2016-11-03 / Views

In time-honored tradition, Enterprise offers endorsements

We were told by Ray Franz, who is completing his third and final term in the state House, that the Leelanau Enterprise is the only newspaper in his district that endorses candidates during elections.

This week, we can see why. Talk about going out of your way to tick folks off.

But this page is reserved for such thoughts. It’s a special place where past editors in Leelanau County have spouted off, praised people up, run amok and spoken from their hearts.

So here goes.

Leelanau County

Board of Commissioners

We’re looking for a balance on the County Board that goes beyond party lines, a blend of pragmatism and idealism. And maybe a board that gets along with itself while being pulled in every direction.

District No. 2

Parts of Elmwood and Bingham townships

We hold a lot of respect for how commissioner Deb Rushton has handled herself during her two terms in office. Frankly, we didn’t know what to expect when she first ran, but we’ve found her gracious yet firm in carrying out her duties. Dana Getziner, who is also seeking the seat, brings an impressive background as an educator but little practical experience with local government. Our nod goes to Ms. Rushton.

District No. 3

Parts of Bingham and Suttons Bay townships

Here Will Bunek is seeking re-election against someone with near-instant name recognition in Suttons Bay and places downstate. Civil rights attorney Dean Robb was unafraid to stand up to injustice and prejudice in the 1950s and 60s. But this is a different time and a different place. Readers should know that Mr. Robb did not return our candidate questionnaire with questions posed by the Enterprise staff because he was out of town.

Mr. Bunek, we have found, relies on thoughtful preparation in casting votes at County Board meetings. He’s civil in discussions and to the point. We support Mr. Bunek in this race.

District No. 4

Suttons Bay and Leelanau townships

Commissioner Ty Wessell is challenged by former County Board chair Tom Van Pelt, and both candidates make worthy representatives for the northern tip of the peninsula. We disagree with Mr. Wessell on many issues, leading with his push to have county government become more involved in and even help fund young child programs. Of course such programs are important. But just because county government has a pot of money doesn’t mean that it should expand into areas beyond its mission and expertise.

We digress. Mr. Wessell does his homework before meetings and goes out of his way to meet with constituents. While Mr. Van Pelt did a commendable job in office, we feel Mr. Wessell should be given another term as commissioner.

District No. 5

Leland and Centerville townships

It’s no secret after last week’s editorial that we were disappointed with commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little’s response to an investigation that determined she had violated the state Open Meetings Act. The subject of open meetings is very close to our heart, and the lifeblood of citizen participation.

We say this even though we recognize Ms. Soutas-Little as a tireless worker for many community organizations. She is diligently seeking to expand Internet service. And if there’s a need for a volunteer, she’s first on the to-call list.

Her opponent, Dale Schaub, has shown himself as a community-minded person but brings little governmental experience to the table. Frankly, we wonder if he’s ready to fill a seat at a County Board meeting. In his answers to Enterprise questions, though, he pledged to follow the Open Meetings Act, which is driving our endorsement in this district. Our endorsement goes to Mr. Schaub.

District No. 6

Cleveland, Glen Arbor and Empire townships

Now this is an interesting race, pitting County Board chair Peachy Rentenbach against newcomer Casey Noonan. Ms. Rentenbach is a former owner of LaBecasse Restaurant in Glen Arbor who has learned quickly after being a surprise selection two years ago as County Board chair. She gets good grades for holding the gavel while serving as referee for political differences expressed by commissioners over the past two years.

Mr. Noonan, at 28, is the youngest candidate for a county office. Mr. Noonan is chair of the Kasson Township Planning Commission. He reminds us a bit of his grandfather, Glen Noonan, who was known for his common sense, caring disposition and fiscal conservatism. We feel Mr. Noonan, who has our support, would bring a fresh perspective to the County Board.

District No. 7

Solon and Kasson townships

Two familiar residents square up again in Melinda Lautner, the longest-serving commissioner on the County Board, and John O’Neill, who has never held elective office.

We disagree — sometimes vehemently — with many of Mr. O’Neill’s proposed policies. But Ms. Lautner can come off as divisive, perhaps a reflection of her many years on the board. And there are times when it’s a disadvantage to have a commissioner married to a township supervisor. Mr. Lautner is the Solon supervisor.

We’ve said in the past that we admire Ms. Lautner’s backbone on issues and her attention to detail. Still, we feel it’s time for a change. Mr. O’Neill has become versed in county issues and has become a regular attendee at County Board meetings. This time we support Mr. O’Neill in his bid for a County Board seat.

Leelanau County


Despite a constant barrage from critics since he took office, county Treasurer John Gallagher III has handled his prescribed duties well.

And, goodness, from the types of allegations made you would have thought Mr. Gallagher walked out of his office every day with a pocket full of cash. In fact, county commissioners, pushed by county Equalization Director Laurie Spencer, spent somewhere around $40,000 to audit his performance. Even when the audit turned up little if anything of consequence, critics called for his head.

His opponent, Jennifer Zywicki, could certainly handle the job. She’s currently the staff accountant in the county clerk’s office. She’s also friendly, active in her community, and an upstanding person. To her credit, none of the unfounded allegations made against Mr. Gallagher have been traced to Ms. Zywicki.

But the question we keep asking is if Leelanau County really wants to select a new treasurer in three straight elections. Complaints also were made within county circles against the previous treasurer, who was dumped by voters.

Our endorsement goes to Mr. Gallagher, whose election would also avoid having to find a replacement for an important position in the clerk’s office.

Leelanau County


As you know, the Enterprise has a major conflict in this race, as a member of our staff is married to Prosecutor Joseph Hubbell. For that reason we feel offering an endorsement would be out of place.

State House of Representatives

101st District

Voters certainly have a clear choice here following the departure of Mr. Franz, who is term limited. Curt VanderWall, the Republican, owns a business in Ludington and is chair of the Mason County Board of Commissioners. Dan Scripps, who is running a fourth time for the seat — he was elected to one term in 2010 — is the favorite son for us as he and his family reside in Northport. He is an attorney who has been deeply involved in environmental concerns.

We compliment both candidates for their conduct at the Cherry Pie Debate, sponsored by the Enterprise. They both arose above the political morass that dominates national politics. We wish state political parties and special interest groups could say the same.

In state elections more than local races, policy platforms matter, and for that reason our endorsement goes to Mr. VanderWall. We feel his policies will be fiscally conservative and less intrusive on the people in his district.

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