2016-12-08 / Local News

Board chair Rentenbach plans to run again for County Board

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

RENTENBACH RENTENBACH Don’t count out Carolyn “Peachy” Rentenbach, who holds the distinction of being the first Democrat to ever lead the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners.

Although she failed to win a third two-year term on the County Board in last month’s General Election, the board’s current chairman said she has every intention of running for her seat again in 2018.

In addition, the 67-year-old Democrat still has until the end of this year before she’s replaced by 28-yearold Republican Casey Noonan as the District No. 6 commissioner representing Cleveland, Empire and Glen Arbor townships.

Rentenbach was the only incumbent member of the County Board who was unseated in this year’s election.

On Nov. 8, Noonan, a farmer, won by just two percentage points – 46 votes – in a 1,165 to 1,119 race against Rentenbach, a retired restaurateur and food company executive.

Rentenbach declined to speculate why she lost the election, but acknowledged that Noonan has name recognition. His grandfather, Glen Noonan, had been a political icon in Leelanau County for decades, serving on the county Road Commission and achieving the distinction of being Michigan’s longest-serving elected road commissioner before he died in 2014.

“You’d have to ask certain voters why they voted for Casey Noonan instead of me,” Rentenbach said.

Rentenbach’s tenure on the County Board was notable. During her first term, 2012-2014, she was the lone Democrat on the board. After the 2014 election, she was joined by two more Democrats — Patricia Soutas-Little of District No. 5 and Ty Wessell of District No. 4.

Remarkable, though, was the fact that even though there was a 4-3 split in favor of Republicans on the seven-member County Board, Rentenbach was elected by her peers to serve as the board’s chairman in her second term.

She was the first Democrat to hold the post.

How did that happen?

“Ultimately what happened is that Melinda Lautner switched her vote so I would be elected chairman,” Rentenbach said. “My own opinion is that partisan politics have no place and serve no good purpose in county government.”

She noted that Glen Arbor Township, where she resides, is the most heavily- Republican township in her district – but she won there anyway.

“As a former business owner, I definitely have my Republican side,” she said. “In fact, I never had a party affiliation until I first ran for office in 2014 and was required to declare an affiliation when I filled in the paperwork.”

Rentenbach said her priorities going forward will remain the same: economic development, environmental protection, better value on tax dollars, and courtesy and respect for everyone.

“Making affordable, high-speed Internet more available in Leelanau County is also something I’m very interested in,” Rentenbach added. “And with 32-percent of the county’s workers earning wages that can’t sustain them here, affordable housing is still a big issue for me.”

Rentenbach said her experience serving on the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners has enriched her life in many ways — and she’s not ready to let that go just yet.

“Am I saying goodbye to government service? No, I’m not.”

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