2008-07-26 / Top News

August Primary Will Narrow Field of Contested County Positions

By Karen Gould

Multiple candidates for the posts of Mackinac County Treasurer and Mackinac County Road Commissioner will be among tough choices facing voters in the Tuesday, August 5, primary election. While most county positions are uncontested, those two contests, plus a District Three county commissioner race, will be narrowed after the election.

Running for treasurer are five candidates, three Democrats and two Republicans, with a four year, $43,254-a-year job at stake, plus benefits. The primary will narrow the field to one Democrat and one Republican who will face off in the November 4 general election.

Another five candidates vie for one open seat on the threeperson road commission. The six-year seat comes with a salary of $4,222 for commissioners and $5,049 for the chairperson, plus $60 for each meeting attended. The road board meets twice monthly and two Democrats and three Republicans are seeking the seat.

Two of five county commissioners are being challenged. One contest will be determined by the primary, as both candidates, incumbent Dawn Nelson and Fred Paquin, are running on the Democratic ticket.

The District Four contest will be determined in November, as incumbent Mike Patrick, a Republican, is being challenged by former commissioner, James Farero, a Democrat.

The remaining three commission incumbents, Carl Frazier from District One, Lawrence Leveille from District Two, and Calvin "Bucky" McPhee from District Five, are running unopposed.

Mackinac Island is in District Five.

County commissioners serve two year terms and are paid $4,222 a year (the chairperson gets $5,049), and $60 is paid for each meeting attended, with $50 paid for additional meetings attended the same day.

Two other county seats are being challenged, although the winner will not be determined until November, as candidates represent opposing political parties. Register of Deeds Diane Frankovich, a Republican, will face off against Bambi Robinson, a Democrat. Incumbent County Surveyor Jeffrey Davis, a Republican, is being challenged by Neil Hill, Sr., a Democrat.

Republican incumbents Clerk Mary Kay Tamlyn, Sheriff Scott Strait, and Prosecuting Attorney Fred Feleppa face no political opposition.

The following profiles were obtained from questionnaires sent to the candidates; photographs are published if available. The county commission fifth district profile is included here. Profiles for the other disctricts and uncontested races can be found in The St. Ignace News.

County Commission

District Five

Incumbent Calvin "Bucky" McPhee, 68, retired from Mackinac Bridge Authority in 1997 after 35 years of service. He and his wife, Roberta, of 47 years have two sons, Steve and Kyle.

Mr. McPhee is a LaSalle High School graduate, was a business owner of St. Ignace Greenhouse and Berta's Flowers in St. Ignace for 40 years, and he has 28 years of experience in local real estate sales.

"I am seeking re-election as District 5 Commissioner so as to continue representing District 5 and the entire Mackinac County," he said. "I have always had an interest in local government, but was limited with involvement until I retired.

"As a retired lifelong citizen of Mackinac County, I now focus my full attention to the duties of commissioner, such as the Luce, Mackinac, Alger, and Schoolcraft Health Department board, the 911 board, the Home Collaborative Board, Animal Shelter board, the Tri-County Judicial Board, the Planning Board, and Continuum of Care Board.

I also enjoy serving as Liaison for the Animal Shelter, Emergency Coordinator, Treasurer's Office, Sheriff's Office, and the Custodial Office."

Two major issues the county faces, said Mr. McPhee, include the economy and health care. Promoting and maintaining economic growth, finding a way to market county assets across the state to increase tourism and new business development, lowering the unemployment rate, continuing to keep the county budget balanced with no increase in taxes are ongoing challenges faced by the county commission. Also important to the county are maintaining appropriate funding for area medical facilities and programs so quality heath care is available to residents, and the continued to support and promotion of the Hospice program.

County Road Commission

Candidate Tom Doty, 54, a Republican, is a deputy with the Mackinac County Sheriff's Office and the tether unit supervisor for Mackinac and Luce counties. He grew up on a farm, where he learned at an early age how to operate and repair heavy equipment. He has been married for 29 years to his wife, Jane. The couple have five children and nine grandchildren.

