Candidates fill Northport Village ballot
The 10-year trustee on the Council is one of three candidates for the presidency. She is challenging incumbent Fred Steffens and former president Mike Rogers for the two-year seat and top spot on the Council.
“I think we need a strong leader that understands the proper role of the president and has the respect of the Village Council,” VonVoigtlander said. “We need a president who recognizes Northport’s accomplishments, and has a good relationship with the trustees and employees and I think I’ve effectively done that.”
Steffens, a lifetime Northport resident who said he has “an intense interest” in his hometown,” said he’s running again because he wants to see Northport flourish as a historic, rural, coastal community that is affordable to all.
“I am proud to say we have made great gains in improving the infrastructure that has been neglected for years,” said Steffens. He cited as recent accomplishments securing an indemnity clause on contracts to protect residents, implementing new rules of procedure for meetings and a slew of waterfront improvements. Other successes have been establishing improved access to the administrator and setting regular office hours. “But there is much more work to be done.”
Steffens and VonVoigtlander have been at odds since Steffens’ election in 2010.
“There is an ongoing and obvious riff and cronyism among some council members as to how we administer this Village,” Steffens said. “I want to preserve Northport and its assets for the entire community and not pander to special interest groups.
“These items have given me even greater resolve to continue in the office as the people’s president.”
Rogers, who was ousted as president in 2010, said he’s running to give voters a choice.
“The electorate should have options at the voting booth,” he said.
Meanwhile, seven candidates have filed for three, four-year trustee positions including incumbents Steve Wetherbee and Bill Brendel. Also running are Rick Burmeister, Rick Deering, Tim Kehl, Fred Thomas and Jim Watson.
There are two candidates running for clerk — incumbent Joni L. Scott and former clerk Laura A. Weiss. And two are running for treasurer — incumbent Merilee Scripps and Suzanne Wollenweber. Both the clerk and treasurer positions are two-year terms.
In addition, Northport residents will be asked whether they want to have their clerk and treasurer appointed in the future. The Council, by a 5-2 vote, adopted an ordinance to appointed the positions. However, trustee Donna Groomes spearheaded a petition drive to put the issue to a vote of the people.
Wetherbee, a school teacher who has served on the Council since his election in 2002, said he’s running again “because I like the direction that Northport has been going in the last 10 years and I’d like to see it keep going in that direction.”
Brendel, a 14-year veteran on the Council, has served on the Marina Committee and for a time as chairman. He is currently on the Ways and Means Committee and is chairman of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
“During that time I have gained valuable experience and I feel this experience is too valuable to not attempt re-election,” Brendel said.
Burmeister and Thomas are former trustees who were ousted in the 2010 election.
“I was on for 10 years and I really enjoyed it,” said the 60-year-old Burmeister, who is owner of Leelanau Lawn Care. “At times, it’s a lot of draw from yourself, but enjoyed it and would like to get back on it.”
Thomas, 73, is a former Council member of 14 years who served on the marina committee.
“I think all us lost our seats in 2010 because of the sewer system,” said Thomas, a Saginaw native. “People were very resentful that it passed with 51 percent of the vote and it was very expensive.”
Thomas said he was asked to run again.
“There’s so much fighting among the Council that people wanted me to change that,” he said. “I’m running to right a wrong.”
Deering, a cherry farmer, school bus driver and longtime Northport resident, is seeking election for the first time.
“I’ve been in town a long time and I thought I’d like to try and run for the Council,” Deering said.
Kehl, who recently retired as Great Lakes captain for American Steamship Co., is also running for the first time.
“I just retired and I wanted to get involved in politics,” Kehl said. “I have no agenda.
“It just seems like there is a lot of turmoil going on down there with the Council and I’d like to see people change.”
Watson, a member of the Northport Planning Commission, retired from teaching at Grand Rapids Community College in 2003 and is currently an adjunct instructor at Northwestern Michigan College.
“My interest in serving is to assist in preserving this privileged setting while ensuring the quality of life enjoyed by the hardworking citizens of Northport and those who have worked hard to live in Northport,” Watson said in a prepared statement.
Scott is facing a familiar foe in Weiss. Scott beat her in the 2010 election after losing to Weiss in 2002 when a paper was drawn to break a tiebreaker.
“I see the past two years of experience as an asset and want to continue serving and working for the village,” Scott said.
Weiss did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Scripps has been treasurer since 2004.
“It’s something that I enjoy doing and it’s a way to contribute to the village and community that I’m a part of,” Scripps said. “I feel like I’ve done a good job and learned a lot.”
Wollenweber, who said she her Northport roots back to the mid-1800s, said she was approached by some members in the community to run.
“I am grateful for their confidence in me knowing that I would serve the village well,” Wollenweber said.