November 8 general election ballot includes many local candidates and issue; Comet Spikers are SAC C

SOARING COMETS… The Coloma varsity volleyball team was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions on Saturday after defeating Kalamazoo Christian 19-25, 25-22, 25-17. Pictured are (from the left) holding the plaque: Nicolle Larson, Jenna Walter, and Alyssa Dillenbeck; Back row: Mya Potter, Mika Anderson, Megan Neubecker, Hannah Mathis, Morgan Wagner, Grace Hester, coach Kim Gear, Kelly Walter, Sam Stewart, and Kayla Yore.           (Photo by Shawn Mead Photography)

November 8 general election ballot includes many local candidates and issues

Voters in the Tri-City area will face a long ballot on Tuesday, November 8 for the general election.   The presidency, congressman, state representatives, local elected officials, and millage requests hinge on people doing their civic duty.  The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reminds residents that there are valuable resources for voters, mainly at  Voters can even see their sample ballot in advance of going to the polls.

Candidates from the Democratic, Republican and several independent parties running for President of the United States

 Hillary Clinton is the Democrat candidate for the presidency with Tim Kaine as her vice president.

Clinton, 69, is the wife of former President Bill Clinton. She has also served as secretary of state and as a senator from the state of New York. She is a practicing lawyer, law professor, and activist. She ran unsuccessfully against current President Barack Obama in 2008 when she was seeking the Democratic nomination for presidency.

Kaine has spent more than two decades in public services. He has served as a mayor, governor, and a U.S. senator. Kaine, 58, was mayor of Richmond, Virginia before becoming the governor of the state in 2016. He became a senator in 2012.

If elected Clinton will fight for a fair tax system, making sure the wealthy, Wall Street and corporations pay their fair share in taxes.  Her website states that she will do that by restoring basing fairness to the tax code, close corporate and Wall Street tax loopholes, and simplify and cut taxes for small businesses. She will provide tax relief for working families from the rising costs they are facing.

She claims that she will defeat terrorism and ISIS.  She states that she will take out ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq and Syria, work with allies to dismantle global terror networks, and harden our defenses at home.

She hopes to make America the world’s cleanest energy superpower by generating enough renewable energy to power every home in America, cutting energy waste, and reducing American oil consumption by a third.

As for immigration, Clinton’s website does state that America needs a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship.  Her reform includes treating every person with dignity, fixing the family visa backlog, upholding the rule of the law, while protecting our borders and national security. She wants to do everything possible under the law to protect families including ending family detention and closing private immigration detention centers and expand access to affordable health care for all families, whether they are citizens or not.

For more information on her campaign, visit her website at

Republican candidate Donald Trump, 70, is running for president with Indiana Governor Mike Pence by his side as vice president. Businessman and author, Trump is also an Emmy nominated star and co-producer of “The Apprentice” followed by “The Celebrity Apprentice”.  The Apprentice has raised over $15 million for charity.  He resides in New York.

His running mate, Mike Pence, hails from Indiana.  Pence, 57, was a congressman in his home state before becoming the governor in 2012.  Prior to public service, Pence was a lawyer in private practice.  He had run unsuccessfully twice before for congressman before being elected in 2000.  He has also hosted a radio talk show before becoming a morning show host on television.  He and his wife have three grown children.

Trump’s tax plan includes reducing taxes across the board and especially for working and middle income American families. He will ensure that the rich pay their fair share but not so much that it will destroy jobs or undermine the ability to compete.  He will eliminate special interest loopholes, making the business tax rate more competitive with the main goal being to keep jobs in America.  Trump will reduce the cost of childcare by allowing families to fully deduct the average cost of childcare from their taxes.

Trump’s vision for foreign policy is described as “peace through strength.” He seeks to rebuild our country’s military, enhance and improve our intelligence and cyber capabilities. Trump will ensure that this country’s security procedures and refugee policy takes into account the security of the American people. He will establish new screening procedures and enforce our immigration laws to keep terrorists out of the United States.  Temporarily, Trump will suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.

Trump’s immigration policy would help to prioritize the jobs, wages, and security of the American people while establishing new immigration controls that will boost wages and ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first. He seeks to protect the economic well-being of the lawful immigrants already living here by curbing uncontrolled foreign worker admissions. He seeks to select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in the United States and their ability to be financially self-sufficient.  He will vet applicants to ensure they support American’s values, institutions and people and temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.  He will see that the immigration laws of the United States are enforced and will restore the constitutional rule of law upon which America’s prosperity and security depend.

