New majority coming to County Board
There will be at least four new members of the board as a result of Tuesday’s Primary in which one incumbent commissioner was tossed and a second retained by voters.
Jean I. Watkoski will retain her seat as the District 1 county commissioner. District 2 commissioner James A. Schaub Sr. is out effective the first of next year.
Watkoski was never so pleased to listen to her answering machine as she was Tuesday night. The seven-term commissioner had been incorrectly told at the township hall that she fell to challenger Stan Kouchnerkavich.
“When I got home there was a message on my machine saying that I had in fact won,” Watkoski said. “They had only looked at a portion of the election results.”
Watkoski garnered 343 votes to Kouchnerkavich’s 288 for the Republican nomination. Barring any write-in candidates, she will be unopposed in the November General Election.
Tuesday was the second time Kouchnerkavich had challenged Watkoski. In 2010, the incumbent edged the former Elmwood Township supervisor by just 38 votes. This time around Watkoski topped Kouchnerkavich by 55.
“I worked hard. I went door-todoor, put out signs and sent out 1,600 postcards,” Watkoski said.
Schaub, who represents the northernmost corner of Elmwood and southern Bingham, fell to Debra Rushton, a relative newcomer to the political scene, 378-300.
Rushton topped Schaub in Bingham Township 191-175. However, the margin of-victory was even greater in Precinct 2 of Elmwood township where she prevailed 187-125. Rushton lives in that precinct.
Barring any write-in candidacies, Rushton will be the only name on the District 2 commissioner’s ballot in November. There were no Democrats running for commissioner in that district.
A name familiar to many in the southwest portion of the county won the Republican nomination for commissioner in the hotly-contested District 6 race. Incumbent commissioner David Marshall did not seek re-election. Marshall is the lone Democrat on the current Board of Commissioners.
Former county board chairman Robert L. Hawley topped three other GOP candidates for the seat which represents Cleveland, Empire and Glen Arbor Townships.
“I’m honored to be given another shot,” Hawley said Wednesday morning.
He captured 48.23 percent of the votes cast in the three townships with 313. Bill Irwin of Little Traverse Lake was a distant second with 125 votes. Clayton Ball had 109 and Karen Paulus, 101.
Hawley took two of the three precincts in his district by lopsided margins with triple-digit tallies. He was second in Cleveland Township, Irwin’s home turf, by just 10 votes.
“If I had more time and fewer candidates, things could have turned out differently,” said Irwin, whose candidacy was his second for the District 6 commissioners seat. “Bob (Hawley) has great name recognition. I knew that was a big hurdle to overcome.”
Hawley will face Carolyn (Peachy) Rentenbach in the November Election. Rentenbach, a Democrat, was unopposed in the Primary and garnered 281 votes Tuesday night.
Neither was incumbent board chairman Tom VanPelt opposed in the Primary and is the Republican nominee for the District 4 commissioner’s post. Former county board chairman Mary P. Tonneberger is challenging him as a candidate without party affiliation in November.
The District 5 commissioner’s seat now occupied by David (Chauncey) Shifflet, will be filled in the General Election this fall.
Karen Zemaitis of Leland Township ran unopposed for the Republican nomination this week. She will face Patricia Soutas-Little, a Democrat, this fall.
And in District 7, Melinda C. Lautner, the county’s longest-serving commissioner, will face a familiar foe with a different label.
Solon Township resident Bill Dunjgen is an independent candidate for the post. Dunjgen ran unsuccessfully for the post two years ago.
“There’s going to be four new commissioners one way or another,” Hawley said.
In District 3 former commissioner Will Bunek ran unopposed as a Republican. Barring a write-in, he will be the fourth “new” face on the board.