August 2 Primary Election Preview Tri-City Area candidates and issues profiled

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By Annette Christie

As State Representatives Aric Nesbitt and Al Pscholka near the end of their terms, many people are seeking their seats and will be on the August 2 ballot.

66th District two-year term Van Buren County

Three Republicans and two Democrats are running for the 66th District State Representative seat.


Beth Griffin, 49, is currently the Vice Chairperson of the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners.  She has also been a teacher.  She has a masters’ degree from Old Dominion University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University-Purdue University of Ft. Wayne. She and her husband have two children and reside in Mattawan. Griffin has been the Vice Chairperson of the Board of Commissioners since 2013.  She is active with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Area Agency on Aging, Mattawan Area Pantry, Mattawan Schools Parent Association, Van Buren County Farm Bureau, and the Van Buren County Conservation Club. If elected, she wants to focus on keeping taxes low, supporting businesses, and improving collaboration between local and state government. Greg Kolich, 60, is a machinist by trade.  Kolich served 20 years in the National Guard.  He and his wife live in Cooper Township. Matthew Nilson, 45, resides in Hartford with his wife and two children.  He is a graduate of Hartford High School and later earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  He retired from the U.S. Army in 2013. Nilson spent over 20 years fighting to protect America and our freedoms.  Upon retiring and returning home Nilson saw many of those freedoms being destroyed in the political process.  If elected, he will push to restore those freedoms, rebuild the infrastructure, and protect Michiganders from an unresponsive bureaucracy. He also seeks to be a part of a government that returns to fundamental educational practices. For the past year Nilson has worked as Director of Business Development for Golden Plain Farms where he has seen firsthand the struggles of farmers and small business in Southwest Michigan.   This is something he also seeks to change if elected as State Representative.


Annie Brown, 55, resides in South Haven with her husband and three children.  She has served on the South Haven School Board for 11 years.  She and her husband own Filbrandt Family Funeral Home.  Brown grew up in Hillman, in Northern Michigan.  She studied political science and English and earned a bachelor’s degree from Hope College.  She served as an aide to Senator Carl Levin and as a writer for Michigan House Speaker Lewis Dodak.  If elected, she wants to work at increasing education funding, creating jobs and making Lansing work for the people. Dylan Kerley, 22, resides in Bangor.  On his Facebook page he stated that he believes in being a servant to the people.  If elected, he would like to support farmers’ rights, workers’ rights, education, and to make Michigan an industry leader once again.

79th District two year term northern portion of Berrien County

Four Republicans are seeking the seat that will be vacated by Al Pscholka.  The August primary will determine which Republican will face Democrat Marletta Seats in November. Mary Brown recently retired after 18 years in Benton Harbor Area Schools.  She also served as the president of the teacher’s union. Prior to her teaching career, she had held several management positions.  She is a graduate of the University of Delaware. Brown ran for the State Representative six years ago, running as a Democrat.  She states on her Web site that she now feels that her beliefs and values align more with the Republican philosophy.  Brown believes in a limited government that recognizes and observes the Bill of Rights.  She believes in a quality education for all children, protection of the state’s natural resources, and the rebuilding of our infrastructure. Troy Rolling of Benton Harbor first became involved in politics when he studied the party system at Eau Claire High School.  He selected the Republican Party after learning about the differences between the two parties and relating more to the beliefs of the Republican Party.  Rolling believes in a government that should be limited to a decision making process and that business makes the world go around, not the government and he strongly opposes any programs that create generations of dependency. He has been involved in politics for a long time.  Rolling ran for the County Commissioner seat for his district in 2004.  He served for three years on the Benton Charter Township Planning Commission and currently serves on the Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council. He sold automobiles for 12 years before creating The Political Company, a consulting service to manage campaigns.  He also launched Redtie Concierge Service, with clients in western Michigan and northern Indiana. Ryan Arnt was born in southwest Michigan and spent most of his life in this area.  He attended Lakeshore High School before having to re-locate with his family.  He returned to the area after obtaining a degree in communications. Once he moved back to the area, he began his real estate career at Meredith & Kamp Realtors.  He then joined Keller Williams where he remains.  He and his wife have two children and reside in Royalton Township. If elected, Arnt wants to work to provide a good foundation for our children’s education.  He also wants to work to put in place policies that create an environment for job creation. Kim LaSata is also seeking the seat being vacated by Al Pscholka.  She and her husband Charlie have four children and reside on 15 acres in Bainbridge Township.  She grew up in the area, graduating from Lake Michigan Catholic High School.  She received a Bachelor of Science Degree and a master’s degree from Western Michigan University.  She is a fifth grade teacher. LaSata knows firsthand how critically important it is for parents and the entire community to trust and support the education of our children.  If elected, she will work to improve that.  She would also like to streamline the delivery of government services to our Veterans.

Van Buren County Judge seat open; Three candidates running for office

By Annette Christie

Van Buren County Seventh District Court Judge Robert Hentchel is not seeking another term and therefore, a vacancy has occurred on the bench.  Three candidates are vying for that vacancy; two private practice attorneys and one assistant prosecutor.   Nichole Dunfield Hameed, 39, began her law career as a Law Clerk for the 36th Judicial Circuit Court where she served for two years.  In 2003, she opened a general practice law firm in Paw Paw.  She has been the sole attorney in the office for the last 13 years. Over the last 13 years, 99% of all the cases have been in the Van Buren County Courts.    Dunfield Hameed went to Comstock High School.  She received a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Comparative Religion from Western Michigan University.  She went on to obtain her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.   She and her husband have two daughters that attend Paw Paw Public Schools.  “If elected, I will do my best to be a fair and impartial judge regardless of who is before me,” states Dunfield Hameed.   Mike McKay, 44, is an assistant prosecutor in the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office.  He turned to a law degree after a career with the Michigan State Police.   McKay has a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University.  In 1997, he became a Michigan State Police Trooper.  Following two on-duty serious injuries, he went to law school.  He obtained his law degree from the Michigan State University College of Law.  He passed the bar in 2011.   He began his legal career with the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office in 2012 followed by the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office in 2013 where he has remained since.   As an Assistant Prosecutor he has handled over 5,000 cases from misdemeanors to murders.  He is currently the Mental Health Court prosecutor and prior to that served as the Drug Treatment Court prosecutor.  McKay stresses the importance of selecting someone for the judge position that can step in and continue the business that happens there every day of which there is a lot going on with sentencing, trials, and the Mental Health and Drug Treatment Courts.  “We need someone committed to practicing law that way and continuing those programs (Mental Health and Drug Treatment Courts). We help a lot of people there,” McKay said.     McKay resides in Antwerp Township with his wife and three children.  Over the years he has volunteered as a coach for several seasons of youth football, baseball, and soccer in both Paw Paw and Mattawan.   Cirilo Martinez graduated from Paw Paw High School.  He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Michigan and obtained his law degree from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law in 2000.  He has had a private law firm since 2003.  Martinez has worked in more than 15 Michigan counties and has practiced law at the federal, state, and administrative courts.  His career includes civil, criminal, family, and specialty law. For the last seven years he has practiced as a member of the Criminal Justice Act Panel.  Martinez is married and has two children. He has been a Van Buren County resident for 25 years.  In his free time he volunteers to coach for the Paw Paw Youth Baseball program.   “I do promise that I will provide impartial equal justice to all whom appear before me,” Martinez states adding, “All will be treated with civility, respect, dignity, and honor.”


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