Mr. Doty has two years of college experience and is certified in small engine repair and service. He has 30 years of law enforcement experience, including administration, which has given him budget knowledge. He has had leadership training specializing in effective supervision and team building. He said he is experienced in writing and enforcing policies and procedures, skilled in labor laws and union contracts, and has been trained in disaster planning for emergency services.

"As a result of my career in law enforcement," Mr. Doty said, "I am very comfortable with learning, and ensuring compliance with federal and state laws that govern the operation of the Mackinac County Road Commission."

Also, he worked two seasons with the road commission as a general laborer and equipment operator.

"During this time," he said, "I was assigned to such tasks as ensuring that the mining operations at the pit located on Old St. Ignace Road were in compliance with the state and federal laws. I was assigned similar duties on the Taylor Creek culvert project. I worked in the logging industry for two years as a part-time skidder operator. These jobs have given me a working knowledge of the operations and repair of heavy equipment. Working for the Mackinac County Road Commission has helped me to understand what it takes to build, repair, and maintain the roads in this county."

Mr. Doty is running for the position, he said, "because I truly care about what is happening in Mackinac County."

His children now are raising their families in this area, he pointed out.

"I have always been an active member in the community," he said. "I am a member of the First Union Church, Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan, a former captain of the Clark Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a former member of the Clark Township Volunteer Fire Department, and an active member of the Sobriety Court for Mackinac and Luce counties. We are definitely facing some very difficult economic times. I have the skills to help our coun- ty continue to maintain and improve our community's roads."

Rising fuel prices, he said, and laid off employees are concerns for the road commission. The road commission, he said, needs to become "extremely creative in money saving tactics," while ensuring roads are maintained.

Currently, he said, several people who are laid off should replace retiring employees.

"The taxpayers cannot afford to lose these skilled workers to other employers. Every job in Mackinac County is extremely valuable toward our economic stability."

Candidate Joseph Durm, 65, a Democrat and St. Ignace business owner, who has had four years of college classes, has served on many boards, commissions, and state appointed committees. He and his wife, Sandy, have been married for 24 years.

A former Mackinac County commissioner and St. Ignace City councilman, Mr. Durm said he has the experience and knowledge to understand and handle the issues facing the road commission.

"This position deals with a very large budget," he said, "an enormous amount of necessary equipment, and employees. It requires someone with experience making decisions concerning the problems of a state with no money, a federal government with less, and tax paying citizens demanding and deserving well maintained and improved roads. A small community such as ours needs a strong infrastructure. This includes our current roads and the ability to look ahead to our future needs.

"Safe roads," said Mr. Durm, "are important for economic development and access to work and local services. Driving down our roads should be a safe and enjoyable experience.

"Another concern near and dear to my hear is open government. All of my career, I have been a watchdog, and in today's environment it is imperative to have someone responsibly representing your interests on the county road commission."

Candidate Frank Harness, a Republican, is retired after spending 34 years in the U.S. Navy. He also was a railroad consultant, a business owner, an underground contractor for telephone and cable television, and he worked in road construction, operating heavy equipment. He and his wife, Marti, have a son, Stuart, and a daughter in-law, Marianna. The couple's son, Lieutenant Stuart Harness, is in the U.S. Marine Corps serving in Iraq.

Mr. Harness holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial education and technology from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. He has served on the Clark Township Road Committee and the Luce, Mackinac, Chippewa Solid Waste Committee. He is a community recycling volunteer and a member of the Les Cheneaux Snowmobile Club.

"I led men and women, planned and executed budgets, and operated and maintained ships of the United States Navy for over 34 years, said Mr. Harness. "I enjoy working with people, think of myself as an honest, fair, and hard working person with integrity, and will convey these strengths to the job of road commissioner."

Leadership, planning, and communication, he said, are key to the road commission' future.

"In September, Mackinac County citizens will have a new engineer/manager. We need to put together a workable shortand long-term plan if we are to achieve our goals. Providing the new manager and his team the backing necessary to hit the road running is of utmost importance.

