facing Solon Township. “Commercial growth is one area that must be monitored at all times by adhering to the Master Plan to the township and applying ordinances and codes stringently, yet fairly,” he explained. The second is “that the township board must continually be fiscally responsible in managing taxpayers taxes fairly and efficiently and effectively. It is the board’s responsibility to be transparent to the public in all its transactions.”

Rich Straub is running as a Republican for his seat as Solon Township trustee. He did not return a questionnaire.

Tony Owen is running as a Republican for Solon Township trustee. He has lived in West Michigan from Grand Rapids to Saranac, where he worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He retired after 28 years to the Cedar Springs area and currently works for the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel as a manager in their Housekeeping Department. He holds a Bachelors in Criminal Justice and a Masters in Public Administration from Grand Valley University and currently teaches Management and Criminal Justice at the University of Phoenix in Grand Rapids. He has been married to his wife, Dolores, for 39 years and they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Tony currently serves on the Cedar Springs Public Library Board for Solon Township, and said his primary reason for running for office is to be a more productive resident. Other experience on boards includes the Gerald R. Ford Council and Membership Chair and Trustee for the Michigan Corrections Association, a statewide organization of professionals from all areas of the Criminal Justice field. He feels the main strength he would bring to the board is the commitment to service and to being open to communication from all parties involved in issues. “My background in union leadership and as a manager also allows me to view issues from different perspectives,” he said. He sees a major challenge to the township in dwindling state revenue. “Because of the state taking revenue back and the township tax base not growing I see the budgeting and finding of new business to move into the township, which would create jobs for those in the township, of great importance. Proper zoning and outreach would help in this area.”

John Rideout, who is currently the clerk, is running as a Republican for one of the open trustee seats. He has lived in the township for over 40 years, with his wife Diane and four children. He holds business degrees from Davenport and Grand Valley State University. He served four years in the Marine Corps, including two tours in Viet Nam and is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans. He was a manager with the U.S. Postal Service before retiring in 2002. He has been active with the Kent County Veterans Advisory Board, Kent County Veterans Honor Guard, Boy Scouts and United Way. As township clerk for eight years, he has been involved with the everyday affairs of running the township and believes he is uniquely qualified to help lead the township for the next four years. Some of John’s top priorities if elected are to continue development of the new township hall site, with emphasis on developing a new recreational park once the office and community room is finished; and the continual development of the 17 Mile corridor and improvements to the fire department.


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