Trump’s vision is that America becomes energy independent while creating millions of new jobs and protecting clean air and water. He will seek to rescind all job-destroying President Obama executive actions while Trump states that he will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production.  He will encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources that will both reduce emissions but also reduce the price of energy. For more information on his campaign, visit

Gary Johnson is on the ballot seeking the presidential seat as a Libertarian.  Johnson is the former governor of New Mexico (1995-2003). His running mate Bill Weld is the former governor of Massachusetts.

Johnson, 63, describes himself as an entrepreneur.  To pay for college, he started a door-to-door handyman business which ultimately grew into one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico.  He holds a degree in political science. He lives in New Mexico and has two children. He ran as a Republican in 2012, seeking the presidency, but then left the Republican Party and ran as the Libertarian candidate.

Weld makes his home in Massachusetts with his wife.  They have eight children.  He is an attorney, businessman, and politician.  He served as governor of the state of Massachusetts from 1991-1997.

Johnson seeks to stop special interest loopholes, reward responsibility, and simplify the country’s tax code. He wants to end the double taxation on small business and ultimately replace the income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend not how much you earn.  He states that such a tax would be structured to ensure that no one’s tax burden for the purchase of basic family necessities would be increased.

Johnson states that the objective of both the country’s foreign policy and the military should be to protect the citizens from harm and to allow them to exercise their freedoms. If elected, he would cut off the funding on which violent extremist armies depend.  He would repair relationships with this country’s allies and he would only send soldiers to war when clearly authorized by congress after meaningful, transparent deliberation and debate.

Johnson feels that immigration problems are more complicated than either building a wall or in offering amnesty.  He thinks that we should appreciate and respect the diversity of immigrants that come to this country to be productive members of society, recognizing that everyone who comes here is not so well-intentioned.  His focus would be on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society.

Johnson and Weld’s plan includes protecting the environment, promoting competition, and incentivizing innovation. Johnson does not believe that the government should be engaging in social and economic engineering for the purpose of creating winners and losers in what should be a robust free market. While preventing a polluter from harming our water or air is one thing, Johnson states that having politicians in Washington D.C. acting on behalf of high powered lobbyists to determine the future of clean energy innovation is another.  Johnson thinks the debate should be about how we can protect our resources and environment for future generations.

The Libertarian Party is called “The Party of Principle”. They strongly oppose any government interference into their personal, family, and business decisions. Essentially they believe that all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see it as long as they do not harm another. The party was founded in 1971.  They defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest and welcomes the diversity that freedom brings. Visit their website at to learn more about their party and their candidates.

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka are running under the Green Party.  Stein, 66, a physician who was the Green Party’s 2012 candidate for president was born in Chicago and graduated from Harvard College, followed by Harvard Medical School.  She lives in Lexington with her husband who is also a physician.  They have two children.  Her running mate, Baraka describes himself as a human rights defender.  He has taught political science at various universities.  He is a commentator on a number of criminal justice and international human rights issues.

The Green Party is an independent political party that is connected to American social movements and is part of a global green movement that shares values, including their four pillars of: Peace and non-violence, ecological wisdom, grassroots democracy, and social justice.  For more information, visit their website at

Darrell L. Castle and Scott N. Bradley are running under the U.S. Taxpayers Party. Castle, 68, was born in Tennessee.  He has a degree in political science and a law degree. He served our country in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He and his wife have one child.  He has over 25 years of legal experience. Bradley was born and raised in Utah.  He is an independent business owner.  He has a Bachelor of Science degree, a master’s in Public Administration, and a PhD in Constitutional Law.  He has experience working as an executive for AT&T for 13 years. He and his wife have five children and reside in Utah.

The U.S. Taxpayers Party first organized in 1982.  The members of the party are dedicated to the concept that this country is a Constitutionally Limited Republic, and not a democracy. The powers of the government are to be bound by the chains of the constitution. The members of the party pledge to work to return the government of this great country to the limits established by the founding fathers of our country. More information on their platform can be found at

Emidio Mimi Soltysik and Angela Nicole Walker are running under the Natural Law Party.

The Natural Law Party was founded in 1992 to “bring the light of science into politics”. More information about their platform can be found at

Upton challenged for Congressional position in the 6th District by Paul Clements

 The 6th District includes Berrien, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Cass and St. Joseph Counties and a part of Calhoun and Allegan counties.

Fred Upton has represented Southwest Michigan for the last 30 years.  He is a Republican.  He is known as a sincere, hardworking leader who listens to all perspectives.    Prior to his election to congress, he worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget.

Upton is the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee; he focuses on passing important legislation to encourage job creation, protecting the taxpayers, and enhancing the quality of life for everyone in Southwest Michigan and throughout the country.

