2016-11-17 / Local News

Five new supervisors taking over; we talked to each of them

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

JULIAN JULIAN When it comes to township governing, no transition team is needed for several people who will be serving their first terms as township supervisors.

In all, five townships will have new people in their top posts, though all of them are familiar faces.

They are Greg Julian in Kasson Township, Susan Och in Glen Arbor Township, Jim Schwantes in Centerville Township, Jeffrey Shaw in Elmwood Township, and Peter Van Nort in Glen Arbor Township.

We interviewed each as they prepared to assume supervisor duties on Sunday at noon.

Greg Julian, Kasson Twp.

Julian, 55, says the role of a township supervisor is statutory with specific duties.

“I intend to fulfill those duties,” Julian said.

They include leading the meetings, setting agendas and being the official representative of the township, or the “point person,” he said.

OCH OCH Julian defeated Fred Lanham in the August Primary Election. Lanham, who also mounted a write-in campaign in the General Election, had been Kasson Township supervisor for more than 27 years.

Julian, a Republican, said he has experience in leadership positions. He describes himself as open and inclusive and well-received on both sides of the political aisle.

“I want the citizens to feel confident to come forward and address the board,” he said. “I want them to feel included. That’s a huge priority. Township government is the closest form of government to the people and their voice is essential.”

Julian was a trustee on the Kasson Township Board for eight years, and is currently chair of the Leelanau County Planning Commission, chair of the Leelanau County Parks and Recreation Commission — which he is stepping down from. He is also chair of the Cedar Area Fire and Rescue Board.

SCHWANTES, SCHWANTES, He said he understands that people are busy raising children and all the other things they are involved in and don’t always have time to participate in township government.

“I like to be there for my fellow citizens,” he said. “That’s why I do it. I’m willing to step forward for my fellow citizens, to make it a priority.”

Susan Och, Leland Twp.

Och, 59, said keeping Leland Township on course is her main goal.

“Like any job you think you’re going to do this, that and the other thing, but events intervene,” Och said.

She compared public service to taking a car apart and seeing how it runs.

“For me that’s a lot like government,” she said. “We all use government all the time. It’s what makes our lives liveable.”

SHAW SHAW You drive on roads maintained by the government, and when you flush a toilet, a government-maintained sewer gets rid of your waste, Och said.

“And if you call 9-1-1 somebody’s going to show up,” she said.

The job of an elected official is often about finding the right balance between scrimping on spending tax dollars and wasting money, she said.

Och, a former township trustee, is currently chair of the township Parks and Recreation Commission, a position she’ll step down from, and for the last four years she has been chair of the Lake Leelanau Lake Association.

She also took some supervisor training offered by the Michigan Township Association before running for the post four years ago. She lost that election to Cal Little.

Och said she feels like she knows how to run a meeting.

VAN NORT VAN NORT “There’s an art to it,” she said. “I feel pretty confident.”

Jim Schwantes, Centerville Twp.

Schwantes, 55, said with two new members on the Centerville Township Board he’s looking forward to helping create a cohesive group of people who work together to get things done.

“My goal is basically to try to encourage a cooperative board,” Schwantes said. “It’s not one person’s job to do everything or make the decisions. It really is a board for the township and I’m just the moderator.”

Schwantes has been involved in township government in one way or another for about 20 years. He has been a member of the Township Board for about 10 years, and before that was on the Planning Commission and before that, the Board of Review. He has also served on several committees, he said.

“I like being able to help solve the problems that show up in the township and community, to work at making a contribution toward the solution,” he said. “I’ve worked in a lot of different areas, and have worked with people to get things accomplished, to get things done.”

Running meetings will not be a problem for Schwantes, who has occasionally stepped in for outgoing supervisor Leonard Kelenski, chairing board meetings and even the Annual Meeting held earlier this year.

Jeffrey Shaw Elmwood Twp.

Shaw, 55, will assume supervisor duties from Jack Kelly, who held the Elmwood Towship post for the previous eight years.

“Jack Kelly has done such a great job,” Shaw said. “He’s going to be really tough to follow.”

But Shaw has high expectations of himself and is taking training offered by the Michigan Townships Association this week and in December and January.

“I expect to have to spend quite a bit of time learning,” he said. “This is all new to me. But I like a challenge.”

Shaw said he is not certain exactly what he likes about public service — not yet, anyway.

“I officially start on Sunday,” he said.

Shaw loves Elmwood Township and calls himself “extremely blessed.” Both his job as a chiropractor and as a charter fishing boat captain are close enough to his home in Greilickville that he can ride his bike to work every day.

“I’m the guy you see riding the bike with a tie on,” he said.

Shaw has been a member of the Elmwood Township Marina Committee for six years, three as vice chair, and has occasionally been called on to run a meeting.

“But certainly not a board meeting, so that’s going to be entertaining,” he said. He credited Kelly for always acting professional.

Shaw says it won’t take him long to get up to speed.

“I feel pretty confident I can do that,” he said.

Peter Van Nort Glen Arbor Twp.

Van Nort, 79, was introduced as the new Glen Arbor supervisor at Tuesday’s board meeting.

He was also given a couple of gifts from outgoing supervisor John Soderholm.

One of those gifts — a box of 28 dice known as a ‘decision assistance kit’ — was given to Soderholm 15 years ago when he took office from then outgoing supervisor Ben Whitfield.

Van Nort received another gag gift — a “yooper briefcase” made from a pair of men’s briefs with a wooden handle around the waist band.

When contacted on Wednesday, Van Nort said he’s not sure if he’ll use his gifts, but they may be on display somewhere.

As township supervisor, Van Nort said his goal is to continue moving Glen Arbor forward in a positive way.

“That means to continue to address the issues that are brought forward by the citizenry,” he said, as well as keeping the township vibrant and up-to-date technology-wise.

The thing he likes about public service is the opportunity it presents to give back.

“I like giving back to the community that I have been a part of for 22 years,” he said.

While Van Nort has never been an elected official, he’s no newcomer to running meetings.

“I have been in leadership roles and running meetings since I was a junior in high school,” he said.

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