Twenty-two people have filed paperwork to run for a total of 12 elected positions on the August primary ballot in Almer and Ellington townships.
And those potential winds of change largely are the result of, well, wind.
That’s because several challengers running for office say attending various meetings – especially in the last five months when wind-related issues were often being discussed — has inspired them to get involved in a whole new way for them.
“It’s time to take the challenge from the board member who chided residents for lack of involvement, and get involved,” said Jim Tussey, a candidate for Almer Township trustee. “One of the board members noted that at one wind meeting only two folks showed up, and he indicated it was apathy on the residents’ part. “So the best way to show I’m actively concerned about our township is to become a member of the board.”
Tussey isn’t alone.
According to Jodi Fetting, county clerk, Tuscola County, 10 people are running for five available positions in Ellington Township. By comparison, five people were on the ballot for the five spots for the August 2012 primary.
In Almer Township 12 people, including Tussey, are running for seven spots in Almer Township. In 2012, the seven current board members were the only ones to appear on the ballot.
Because most are running as Republican, the August primary will be especially important as it will determine who will appear on the November ballot.
“It’s people showing interest in what’s going on in their community,” Fetting said. “Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an issue to make that involvement happen, but it’s always good for a community to become aware of our local governments.”
In 2012, Almer Township’s Miklovic ran unopposed.
The Advertiser asked Miklovic specifically how he felt about so many people being interested in running for elected positions in Almer Township.
“I can’t read anyone’s mind so I can’t really comment on that,” Miklovic responded.
The Advertiser also asked Miklovic why he thought there are 12 people running for seven spots in 2016 as opposed to the seven people who ran for seven seats in 2012.
“Maybe you can tell me,” Miklovic said. “I don’t really know. Like I said, I can’t read people’s minds. I don’t really know what their thoughts are.”
Jim Mantey, a member of the Almer Township planning commission, is running for supervisor of Almer Township and seeking to oust Miklovic.
“I feel like there are people looking for leadership,” Mantey said. “I think there’s an opportunity for me to serve as a good alternative.”
Mantey said “it isn’t personal” and that he considers Miklovic a “life-long friend of mine and a neighbor.”
However, he said Mantey feels his extensive experience as a planning commissioner and a county commissioner in Livingston County can benefit Almer Township.
Further, Mantey said, he doesn’t have any reason to recuse himself from important township decisions related to wind ordinances – one of the biggest issues both townships are dealing with. Incumbent Miklovic recently has recused himself “due to some issues and concerns.”
“I have no connectivity to the wind energy, I don’t have any property leased,” Mantey said. “I consider myself very favorable and pro-wind energy.”
Mantey added, however, that he wants it to be clear that he is “more concerned about stewardship and property rights for all residents of Almer Township.”
As The Advertiser reported April 9, it was Mantey who spoke at the end of an April 6 Almer Township planning commission meeting and brought up the need for additional ordinance review while he questioned the tactics of officials from Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources L.L.C., which plans to build a $200 million wind farm in the area.
“It seems the ordinance we have now has a lot of influence and bias from the developer,” said Mantey. “It was disturbing to me that the developer…he was citing all the monetary issues involved with it and I said ‘How is that useful information to us?’
“It felt like I was supposed to vote one way or another in accordance with how much money is riding on this.”
Miklovic isn’t the only incumbent being challenged.
In 2012, Almer Township trustees Michael Putnam, Bill Reavey, and Brian Schriber — three Republican candidates – and Democrat Charles Dennis were the only trustees on the ballot
This August, those incumbents (minus Democrat Charles Dennis due to party affiliation) face Tussey, Chris Wilcox, Art Graff, and Jim Rosenstangel. All seven are running as Republicans.
“It’s unusual that it’s this high but there’s some hot topics,” Putnam said.
Putnam, who also recused himself from board activity related to wind, said he plans to do word-of-mouth campaigning and talk to his constituents “and ask for their support.”
“I’m not going to start any major campaign, what it is, is what it is, and if I don’t get elected to it, you know, that’s the way it is,” Putnam said.
In Ellington Township in 2012, Supervisor Duane Lockwood ran unopposed. This time around, Russell Speirs is challenging him. Both are Republican.
Another Republican, Michael Wagner, was the lone Republican candidate to run for trustee in 2012. This time he faces challenger Gregg Campbell in the August primary.
Bobbie Mozden is taking on incumbent Joddy Ehrenberg for the clerk’s position.
And Diane Wilder ran unopposed for treasurer of Ellington Township. This time she faces Carmell Pattullo and Jodi Beecher.
Lockwood and Wagner did not return calls and emails to The Advertiser by press time.
Wilder returned a call to The Advertiser but said she didn’t want to comment because the paper “won’t print the truth of what I said anyway” before hanging up.
“I want to be involved,” said Speirs. “There are a lot of big decisions to be made this year and the next few years that are going to shape our township for our generation and future generations.”
Ellington Township currently has a four-month moratorium on processing applications for wind turbines while the planning commission reevaluates the township’s wind ordinance.
Speirs, 39, said he represents the fourth generation of his family to live in the township and his children, the fifth.
“I want to do my part to provide opportunities for them so that they will be proud to call Ellington Township home as well,” Speirs said.
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org