As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he has a bipartisan track record of successful initiatives including over 130 pieces of legislation into law and over 40 bipartisan bills being signed into law during this most recent session of congress.

Upton is leading the charge to speed up the development and delivery of life saving cures.  His initiative “21st Century Cures” is setting out to make a difference in the families that are robbed of loved ones from diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and more.  The effort is to bring researchers, doctors, and patients together for faster cures and to continue to keep the United States as the world leader in medical innovations.

A national leader against the president’s controversial healthcare law, he supports thoughtful reforms to bring down healthcare costs and protect the doctor patient relationship.

Upton notes that since President Obama has taken office, the nation’s debt has gone beyond $19 trillion dollars.  Upton understands the meaning of fiscal responsibility and knows what it takes to put the nation’s finances back in order.  He has voted to enact real spending cuts to reduce the deficit and supports a common sense budgetary reform that will once again give the nation a sound fiscal footing.  He is a supporter of the constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment which would require the government to live within its means each year, just like its citizens.

Upton is a graduate of the University of Michigan.  He and his wife have two children.

Upton faces challenger Democrat Paul Clements.  Clements is a professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University. He has a BA in Social Studies from Harvard University and a PhD from Princeton University.  He has also served as a Peace Corps volunteer.

He seeks a new manufacturing infrastructure that is built and run by Americans. He wants government, business, and labor to work together to rebuild manufacturing here at home.

Clements states that he will work alongside anyone, regardless of party, as long as they share his interest in getting things done for middle-class families.

Clements states the people need to make government responsive to the will of the people, not the will of big money.  Campaigns should be financed in ways that strengthen elected officials’ dependence on voters.

Clements believes that our country needs to increase its investment in science and technology.  He supports the millions of jobs that could come with clean energy manufacturing as transitioning to clean energy improves health and local control.

The way to restore the American dream and build an economy that works, Clements believes is with a significant improvement in education. He would seek universal access to good preschool.  He notes the need for dramatic improvements in the K-12 education system with smaller classes, more vocational options, and more support for disadvantaged communities.

Clements, 55, lives in Kalamazoo with his wife and they have two daughters.

Lorence Wenke is also seeking the congressman seat from the Libertarian party.   Wenke, 71 resides in Kalamazoo.  He graduated from Kalamazoo Christian High School and earned a business degree from Western Michigan University.  He is a small business owner.  His flower production company became the 21st largest greenhouse in the country and employs over 300 people.  He has served as a Kalamazoo County Commissioner, three of those years as its chairman.  He has also served as a state of Michigan representative.  He and his wife have two children.

Three candidates run for State Representative of the  79th District northern part

of Berrien County to replace Al Pscholka

 Due to term limits, Representative Al Pscholka’s seat will be vacated.  The 79th District covers the northern part of Berrien County.

Republican Kim LaSata is seeking her first elected seat.    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.

Democrat Marletta Seats is currently a Berrien County Commissioner representing District three. She has served in that position for five terms. As commissioner, she serves on the Administration Committee in the position of vice chairwoman.  She also serves on the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, the Southwestern Michigan Planning Commission, and the Berrien County Land Bank.  She is a retired lead quality auditor from Bosch after 32 years.

Seats states that she will create an opportunity economy that works for everyone by improving the state’s infrastructure and supporting the schools.  She believes that elected officials have a responsibility to solve the state’s transportation challenges and investing in education from early childhood through college.  She understands the importance of sticking to a budget, setting goals and evaluating outcomes.

Carl Oehling is seeking the seat for U.S. Taxpayers Party.   Oehling, 84, of Coloma is the owner of a dry cleaner and laundromat. He has also worked in a division of Clark Equipment Co. as a general machinist.  Oehling has run for the representative seat twice before and also as sheriff, lieutenant governor, and school board.

Oehling’s ad states that he believes in the sanctity of life, that property should not be subject to eminent domain, that states should regulate those issues which affect them directly, that a united America with English only as the official language, and that we need to protect our natural resources with common sense solutions.

 Due to term limits, Representative Aric Nesbitt’s seat will be vacated.  The 66th District covers all of Van Buren County and a portion of western Kalamazoo County.

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 master’s 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.

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.

Judicial Elections  Two seats on the Michigan Supreme Court being selected

 The Michigan Supreme Court oversees Michigan’s lower courts.  Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen is seeking to be elected to a partial term ending on January 1, 2019.  She was appointed to the seat in 2015 by Governor Rick Snyder.

She is being challenged by Wayne County Judge Deborah Thomas.

Larsen, 48, was a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She was a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and also served in the U.S. Justice Department when George W. Bush was president.  She considers criminal law and constitutional law to be her strongest areas.