"I believe in total and open communications. I will commit myself to doing whatever is necessary to ensure our townships receive the best information possible so their resources are allocated properly and spent wisely and efficiently."

Candidate Richard Oliver, 58, a Democrat, is the owner of a service corporation, an assessor, building inspector, and zoning administrator. He and his wife, Cynthia, have three children and seven grandchildren. He has two years of college experience, was a business owner for 25 years, and for 15 years was the director of operations for a company where he oversaw 110 employees. He has experience in budgeting and scheduling.

"I get the opportunity to travel our county roads from the west end to the east," said Mr. Oliver, "and I can see the shape they are in. I also deal with townships and attend board meetings so I see firsthand the lack of communication between the road commission and the townships. I feel whenever a road agreement is sent to a township at least one member of the road commission board or the engineer manager should attend the meeting."

Attending the meeting would provide the road commission an opportunity to explain the scope of a project, allowing the township to have a clear understanding of the project and price, he said.

He would like the road commission to work with the City of St. Ignace, and the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation on Mackinac Island projects.

Reductions in road funding, he said, as well as future reductions, are being discussed in Lansing. The state, said Mr. Oliver, is considering a population per-mile funding structure that would impact the entire Upper Peninsula.

"We must contact our representatives in Lansing now," he said, "to stop further reductions in the entire Upper Peninsula's funding formula by the state."

The road commission, said Mr. Oliver, needs to improve communications with townships and get road maintenance back in the road commission schedule.

"The county," he said, "is not a road building company, and it should always keep maintenance as its first priority."

Candidate Robert Smith, 56, a Republican, has run a private business for 38 years. He and his wife, Cynthia, have been married for 36 years. The couple has three children, Matthew, Jennifer, and Jessica, and two grandchildren. The former Clark Township supervisor is a Rudyard High School graduate and has been a resident of Cedarville for 48 years. He is a Level II assessor. As township supervisor he worked with the road commission on the selection of roads to be pave in the township and road tax funds.

"During my time as supervisor, taxpayers would express their concerns to me about the condition of our roads. I would like to implement fair maintenance of roads countywide. The money allotted for roads needs to be spent wisely and efficiently on our road, and not on expensive junkets."

Mr. Smith said he will be available to hear taxpayers' concerns and communicate them to the commission. Also, chip and seal on roads, he said, is not the answer for the county, and snowplowing needs better monitoring.

"One serious issue facing our community that I intend to address is winter snow removal and the lack of attention after a snowfall. The slush build-up causes roads to become dangerous for emergency vehicles and night driving.

"A second issue, chip and seal is a poor use of taxpayer's money. It is an expensive, shortterm fix that breaks up, ends up with rough spots, and can cause water puddles. Roads in Mackinac County should be fixed in a manner that is more permanent."

County Treasurer

Incumbent Nora Massey, 51, a Democrat, is a lifelong county resident with three sons, David and his wife, Jasmina, of Sault Ste. Marie and Mark and Michael, both of St. Ignace.

Before working in the treasurer's office, she worked in the Michigan State University Extension office. She has taken college accounting classes and attended educational seminars about tax administration, bankruptcy, and foreclosures.

"I am a fiscal conservative," she said, "especially with public funds. I have full knowledge of the operations of county government, the county computer tax programs, the county investment policy, and the state law requirements of the county treasurer. There is nothing that is required of a county treasurer that I have not done in my 19 years as deputy and three months as your county treasurer. I look forward to handling and managing any tasks or challenges that may lie ahead."

Ms. Massey was appointed interim treasurer, replacing Jane Hampton, who retired in May.

"Serving as deputy treasurer for the last 19 years and being county treasurer for the past three months, I feel I am the best qualified and experienced person to serve the citizens of Mackinac County as treasurer for at least the next four years," she said. "Over 20 years ago, while working in the MSU Extension office, I realized my passion was public service and working with numbers. The treasurer's office seemed like a perfect fit for me.

"In 1987," she said, "when Charlie Gustafson retired, I put in for the position, but it was given to Jane Hampton in 1988. In 1989, when Jane needed to hire a deputy, she hired me.

