Four Republican candidates seeking Van Buren County Sheriff seat; Voters will be asked to renew mil

By Annette Christie

With Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler not running for re-election, four Republicans are looking to move on to the general election in November with voters in the August primary getting to choose.  David Walker, a lieutenant under Sheriff Gribler is seeking to fill his bosses’ shoes.  Walker, 48, has been with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office for over 23 years.  He is a former Bloomingdale Chief of Police, was one of the first School Resource Officers for Paw Paw Schools, served in the Paw Paw Village Police Department, and is currently an operations lieutenant under Sheriff Gribler.   Walker has an associate’s degree in Applied Science from Kalamazoo Valley Community College and is a 2015 graduate of the FBI Leadership Academy.  He has attended countless schools during his employment with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.  Walker is engaged to be married this fall and he and his new wife will make a home for five children.   If elected, Walker has stated that he would select Sgt. Ron Douglas as his Undersheriff.   Daniel Abbott, 47, is also seeking to fill in his bosses’ shoes.  Abbott is a Road Patrol Sergeant with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.  He is a lifelong resident of Van Buren County and graduated from Ferris State University with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.   He started his police career with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office in 1993 as a corrections officer.  In 1995, he became a road patrol deputy before being promoted to sergeant in 2011.   Abbott and his wife live in Bangor and have three children and three grandchildren.  They are active members in the Life Bridge Church of South Haven.  He has also received training in several disciplines.   James Worthington, 55, is currently a parole and probation officer working for the State in Van Buren County.  He is a 27-year veteran in the field of law enforcement, both in the military and in his current position.  He began his career in the United States Army, ultimately obtaining the rank of Staff Sergeant, commanding military police soldiers.  He has obtained a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from Western Michigan University.   Worthington and his wife have three children that they raised in Gobles.  If elected, he wants to improve the jail and the Sheriff’s Department relationship with the court system by bringing them closer together.  Phil Oretsky, 65, hopes to bring the FBI standards of integrity to the sheriff’s level.  He served as a Special Agent with the FBI from 1979 through 2006.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Indiana University and a law degree from the Northwestern University School of Law.  Oretsky served our country in the US Marines before being honorably discharged.   As an FBI Agent, he worked on numerous criminal cases to include espionage, bank robberies, serial homicides, terrorist bombings, drug trafficking, and corrupt police officials.   He is a member of the South Haven Post of the American Legion and a longstanding member of the NRA.  He is an active member in a religious congregation and attends services regularly. He resides in South Haven.   The Republican selected in August will face Democrat Robert Overhuel in November.     The remaining Van Buren County elected officials do not face opposition in the August primary.  That includes Prosecutor Michael Bedford, Treasurer Karen Makay, Register of Deeds Paul DeYoung, Drain Commission Joe Parman and Surveyor Donald Gilchrist.  Chief Deputy Clerk Suzie Roehm is running for the Clerk position.  Van Buren County Commissioner for District 4, Richard Freestone, does not face any opposition in August.  District 4 makes up Bangor, Hartford, and Keeler Townships.

Millage Renewals

 Voters in Van Buren County will be asked to renew two millages, one for roads and one for the conservation district.   The County-wide Road Millage would be for four years and is for .976 mills.  If approved, it will bring in approximately $3.09 million annually.   The Conservation District millage is for one tenth of a mill.  It is also for four years and raises approximately $300,000 annually to support the activities of the Van Buren Conservation District.

Keeler Township voters to select Trustees; Four candidates for two seats

By Annette Christie

Keeler Township Trustee incumbents Tim Landis and Carmen Fleischauer are facing challengers in the August primary.  Four Republicans will be seeking two seats.  Carmen Fleischauer, 61, resides at 68847 M-152 in Benton Harbor.  She has been a trustee for five years and also serves on the Keeler Township Planning Commission.  She is a real estate agent for Cressy & Everett.  She and her husband have two children.  Tom Landis, 62, resides at 91219 Pitcher Dr., Benton Harbor with his wife.   He has also been a trustee for five years.  Landis serves on the Keeler Township Board of Appeals. He is also an insurance agent for CIA Insurance.   Robin Gulliver, 47, resides at 66488 Timmons Rd. in Dowagiac.  Together, she and her husband have two children, one grandchild, and one on the way.   Gulliver grew up in the area, graduated from Watervliet High School, and attended Southwestern Michigan College in the medical field.  She has worked in the medical field for 27 years.   Sister Lakes has always played a huge part in her life and if elected, she hopes to be a voice for the local community.  “I want to make a difference in more than just the medical field,” Gulliver said.   James Willard, 41, resides at 60398 Walnut Dr., Decatur.   Township Supervisor Bill Kays, Treasurer Barbara Fisher, and Clerk Carl Davis face no opposition.

