Glen Arbor has the only elected parks commission
Glen Arbor is the only township in Leelanau County which has an elected parks commission.
“It was established sometime in the 1970s,” said Bonnie Quick who has served as township clerk in Glen Arbor since 1988. “It’s an elected position ... and for whatever reason, partisan.”
Candidates this year — all Republicans — are unopposed. They are Rich Quick, Paul Walters, Ron Calsbeek, Jim Fowler and Kim Guilbeau. Becky Sutherland and Gwen Baxter, both longtime members, did not seek re-election.
“Mollie Weeks asked me if I’d run, so I did,” said Baxter, a 28-year member on the commission. “It’s been a very interesting job.”
Although not a tennis buff, Baxter is proud to have been a part of maintaining the courts at the township park off Ray Street which are occupied seven days a week during the summer months.
“Those four courts are important to Glen Arbor,” she said.
The commission has an annual budget of about $10,000 to maintain the courts. It sponsors a summer kids day camp.
The group recently received a $15,000 grant from Rotary Charities to help resurface the courts. The commission played a pivotal role in the development of the Glen Arbor Garden project, which also included a public bathroom.
Because the community has no municipal sewer system, and no perkable soil at the park site, waste from the garden facility is pumped to a drainfield located at the nearby park.
Permission from the parks commission was required as the state statute under which it was formed gives them to power to buy and sell property.
“I’ve never had a lot of power, but we had to grant the township permission to put the drainfield there,” Baxter said.
But it wasn’t without a little give and take. Commission members had shared a desire to build a pavilion at the park. As part of the bid process, the township was able to include the pavilion.
“It made it a lot more economical because they weren’t just bidding the pavilion,” Baxter said. “Now that we have it, I figure I can step down and let someone else serve.”
Commission members are paid for their efforts — a total of $800 per year for the group — which they have traditionally returned to park improvements.
The county register of deeds is another important position for which there are not many candidates.
Dorothy Miller of Cedar is the lone candidate to replace her current boss, Sue Stoffel, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Former county register Barb Kirt served for 20 years in the post. She was not challenged once for her elected position.
The register of deeds is the official bookkeeper for all legal instruments pertaining to the transfer and encumbrances of properties in the county. It's an important and technical job keeping track of who owns what. The position pays about $55,000 a year.
So why is the register of deeds elected, rather than appointed in Michigan?
John Amrhein, a Michigan State University extension educator specializing in government and public policy said the reason is rooted in history.
“When the first Constitution was put together in the early 1800s, citizens wanted more direct input in government,” he explained. “As a result, they wanted these positions elected rather than appointed.”
The trend is evident throughout the remainder of county government in the elected offices of sheriff, prosecutor, clerk and treasurer.
Another factor could be the workforce trends at the time.
“They really didn’t have anybody that was a hired employee back then,” Amrhein said. “If there are technical requirements for these positions, maybe (a move to appoint) will be considered. But until it’s a big enough issue for someone to mount a change in the Michigan Constitution, I don’t think we’ll see much change.”