"My long term goal," said Ms. Massey, "at that time was if Jane ever left before me, I would like to be county treasurer. I served the county well over the last 19 years as deputy and have taken the appointment as county treasurer very seriously and look forward to achieving my ultimate goal and become the next elected Mackinac County treasurer.

"My plan is and has been to be very honest, accountable, and cooperative with the elected and appointed people I work with," she said, "and I will expect the same from them."

Candidate Patrick Fenlon, 49, a Democrat, is a vault supervisor at Kewadin Shores Casino. He has two sons, Jared, 11, and Jacob, 7, who attend St. Ignace Area Schools.

Mr. Fenlon is a 1977 graduate of LaSalle High School. He is a student at Lake Superior State University, studying accounting and economics. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Michigan State University and has studied computer science and business management at Davenport University. He also is a Level I assessor.

His community involvement includes substitute teaching at St. Ignace Area Schools. He is a religious education teacher, a Protecting God's Children facilitator and trainer, a team captain for Relay for Life, a Lions Club member, board secretary for Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), a 4-H camp counselor, and a Boy Scouts cub master.

"I chose to run for Mackinac County treasurer again," he said, "because I am very concerned about the state of our county. I have lived in many different communities, but none could match the beauty, serenity, and splendor of northern Michigan. I believe I can provide our county with a fresh voice and our treasurer's office with the direction necessary to research and the ability to implement and adhere to a strict checks and balances system."

A poor economy and high unemployment in the county, said Mr. Fenlon, are major issues that affect revenue.

"The dire economic condition of our state has rippled down to affect those of us who live in Mackinac County," he said. "A staggering unemployment rate, home foreclosures, and business closures have taken and will continue to take a financial, emotional, and physical toll on our community.

"Fewer homeowners and businesses mean a weaker tax base and therefore, less revenue for necessary countywide maintenance, special projects, and programs, not to mention payrolls and benefits for county employees. This phenomenon is only worsened by the lack of businesses that, for whatever reasons, choose not to locate and develop here in Mackinac County, or worse yet, do not even consider our county an amenable business environment."

Candidate Jerry Murray, 56, also is a Democrat. He holds a Master's in Business Administration with an accounting and taxation major from Davenport University, a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in accounting from Eastern Michigan University, and a Bachelor of Science with a major in economics and political science from Eastern Michigan University. He is employed at Murray & Associates P.C. - Corporate Consulting. Mr. Murray has more than 20 years as a corporate accountant, the last 12 as a chief financial officer. He is responsible for treasury, budgeting, audits, tax accounting, corporate investments, and employee retirement fund investments.

Mr. Murray has been married for 30 years to Reinette Powers. The couple have two sons, Shaun and Jerry III. He is a descendant of the Murray family in Mackinac County, dating back to 1837, and has been a member of the local St. Louis and Powers family for 30 years.

Concerns over the treasurer's office motivated Mr. Murray to seek the seat.

"Throughout the past few years," he said, "I have been following the activities of the treasurer, both past and present. With that said, the actions of both the recent and current administration have given me great concern, and from what many citizens have been telling me, they are concerned, as well. The treasurer should be a servant of the public, not vice versa.

"Over the past 20 years I have been entrusted with employee retirement accounts, corporate investments, and budgets far larger than that of Mackinac County. Qualifications such as these are what you should expect your treasurer to have.

"From the lack of fraud protection, cited in the annual audit, to the consistent misappropriation of taxpayer dollars," he contended, "I felt it was time to step in and draw the line."

Falling revenues and accountability, said Mr. Murray, are major issues facing the treasurer's office.

"The most pertinent issue facing the office of county treasurer is the decline of state revenue sharing. There is no more important time than now where experience and education are needed. Revenue sharing from the state will only continue to decline. As this continues, the taxpayers are going to need someone who has the financial wherewithal to deal with it.

"Finally, he said, "it is my belief that there is a great need for accountability and respect to be brought back to the office.

Serious problems call for serious leadership, and it's time to go to work."