Larsen graduated from Northwestern University School of Law. Following her clerkships, she joined a nationally recognized law firm.  She and her husband have two children and reside in Scio Township.

Thomas, 63, is taking a second shot at the justice seat.  She grew up in Detroit and was diagnosed with polio at the age of three. She has a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University that she obtained after only three years.  She has a master’s degree from the University of Detroit and completed her juris doctor from Valparaiso.

In 1994, she was elected to the Wayne County Circuit Court.  She has served there ever since.  She started the largest Veterans Treatment Court in the state of Michigan which is being used as a model state wide.

If elected she would seek more specialty courts in Michigan for veterans, drug abusers, and people with mental health problems.

Supreme Court Justice David Viviano is seeking another eight-year term.  He is being challenged by Wayne County Judge Frank Szymanski.

Viviano, 44, was previously on the Macomb County bench when he was appointed by Snyder in 2013.  He is the lead on training judges and making a statewide transition to electronic document filing.

He had previously served as chief judge of the Macomb County Circuit and Probate Courts where he was responsible for the administration of one of the largest courts in Michigan. He has worked with other judges to reform the jury system.  A number of those reforms have been adopted and are now being used throughout Michigan.  Prior to becoming a judge, he worked for two nationally recognized law firms before forming his own law firm.  He and his wife live in Sterling Heights with their four children.

Szymanski, 63, is a judge in the juvenile division of the Wayne County Court.  He is a graduate of the University of Detroit School of Law and the University of Notre Dame. He has 10 years’ experience in one of the busiest juvenile courts in the country and 26 years as an attorney at all levels of trial courts.  He has also served as a high school teacher and hockey and soccer coach.

He is responsible for the Wayne County Juvenile Court referral program to the Youth Deterrent Program in which life offenders counsel at risk youth on the consequences of crime.  He is a founder of the Keep Kids in School initiative, KAREN (Kids are Reading Every Night) initiative, and co-founder of the Michigan Chapter of Guitars Not Guns.

While party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, the Republican Party has endorsed Larsen and Viviano and the Democrats have endorsed Thomas and Szymanski.  The other two candidates are Kerry Morgan for Larsen’s seat and Doug Dern for Viviano’s seat.

Morgan is listed as the Libertarian Party.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, his master’s degree from Regent University and his juris doctor from the Detroit College of Law. He has been an attorney since 1981.  He previously served as an attorney-advisor with the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington D.C.

Dern is an attorney nominated by the Natural Law Party.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma University and his law degree from the Thomas Cooley Law School.  He operates a private practice that specializes in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

No opposition in Court of Appeals race

 Joel P. Hoekstra and David H. Sawyer do not face any opposition as they seek another six year term for the Court of Appeals, District 3.

McKay and Martinez seeking seat on the Van Buren County  7th District Court; all other judge seats in Van Buren and Berrien counties unopposed

Mike McKay and Cirilo Martinez are each seeking the Van Buren County Seventh District Court seat being vacated by Judge Robert Hentchel.

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 and his wife reside in Antwerp Township with their 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 the 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.”

All of the other judge seats in Van Buren and Berrien counties are unopposed including: David J. DiStefano for Van Buren County Probate Court; John M. Donahue and Charles LaSata for Berrien County Circuit Court; Brian Berger for Berrien County Probate Court; and Gary J. Bruce and Dennis M. Wiley for Berrien County District Court.

Berrien County elected officials

Bailey running for re-election but challenged by

 Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey is running for re-election but is being challenged by Rick Briand of the Natural Law Party. Bailey is a Republican.

Bailey is running for his fifth term as sheriff.  He has been a police officer in and around Berrien County for 33 years and was first elected for sheriff in 2001. Bailey is a graduate of Eau Claire High School and has attended Lake Michigan College, Wilmar Community College and Western Michigan University.

Bailey is married to his high school sweetheart, Peggy.  They have four children and four grandchildren.

His undersheriff is Chuck Heit.  Heit joined the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department in 1993, although in 1999 he left to become the chief of police in New Buffalo.  He returned to the sheriff’s department in 2002 and has served as undersheriff since January 1, 2003.

Heit is a graduate of New Buffalo High School, attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Central Michigan University, where he studied sociology and criminal justice. He graduated from the Kalamazoo Valley Regional Police Academy.   He and his wife Michelle have three children and reside in New Buffalo.

Briand, 46, resides in Niles Township.  He is a retired floor covering installer. He made an unsuccessful bid for county commissioner in 2014.  Briand states that he is a proud patriot, ready to serve for a position that he does not believe needs to come within law enforcement. He believes that police militarization is occurring through the federal weapons program. He seeks to right the constitutional policing and corruption that he believes is happening within the office of the sheriff.

Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic, Clerk Sharon Tyler, Treasurer Bret Witkowski, Register of Deeds Lori Jarvis, and Surveyor John Kamer faced no opposition in either the August primary or on the November ballot.  Chris Quattrin was successful in the August primary and won the drain commissioner seat.  He faces no opposition either.

Berrien County Commissioners Jon Hinkelman (District 2 – Bainbridge Township, Watervliet City, Watervliet Charter Township south of I-94, Eau Claire Village, Pipestone Township and Berrien Township) and Dave Vollrath (District 1 – Coloma City, Coloma Charter Township, Hagar Township and Watervliet Charter Township north of I-94) face no opposition in the general election.  Vollrath successfully defeated Bill Smith for the commission seat in the August primary.

Berrien County municipalities 

All seats unopposed in Bainbridge Township general election

 Bill Hodge successfully won the supervisor seat in the August primary. Clerk Patty Hiler-Molter, Treasurer Nancy Weber, and Trustees Donald Baiers and John Yetzke run un-opposed in the general election.

Coloma Charter Township Board has no opposition in general election

The Coloma Charter Township Board is running unopposed in the general election after Trustee Jerry Willmeng won his seat in the August primary.  Supervisor Ken Parrigin, Clerk Sandy Kraemer, Treasurer Jim Fulton (formally a trustee), and Trustees Matt Moser, Rob Harper and Bryan Duffield have all been elected for another term.

Four seek three commissioner openings in city of Coloma

  Mayor Jim Polashak, Clerk Martha Darling, and incoming Treasurer Kelly Clements face no opposition in the general election.

Commissioners Kent Churchill and Jason Hicks, Sr. face challengers Christine Seddon and Julie Smith.  Commissioner Mike Muenchow is not seeking re-election, creating the vacant seat.  The four are seeking the three four year terms.

Kent Churchill, 57, resides at 264 Leedy St.  He has been on the city commission for five years.  Churchill has lived in Coloma for 30 years.  A graduate of Eau Claire High School, he attended Lake Michigan College.  Currently, he is employed at Ryder in Paw Paw in the maintenance department.  He has two children.

Churchill said that when he ran originally for office he did so because he wanted to see a difference in city government and wanted to help make that difference.  He believes that things are running well now, and he would like to keep it going well.  “I am running for the people,” Churchill said.

Jason Hicks Sr. has served as a city commissioner since being appointed in 2012.  He is seeking re-election for a full term.  Hicks, 38, resides at 128 E. St. Joseph St.  He is a graduate of Coloma High School and has been employed as an AT&T repairman for 17 years.

Hicks, a lifelong resident of Coloma, would like to be re-elected so that he can continue giving back to the community and in helping the city prosper.  He is married, has four children, and three grandchildren.

Christine Seddon, 52, is a business owner and resident of the city of Coloma.  She has worked in Coloma for 30 some years and is now a resident as of 2-1/2 years ago.  Seddon, residing at 138 Thomas St., is the owner of Cutting Corners.

Seddon is married and has two children.  She is seeking a seat on the Coloma City Commission to offer a new voice.  She feels that if elected, it would be beneficial for the downtown businesses to have a fellow business owner on the city commission.

Julie Smith is seeking to serve the city of Coloma once again as a city commissioner.  She resides at 153 Elvern Dr.

A lifelong resident of Coloma, she has served on the City of Coloma Planning Commission for two years and 16 years on the city commission.  She is currently appointed to the Berrien County Planning Commission.

A graduate of Coloma High School and Michigan State University, Smith was an English teacher at Coloma Junior and Senior High schools for 25 years.  She and her husband Bill have two children.  Smith is seeking to be elected to the city commission to serve the people of Coloma for the betterment of the City of Coloma.

Nate Clements is running unopposed for his two-year partial term commission seat.

Hagar Township Supervisor position challenged, all other positions unopposed; operating millage up for renewal

 Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio, Republican is facing opposition for his seat. He is being challenged by Democrat Dennis Knuth.

DiMaggio, 70, was elected as supervisor in a special election after a recall left the board with vacancies. He has served in that position since.  He has a degree from Western Michigan University in business administration.  DiMaggio is a limited partner of DiMaggio’s Pizza and works part time at Harbor Shores Golf Course.

He has three children and two grandchildren.  He resides at 6410 M-63 in Coloma.

DiMaggio has served on the Berrien County Road Commission, was the appointed Berrien County Drain Commissioner, and served as the treasurer for St. Joseph Township.

Published information on Dennis Knuth states that he is 70 and resides at 2155 Maple Lane in Hagar Township.  He has three children.  He works in agriculture.  He has not held public office before.