Watervliet Charter Township voters to choose trustees; Millage renewals on ballot

By Annette Christie

Voters in Watervliet Charter Township will have choices as they select four trustees and will be asked to vote on millage renewals.   Supervisor Dan Hutchins, Clerk Patt Bambrick, and Treasurer Tom Scheid face no opposition on the August 2 ballot.   Eight Republican candidates will be on the ballot vying for the Trustee position including the four incumbents, Vick Kinzler, Bob Wallace, Joe Stepich, and Joe Matthews.   Vick Kinzler is seeking re-election as trustee, a position he has held for several terms.  He previously worked for the Berrien County Road  commission, where he retired after 20 years. Vick is married and has one son.  Joe Stepich has been a resident of Watervliet Charter Township for over 9 years. He was raised in East Chicago, Indiana and is a graduate of Indiana University.  He is retired after 35 years of professional and management positions with Amoco and being self-employed.  He is married and has two children and four grandchildren.  Since moving to Watervliet, he has been involved in several ways. He currently represents the township on the Waste Water Treatment Plant Board and the Paw Paw Lake Restoration Committee and is involved in efforts that will result in the clearing out of the Paw Paw River to a navigable state.   Bob Wallace is running for another term.  He is a past Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, has served on the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.  He represents the township on the Paw Paw Lake Restoration Committee.  He was also a charter member of the Watervliet Business Association.  He and his wife have four children and Bob has owned three different businesses in the community over a 30-year period.  He has owned and operated a men’s clothing store, the Board of Trade, and the Tastee Freeze.  Business owner Joe Mathews is also seeking another term in public office.  He is the owner of TJ’s Sports Bar and Grill in Watervliet and also works for Whirlpool.   He has been a supporter of the local Recreation Council and is past president of the Watervliet Lions Club.  He and his wife have two children.   Richard Quinn was appointed as a township trustee in the nineties for a period of two years and he hopes to regain that seat.   Richard is retired after serving over 30 years in the EMS and Fire field.  He has also worked for Zenith Corporation and Care-a-Van.  He has served on the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.    He grew up in South Haven before locating in this area in 1975.  He and his wife have three children.  Matt Clay would like to add Township Trustee to his list of accomplishments.  He is currently a member of the Watervliet Public Schools Board of Education. He is a lifelong resident and he and his wife have five children.   Clay has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Western Michigan University.  He is a former teacher.  Currently he is the Director of Health Services for Tribal Government.  He serves on the Lake Michigan College Foundation Board and the Lakeland Health Foundation Board.   If elected, he hopes to continue the success of working with the school district and to take action to sustain economic growth.  He plans to continue serving on the school board if elected to the township board.   Glen Giannetti and his family visited Paw Paw Lake regularly for 20 years before making it home about five years ago.  Giannetti and his wife of 28 years reside at 8402 Lake Ave.  They have three daughters.   He was in education for 28 years, including being a superintendent in the Chicago Heights area.  Upon retirement, they re-located to make Watervliet home.  He does continue to teach at Western Michigan University. He is also a member of the Paw Paw Lake Association.   Kevin Cole, who resides at 4840 Huntoon Ave., has lived in the Watervliet area his whole life, with the exception of attending college.  He graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in science and engineering in the commercial pilot program.  He provides fleet and heavy equipment maintenance for Ibid County Electric.  He recently married.  Cole, who has often attended township board meetings, would like to see a newer generation involved in township government.

 Four millage renewals

 Voters will have a say in the renewal of four millage renewals.  The police protective millage renewal is $1.50 per $1,000 of taxable value for the period of 2016-2019.  If approved, it will raise $208,540 in the first year.  The public safety millage renewal is for $.346 per $1,000 of taxable value for the period of 2016-2019.  It would raise approximately $48,103 in the first year if approved.  The road millage renewal is for $2.00 per $1,000 of taxable value.  The time period for this renewal is 2016-2019 and would raise approximately $278,057 for the first year if approved.  The library services millage renewal is for $.50 per $1,000 of taxable value.  It is for years 2016-2019 and would raise approximately $69,513 annually.