Candidate Robert Winkelman, 56, a Republican, is a media consultant for Yellow Book. He is the father of two sons and their families, Scott, and Lisa, and their children, Alex Riegle, Elizabeth Allen, Lauren, and Kyle, and Andy Winkelman and Emily Mac Guire. He also has a daughter, Mamie Winkelman.

Mr. Winkelman has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Michigan State University, he is a member of Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, is licensed by the State of Michigan to sell life and health insurance, and is a member of Mackinac Straits Hospital finance committee. He is licensed by the federal government to be an investment advisor, with Series 6 and 63 securities licenses.

"I feel that this background, as well as my experiences as a longtime community activist and business owner in the county, gives me the understanding to work with township, county, and city officials, and most importantly the taxpayers of Mackinac County," said Mr. Winkelman.

"The recent months and years," he said, "have seemingly been a continuous public dispute between the treasurer's office/personnel and the county commission. I feel there needs to be a change, not only in attitude, but in leadership within the office of the treasurer.

"I have spent most of my adult life being a team player, and a team builder. I believe these skills are exactly what is needed to mend the relationships that have been damaged within the Courthouse, and the public's respect for the operation of this office. I believe the number one priority of the new treasurer must be to keep the best interests of Mackinac County taxpayers at the forefront in the operation of this office."

"The new treasurer," he said, "must have the capacity to be proficient in all areas of operation in the office. That would include dealing with the various city and township governments, and their property tax issues. At various times of the year, the county has significant amounts of money ($11,000,000 cash and cash equivalents as of 12/31/07 per audit report), which require competency in investing, to maximize the return on investment for the taxpayers of the county. Additionally, the next treasurer must have accounting skills to keep the books of the office.

"Our county," said Mr. Winkelman, "suffers from the same economic challenges that it has faced for the last several years. The treasurer's office must be led by someone who understands how to tighten the belt, and be mindful of how careful one must be with the taxpayers' money."

Candidate LeRoy Pieri, 58, is a Republican who left employment as administrator at Cedar Cove Assisted Living Community in Cedarville to seek the treasurer post. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin.

He and his wife, Lori, the executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Mackinac County, have four children and their families, including Michael and Cindy of Sault Ste. Marie, Heather and James Suggitt of Kinross and their children, Isaac, Bryce, and Ethan, and Phillip and Sonnet Quinn of Cedarville and their daughter, Kaya. The couple's daughter, Emily, will attend Olivet College in August.

Mr. Pieri has 28 years of public service with state and county government programs for citizens in Mackinac, Chippewa, and Luce counties with the Department of Human Services. He has 10 years management experience and was responsible for program outcomes and supervision of professional and support staff. He has held positions in which he was responsible for the budget, revenue streams, and expenditures. He led a team that secured Volunteer Investment Grants raising more than $100,000 to establish a new United Way Volunteer Center. For 14 years, he was a chief steward and labor representative for UAW 6000. He formed a model Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team. He consulted and coordinated with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians to develop services to at-risk Native American children and families. He partnered in rural community health assessment leading to the first E.U.P. walk-in clinic. He was an AmeriCorps National Service project developer and leader, generating seven jobs.

Mr. Pieri has been a member of and/or served on community boards including the Les Cheneaux Lions Club, First Union Church, United Way Volunteer Center, Council for Youth and Families, Top of Michigan Children's Agencies, Council for Youth and Families, AARP, Michigan Congressional Affairs Team, E.U.P. Community Dispute Resolution Center, Christopher Columbus Club, and the Les Cheneaux Chamber of Commerce.

"The citizens of Mackinac County," Mr. Pieri said, "face many new challenges in the near future. They deserve a good person

with broad experience to serve as their treasurer and a county government leader. My goal is to make Mackinac County an even better place to live.

"My entire adult life has seen me successfully serve citizens and customers through employment and community service involvement. I am the only candidate with experience in managing and leading operations in both government and private business in the E.U.P. I am committed to making government operate more like a business, with effective and cost efficient service where citizens are treated like valued customers. I believe voters will see me as the right choice to lead the treasurer's office, bringing fresh ideas and energy to county government."