Clerk Ian Haight is running as an independent and faces no opposition.  Treasurer Marlene Davis, Trustees Beth Raiser and Andrew Ulleg also run unopposed.

Voters will be asked for an operating millage renewal.  The ballot reads that Hagar Township is asking to levy a renewal of .3638 mills ($.3638 cents per $1,000 of taxable value) in the years 2016 through 2019 inclusive, for general operating purposes, which will raise in the first year of the levy, the sum of approximately $62,280.  If the renewal is approved, combined with the current millage of .6362, (which has been reduced due to the required Headlee Reduction), it will restore the total combined millage rate levied by Hagar Township for operating purposes to the previously authorized rate of 1.00 mills.

No challenges for positions at Watervliet Charter Township

 Incumbents Supervisor Dan Hutchins, Clerk Patt Bambrick, Treasurer Tom Scheid, and Trustees Bob Wallace, Joe Stepich, and Joe Matthews face no opposition in the general election.  Matt Clay won in the August primary and will be the other trustee on the ballot, he is also unopposed.

Watervliet City Mayor Dave Brinker seeking another term; four candidates run for two commissioner seats

Mayor Dave Brinker faces no opposition in the general election. He is seeking another term.

Brinker, 68, resides at 336 Elm St.  He retired from Hanson Mold in January 2012.  Brinker was elected to the city commission in 2008 as a commissioner but was then appointed to the mayor seat. Brinker and his wife have three boys.  In Brinker’s reign as mayor he instituted Saturday City Hall hours to host a talk to the mayor kind of open setting so that the residents had more access to their elected officials.  In his next term, Brinker will lead the commission to institute infrastructure improvements in the areas of sewer and roads.

City commission incumbents Duane Cobb and Dan Hummel face opposition from Luke Strunk and William Whitney Jr.

Duane Cobb, 60, resides at 557 Park St. with his wife.  They have three children.  Cobb moved to Watervliet over 30 years ago so that he could be in a small town where he could raise his children and have them go to good schools where they would remain from kindergarten through their senior years.  He has a bachelor’s degree in nuclear technology and has worked at the Cook Plant as an operator for 33 years.

Cobb, who has served on the Watervliet City Commission for many years, is seeking to be re-elected to continue the work on infrastructure improvements.  Cobb said while the city of Watervliet is improving and updating with things such as internet in the downtown area, there is room to grow and he wants to be a part of that.

Hummel, 61, resides at 317 Sutherland Ave.  Between him and his wife they have seven children and six grandchildren.  Hummel has studied engineering and has worked for 24 years at Gast Manufacturing as a machinist, prior to that he worked in engineering and quality assurance.  Hummel was appointed to the city commission in July 2015 to fill a vacancy.  This is his second time running for an elected office.

Hummel sits on the Personnel Committee for the city commission and also serves on two committees associated with the Downtown Development Authority.  In his time on the city commission, he has worked with the Downtown Development Authority, worked with the re-organization of the Planning Commission, and improved intracity communications.  If re-elected, he hopes to help in the establishment of bylaws for the city commission to operate by. “I’m not going to stop working hard for the people of the community,” Hummel said.

Luke Strunk, 46, resides at 417 Walnut St.  He has previously served on the city commission as an appointed commissioner.  He has run for elected office one other time.  Strunk has been a long standing member of the Watervliet City Planning Commission and is currently its chairman.  He has been very active with other city officials in the re-organization of the Planning Commission to make it more effective.  He and his wife have lived in Watervliet since 1993.

Strunk has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Analysis and Resource Management from Western Michigan University.  He is currently employed at Wightman & Associates as an Infrastructure Inspector and GIS Field Technician.

He is running for office because he would like to be involved with the city of Watervliet moving forward.  He would like to improve communication between facets like the Planning Commission and the city commission.  He feels his experience on the Planning Commission would be an asset on the city commission because he already knows what is going on there.  If elected to the city commission, he plans to continue on the Planning Commission as a commissioner.

Billy Whitney Jr., 34, resides at 829 Baldwin Dr.  He has lived in Watervliet his whole life and graduated from Coloma High School. He has also attended trade school.  He is employed at Able Electric.  He is also a firefighter for the Watervliet Fire Department, where he has served for 11 years.  He has one son.

Whitney is seeking a seat on the city commission because he feels he is a young guy who is out and about in the community.  He would like to use his experiences and knowledge for the betterment of the community.

Van Buren County elected officials

Sheriff and Clerk to be decided in general election; All other seats unopposed

 Daniel Abbott won the August primary and will be the Republican on the general election ballot facing Democratic challenger Robert Overheul for Van Buren County sheriff.