Berrien County Commissioner facing challenger; County-wide millage renewals on ballot

By Annette Christie

District 1 Commissioner: Coloma City, Coloma Township, Hagar Township,

Portion of Watervliet Township North of I-94

  Bill Smith, the incumbent for the District 1 Commissioner seat faces opposition from Dave Vollrath.   Smith, 74, was appointed as a County Commissioner in 2015. He serves on the Personnel & Human Services Committee.  He has previous experience as a teacher and an administrator in school districts including in Coloma.  He had served as a City Commissioner previously.  He serves on the Berrien County Public Works Board.    Smith and his wife have two grown children, and three grandchildren.  They reside in the City of Coloma.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from Western Michigan University.   His community activities include being a member of the St. Joseph Catholic Church, the Watervliet Rod & Gun Club, the Coloma Rod & Gun Club, the Lest We Forget of Southwestern Michigan, and the Paw Paw River Walk Group.   He donates time and effort to projects that will provide beautification in the community. Smith was also involved in the local movement to control odor from the Orchard Hill Landfill.   He represented the City of Coloma on the Coloma Public Library Board, the Coloma City Board of Review, on the North Berrien Fire Board, and on the North Berrien Waste Water Treatment Board.    As a county commissioner, Smith was involved in the establishment of streamlining the operations of all Berrien County Senior Centers, helped in the grant application process for a Watervliet County Park grant, and promoting the placement of the county administrator to oversee the indigent defense operations within Berrien County.    “To truly represent the citizens of North Berrien County – District 1, one must make themselves known to the people by attending their meetings on a regular basis.  In this way, one can gather information from citizens who will enable them to make educated decisions for the betterment of the community,” Smith said.   David Vollrath graduated from Coloma High School and lived most of his life in the tri-city area.   He and his wife will be celebrating 30 years of marriage this August.  They currently live in Coloma Charter Township where they have resided for 17 years.   They have two grown sons.   Vollrath is retired from APL Logistics in Coloma where he worked as a purchasing agent and inventory specialist for just short of 20 years.  He has served on the Coloma Board of Education for 18 years and has held various leadership positions throughout the years.   As a board member he has served on the finance committee, personnel committee, building and grounds, athletic committee, and the Berrien/Cass School Board Association representative.   His community membership includes being the past Exalted Ruler of the St. Joe, Benton Harbor Elks Lodge 541 and a member for 33 years.   He has volunteered as a manager and coach for little league baseball, rocket football and coached the youth basketball programs.  He has served as president of Coloma/Hagar Baseball Softball Association, and also several years as baseball director.  He served on the first active board for the Coloma Rocket Football Association.   He and his wife are members of Coloma United Methodist Church, where he has also been an active volunteer.    Vollrath said he is running for this office because he believes in these times it is extremely important to know where our money is going, questioning if it is being spent in the best possible way now and for future plans.    He believes Berrien County has to be proactive in looking toward the future, and finding ways to keep costs down now, while still planning for future projects which become necessary with time.  He would love to continue to represent the northern end of the county in a different capacity and states he will be committed to listening and serving the people in the same way he has always strived to as a member of the school board.   Vollrath states, “I also believe our communities deserve a choice to represent them, and because I have the passion, the community pride, and the energy to commit to representing my friends and neighbors, I believe it is time for me to do so.”   Commissioner Jon Hinkelman, District 2 Commissioner does not face any opposition.  District 2 represents Watervliet City, the portion of Watervliet Township south of I-94, Bainbridge Township, Berrien Township, Pipestone Township, and the Village of Eau Claire.

Drain Commissioner

  Drain Commissioner Roger Zilke is not running for re-election.  Two Republicans will be on the ballot for the August primary.    Chris Quattrin, 52, grew up in St. Joseph.     He went on to obtain a master’s in business administration at Nazareth College, an architectural engineering degree from Andrews University, and a master’s degree in civil engineering at University of Detroit Mercy.   He has more than 30 years of experience as an engineer.   He is in charge of the Midwest region for Grecco Construction Consultants.    His experience includes engineering work in field management, design, cost-estimating and consulting.  He is engaged to be married and has four children.    Kevin Gillette is also seeking the Drain Commissioner position. Gillette ran in 2012 for Drain Commissioner, however Zilke was re-elected.  He seeks a more cost-conscious approach to drain problems, involving residents and local governments to determine what is considered affordable.   He is a graduate of St. Joseph Schools, has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Central Michigan University, and a secondary teaching certification from Western Michigan University.   Gillette has over 20 years’ administrative experience including on the Lincoln Township Board, as a member of the Berrien County Planning Commission, and as a City and Village Manager.  He is a volunteer for the Berrien County Youth Fair and the Krasl Concours Car Show and has served as the chairman for the Committee for Better & Safer Roads.    Gillette has served on more than 15 Drain Boards of Determination.  If elected, he hopes to maintain a competitive bidding methodology and to create a customer service oriented office.  He and his wife have been married since 1992.    The remaining elected officials do not face opposition in the August primary including: Prosecutor Mike Sepic, Sheriff Paul Bailey, Clerk Sharon Tyler, Register of Deeds Lori Jarvis, and Treasurer Bret Witkowski.

