2016-09-29 / Front Page

Nameless Election

Few running in Suttons Bay
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

LARRY MAWBY LARRY MAWBY What if there’s an election with no one on the ballot?

Such is the case in Suttons Bay, which is lacking candidates for village and school offices.

“I’ve never seen so many seats up without candidates,” county Clerk Michelle Crocker said.

The Board of Education has four vacant, 4-year seats up for grabs with no takers. Only one trustee candidate, David Buffum, filed to retain his seat.

Incumbent members Roger Merriman, Bob Potvin and Cindy Opie, did not seek reelection. Merriman, the longest-serving member on the board, was elected to the trustee post in 1997. He has recently had some health issues.

Opie, appointed to fill a vacancy in February 2012, was elected to a four-year post in November 2012. The mother of three sons, all attending Suttons Bay, opted not to run, citing her involvement in her sons’ activities.

And Potvin, whose term expires at the end of December, has not filed to retain his seat. He has been absent from four of the board’s past six meetings since July 1, according to board minutes.

Trustee Kim Eike brought up the lack of candidates when the School Board met Monday night.

“It’s a necessary job to provide direction for the school district and their employees,” said Eike, whose message about how to file as a write-in candidate is the top story on the Suttons Bay School website. “It’s setting policy and selecting a superintendent when it becomes necessary.”

Eike said serving as a school board trustee isn’t always a “fun job,” but it is rewarding.

“You get to see great successes from students striving to find a light and succeed,” he said.

One example provided by Eike was the 100 percent Native American graduation rate among members of Suttons Bay’s Class of 2016.

But you won’t get rich serving on the Suttons Bay Board of Education as trustees receive no compensation for their services. Eike, who is a retired, is interested in giving of his time rather than receiving compensation in return from the district. He also volunteers in the elementary library.

“I enjoy seeing kids get interested in books and schooling,” he said.

No one has file for the top leadership role in the Village of Suttons Bay — a 2-year term as president. And only two candidates have filed petitions for three, 4-year seats on the Council — Colleen Christensen and Will Case.

However, former village president Larry Mawby is considering throwing his hat into the ring. He served as a trustee on the Village Council prior to running for village president. He missed re-election in a close vote in November 2014. His replacement, current president Harry Brandt, is not seeking re-election.

“I’m hoping that (a lack of interest) means that people think everything’s fine — all is well,” Mawby said by phone yesterday morming. “It’s a good thing … to do your civic duty. It’s unfortunate no one wants to run.”

A couple issues could be influencing the lack of interest, according to Mawby. The first is a partisan divide in the country — even though council seats are non-partisan offices.

Another reason could be that there civic-minded people in small communities such as Suttons Bay are already spreading themselves thin helping out.

“There’s the Village Council, the Planning Commission, the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) and the Chamber of Commerce,” Mawby said. “There are only so many people available in a small pool to do this.”

With filing deadlines long since passed, ballots for the Nov. 8 election have already been published.

So what happens now?

In past years, write-in candidates were elected based on the number of voters who wrote their names in. However, a change in state law now requires write-in candidates to file a “declaration of intent” to have votes counted by election officials.

Candidates seeking village office must file their “declaration of intent” with their township clerk.

School board candidates file paperwork with the county Clerk’s office.

The deadline for both is 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28.

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