Abbott, 47, is a lifelong resident of Van Buren County.  He and his wife have three children and reside in Bangor.  Abbott was hired by the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office in 1993 following his graduation from Ferris State University.  He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

His career started with the position of corrections officer.  In 1995, he began working as a road patrol deputy.  He was promoted to road patrol sergeant in 2011.

Overheul, 78, resides in South Haven.  Published reports state that he is a retired salesman, manager and machinery appraiser.  He has not held elective office but was on the South Haven Fire Department for 14 years.

With Van Buren County Clerk Tina Leary retiring, two seek her elected position.

Republican Suzie Roehm faces independent Aaron Mitchell.

Roehm, 52, resides in Decatur.  She has been the chief deputy for 13 years and has worked in the clerk’s office for 21 years.  She is finishing her second term as a Decatur Township trustee.  She was appointed as acting county clerk by the chief judge in 2004 due to the early retirement of Clerk Shirley Jackson.  She has worked on every primary and general election since 1996.

In 2013, Roehm initiated and implemented the first formal collections program for the circuit court without adding additional staff.  With the help of this program, receipts from criminal assessments in the first year alone increased by over $63,000.  In 2015, she co-lead the implementation of a new case management system called MiCourt.

Roehm states that she has the knowledge and hands on experience of working in the clerk’s office for the past 21 years.  She brings the same enthusiasm and passion for the job today that she had on day one.  She seeks election so that she can keep working to improve every aspect of the clerk’s office.

He is married and has two children.  He believes his education, leadership, and proficient clerical skills will be asset for the Van Buren County clerk’s office.  If elected, he would focus on these areas initially: Communication, digitizing records, and customer service.

The remainder of the Van Buren County elected official seats does not face opposition including: Prosecutor Mike Bedford, Drain Commissioner Joe Parman, Treasurer Karen McKay Commissioner Richard Freestone and Surveyor Donald Gilchrist.

Van Buren County Municipalities

Keeler Township Board members to return for next four years; Senior Services Millage up for vote again

Members of the Keeler Township Board face no opposition in the general election.  Supervisor William J. Kays, Clerk Carl F. Davis, Treasurer Barbara Kay Fisher, and Trustees Carmen F. Fleischauer and Tom Landis will return for another four-year term.

Voters will be asked for support of a Senior Services Millage.  The ballot language reads as follows: Shall a millage of .25 mill in the tax limitation imposed under Article IX, Section 6 of the Michigan Constitution on general ad valorem taxes within Keeler Township be imposed at .25 mill ($.25 per $1,000 of taxable value for real and personal property) for the two year period of 2016 through 2017 inclusive for the purpose of appropriating funds for the activities and/or services for older persons, meaning individuals over the age of 60 years, through Senior Services of Van Buren County, also DBA South Haven Area Senior Service, as in accordance with Public Act 39 of 1976; and shall Keeler Township levy such millage for said purpose, thereby raising in the first year an estimated $32,000?

The millage was previously voted down by Keeler Township voters.

Hartford Township races are unopposed; residents to vote on two millage renewals

 Hartford Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik, Clerk Julie Sweet, and Trustees Kurt B. Dowd and John F. McLellan face no opposition in the general election.  Treasurer Steve Starner was successfully selected in the August primary and faces no opposition as well.

Hartford Township residents will be asked for two millage renewals, one for fire apparatus and equipment and one for roads.  The ballot language reads as follows:  Fire Apparatus and Equipment Renewal – Shall the limitation of the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in the township of Hartford, Van Buren County, Michigan remain 0.7116 mill ($0.7116 for each $1,000) on taxable valuation of real property for the years 2017 through 2020 to provide funds for purchasing fire apparatus and equipment for the use by the Hartford Fire Department: (the estimate of the revenue the township will collect if the millage is renewed and levied for the first year is approximately $47,015; this is a renewal of a tax that will expire in 2016 and such renewal tax levy to be contingent upon approval by the city of Hartford of a similar renewal?

Road Millage Renewal – Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in the township of Hartford, Van Buren County, Michigan, remain 1.4279 mills ($1.4279 for each $1,000) on taxable valuation of real property for the years 2017 through 2020 for the purpose of township road maintenance and construction; which levy will raise in the first year the estimated sum of $94,343? This is a renewal of a tax that will expire in 2016.

Hartford City Commissioners to return for another term; Fire apparatus and equipment millage up for renewal

 Three city commissioners are seeking re-election and face no opposition.  Frank A. Dockter, John Miller, and Ron Burleson will be back for another term on the Hartford City Commission.