Experience and job creation, said Mr. Pieri, will help him manage the economic challenge faced by the county.

"Every citizen," he said, "sees and feels higher costs with reduced resources in their personal lives and local government services. A recent audit of Mackinac County government predicts tougher economic times ahead.

"My extensive experience in private business and government service," said Mr. Pieri, "as a union representative, manager, and supervisor, gives me a set of unique qualifications to help Mackinac County meet future financial challenges. From creating employment opportunities with over new 25 jobs in new small businesses to tackling increased health care costs and reduced revenues in government operations, I have the background and proven track record to make a positive difference.

"I ask voters to examine my many years of responsible and trustworthy service to the public," he said, "in both government operations and private business. Also, consider my community service work and personal family life to better know that I will uphold the sacred public trust of elected office, to do what is right and good for all citizens."

Register of Deeds Incumbent Republican Diane Frankovich has been register of deeds for 19 years. She and her husband, Donald, have four daughters, six grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

She is running for the position, said Mrs. Frankovich, because she loves the job.

Mrs. Frankovich has concerns for the economy and the future of the state.

"I believe the continuation of land foreclosures in our county and the state is a major problem. With this problem goes the loss of the people who had to leave to find jobs in other states," she said.

Candidate Bambi Robinson, 51, a Democrat, has been married to her husband, Philip, for 31 years. The couple have two sons, Nicholas and Joshua, and Joshua's wife, Sherry.

Mrs. Robinson is a graduate of LaSalle High School and has worked at Whiteside Abstract & Title Company since 1978. She spent 10 years doing research work within the Register's Office, and for the last 20 years, she has been a title examiner, licensed by the State of Michigan. She has 16 years of computer experience, knowledge of property descriptions, recording requirements, microfilming, typing, and bookkeeping.

She is qualified for the position, she said, and she wants to give county residents expert and courteous service.

"Some of the major issues facing this office," said Mrs. Robinson, "are that the title industry, real estate purchases, real estate mortgages, refinances, and new construction are growing at a very rapid pace and the documents being recorded have increased considerably in the last 10 years. People have to rely on this office to make sure that each and every document is properly recorded in order to retrieve all information for each and every transaction. The public, employees of the title companies, real estate people, bankers, surveyors have also increased in the everyday use of this office, however, the work space and computers are at a minimal, making their jobs harder and less efficient, which in turn hinders each and every person in Mackinac County with every real estate transaction they make."

County Surveyor

Incumbent Jeffrey Davis, 32, a Republican, is with Great Lakes Land Surveying in Hessel. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in land surveying from Michigan Technological University, and has been a licensed professional land surveyor for eight years.

Mr. Davis and his wife of eight years, Julie, have a threeyear old son, Benjamin.

Maintaining funding for the remonumentation program, he said, and working with other county offices is paramount to the position.

Mr. Davis, who is the past president of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS), said the organization has been a benefit to the county.

"Through MSPS," he said, "we have been able to maintain the funding for the Mackinac County Remonumentation Program. As the county surveyor for the last four years, I have worked directly with the Mackinac County Road Commission to preserve and protect the land survey corners that fall in county roads during road construction. If re-elected as the Mackinac County surveyor, I will work hard in order maintain the relationships with the Office of Survey and Remonumentation in Lansing and with the Mackinac County Road Commission."

Candidate Neil Hill Sr., 62, is a Democrat and owner of Mackinac Country Land Surveys. Mr. Hill and his wife, Terri, have a son and his family, Neil Jr. and Julie, a daughter, Sara, and a grandson, Lucas.

Mr. Hill has a degree from Michigan Technological University and 26 years of experience with the Michigan Department of Transportation in the survey division, from which he retired as district survey chief for the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula. He started his own company, which serves the entire county, and was the county's land surveyor from 1996 until 2004.

"With over 35 years experience," he said, "I am uniquely qualified to serve the taxpayers with my extensive knowledge of property issues throughout Mackinac County."

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