Millage Renewals

  Berrien County voters will be asked to renew three millages for another four years. 

  The County Law Enforcement and Public Safety Millage renewal is in support of law enforcement, criminal justice, and public safety for the citizens of Berrien County including in the areas of drug enforcement, education, and treatment.  The millage is for thirty-five hundredths of one mill ($.35 per each $1,000 of taxable valuation, as equalized).  The authorization of this renewal would be for a period of four years being 2017-2020.  It is estimated that the amount to be generated from the total millage rate in the first year of the levy will be approximately $2,617,165.   In support of the continued operation of a 9-1-1 Emergency System within Berrien County, voters will be asked to renew the millage for forty-five hundredths of one mill ($.45 per each $1,000 of taxable valuations, as equalized).  The authorization of the tax levy would be for four years (2017-2020) and would raise approximately $3,364,927 in the first year.    The Senior Center Millage Renewal would continue to support the operation of seven senior centers county-wide, including the North Berrien Senior Center.  The millage rate is thirty hundredths of one mill or $.30 cents per $1,000 of taxable valuation.  It would raise approximately $2,243,285 in the first year of the levy, if approved.

Two run for Bainbridge Township Supervisor; and Trustees have competition

By Annette Christie

With Jerry Jollay not seeking re-election as the Bainbridge Township Supervisor, the position is open.  Two Republicans are seeking the position and will be on the August ballot.  Dale Kreitner, 6095 Kaiser Road resides there with his wife.  They have two grown children.  He has experience in banking, farming, and property management.   For more than 40 years, he has served on the Bainbridge Township Planning Commission.  He is currently the vice-chairman of the Planning Commission.  He notes that the Planning Commission has been instrumental in balancing the agriculture needs of the township while providing the tools to allow for residential growth.   Kreitner is concerned about the way fire protection is provided for the township’s citizens.  Previously there were four departments serving the township in the quadrant closest to their service area.  Kreitner says that now the township citizens are being served by only two fire departments due to financial concerns and terminated fire agreements.  “It is very concerning about the distance that must be covered to reach some areas of the township while they are really three or four miles from a department that is not a first responder,” Kreitner said.   He was a part of a sub-committee formed to look at a plan that would hopefully provide for a central site that could house either a well or cistern water supply system capable of filling a three-thousand gallon fire tanker in six minutes to assist in fighting a fire.  In the long term, the land could be used to provide a building and fire equipment.  Kreitner had a fire in January of 2015 and he would like to see a long term viable solution to fire protection for Bainbridge Township residents.  Bill Hodge resides at 1050 S. Bainbridge Center Road.  He and his wife have two grown children.  Hodge graduated from Valparaiso University with a degree in political science/marketing and has received the Citizen Planner Certificate from Michigan State University. He is the owner of W.J. Hodge Distributing and is a licensed real estate agent.  Hodge serves on the Berrien County Planning Commission and Road Commission.   Hodge is strongly committed to the following issues:  Responsive to the needs and wants of the community while being welcome to ideas and suggestions; continuing to monitor and address quality of life issues such as landfill odors, regulation of gun range usage, fire protection and safety, infrastructure, roads and drains, and protecting the water shed; and reinforcing and appreciating the importance of maintaining a rural and farmland fabric in Bainbridge Township while not ignoring the residential growth and commercial ventures.    Besides incumbents John Yetzke and Don Baiers, Dave Woodward is seeking a trustee position.  Baiers, 7980 Territorial Rd., is a fruit farmer.  He and his wife have two children.  He was first elected to the township board as a trustee in 1978.   Yetzke, 855 N. M-140 resides with his wife Marge.  They have two grown children.  He is retired from Whirlpool but fills his days with work at the Watervliet Hardware Store.  He is seeking his fourth term.  Woodward is a member of the Watervliet Fire Department.  He has resided in this area all of his life.  He is a business owner and has been for over 30 years.  His previous experience includes running Coloma Ambulance for 18 years, spending 25 years on the North Berrien Fire Department, and currently with the Watervliet Fire Department.  He and his wife have two married children.  He hopes through running for office that more people can get involved with Bainbridge Township.  Clerk Patty Hiler-Molter and Treasurer Nancy Weber do not face any opposition.


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