City leaders will be asking voters for a renewal of the fire apparatus and equipment millage.  The ballot language reads as follows:  Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in the city of Hartford, Van Buren County, Michigan, remain 1.4941 mills ($1.4941 for each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for real property for the years 2017 through 2020 to provide funds for purchasing fire apparatus and equipment for the use by the Hartford Fire Department; (the estimate of the revenue the city will collect if the millage is renewed and levied for the first year is approximately $43,506); this is a renewal of a tax that will expire in 2016 and such renewal tax levy to be contingent upon approval by Hartford Township of a similar renewal?

School Elections

Four on the Coloma School Board seeking to return for another term

 Robert Hirsch, Doug Kraemer, Bill Stowers, and Apryl Watson are all seeking an additional four-year term on the Coloma School Board.  They face no opposition.

  Five individuals are seeking three positions on the Hartford School Board.  All are seeking a six year term.

Incumbents Jason Meachum, William Najacht, and Virginia Wesaw Rice are facing challengers Anna Layer and Rick Vawter.

Jason Meachum, 42, has served on the Hartford School Board since 2006. He is currently its secretary.  He is a 1990 graduate of Hartford High School followed by graduation from Michigan State University in 1994.  He is married and has one child. He is part of a multi-faceted agricultural operation consisting of High Acres Fruit Farm, Paw Paw River Produce, Shafer Lake Fruit, Richardson Oil, and Meachum Farms Trucking. Meachum is currently president of the Knouse Growers Cooperative of Michigan.

Meachum is seeking re-election on the Hartford School Board based upon priorities that he believes the community wants and deserves.  “I will continue to advocate for increasing student achievement and preparing our students for the future by offering a rigorous curriculum and holding our district leaders to a high standard of accountability,” Meachum said.

William Najacht is currently the Hartford School Board Vice President.  He has been on the board for 10 years.  He has represented the board on the policy and financial committee.  He and his wife have four children.  His daughter is currently a sophomore at Hartford High School where all of his children have attended.

Najacht is employed by Vomela Specialty as the Director of Manufacturing where he has been for the past 32 years.  He believes his longevity for this fifty-million dollar company provides him with the skill set to be a leader for the Hartford School District.  “I take pride in preparing for meetings and being the best board member I can be.  I will listen to your concerns and forward the information to the appropriate staff,” Najacht said.  He states that every decision that he makes is done so with the best interest of all students and staff in the forefront.

Virginia “Ginny” Wesaw Rice, 41, resides at 21 Church St.  She was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Hartford School Board in the fall of 2015.  She is a graduate of Hartford High School and has lived in the community all her life.

Wesaw Rice is married and has four children, all of which attend Hartford Public Schools.  She is a dental hygienist.

She is running for school board to continue the good work that is going on so far.  “I am really excited about how the five-year strategic plan is working,” Wesaw Rice said.  She really enjoyed being a part of the collaborative effort that took place among all involved community members to develop the plan and to deal with all of the areas of concern in the district.  “There are good things going on and more to come, and I want to be a part of that,” Wesaw Rice said.

Anna Layer, 33, is a 2001 graduate of Hartford High School.  While in high school she served as the student representative on the board of education.  She is a special education paraprofessional at Watervliet High School.

Layer has three children, all attending Hartford Public Schools.  She would like to be a part of the progress that the district is making.  She wants to work positively with the schools that her children attend.  “I love my community and I feel I have the ability to be an effective member of the board of education,” Layer said.

Rick Vawter, 64, previously served on the board of education but stepped down to become employed in the district.  He retired in 2013 from the district after 10 years and is seeking to resume his work on the board of education.  Vawter said he enjoyed being on the board previously and now might have a little different perspective having worked there.

Vawter is a graduate of Watervliet High School.  He had worked at the Watervliet Paper Mill from 1972 until it closed in 1994.  He was a union president for eight years.  He has lived in Hartford since 1976.  He and his wife have two daughters.

Watervliet School Board members seek another six-year term

 Kathlyn Attila-Hyska and Troy L. Boone are seeking another six-year term on the Watervliet School Board.  They face no opposition.

Lake Michigan College capital millage proposal up for approval

 Residents in the Lake Michigan College district are being asked to approve a capital millage proposal.  The ballot language reads as follows:  Shall the charter tax rate limitation, previously approved by the electors of Lake Michigan College District, Michigan, for levy on all real and personal property within said district, be increased by .48 mill ($0.48 per $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years (2017 – 2026), inclusive, for the purpose of safety and security improvements, energy efficiency upgrades, renovation of instructional spaces, instructional technology upgrades, and other capital improvements, which if approved is expected to raise approximately $4,364,000 in the first year of 2017?


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