ELLINGTON TOWNSHIP — Ten people are running for five seats in Ellington Township, where several candidates say the issue of wind turbines and regulations related to them have opened their eyes to the need to be more involved in local government.
Incumbent Clerk Joddy Ehrenberg, a Democrat, is being challenged by Bobbie Mozden, a Republican. That race will be decided in the November election.
So, too, will be who is elected as a Trustee. Incumbents Michael Wagner, Republican, and Patrick Price, a Democrat – along with newcomer Gregg Campbell, Republican – also will be on the November ballot.
The positions of Supervisor and Treasurer, however, will be decided in the Aug. 2 primary (save for a candidate who runs a very effective write-in campaign).
Incumbent Supervisor Duane Lockwood is being challenged by Russell Speirs, an Ellington Township resident who has been a regular at township board and planning commission meetings in the last eight months.
Incumbent Treasurer Diane Wilder is being challenged by Carmell Patullo and also by Jodi Beecher. All three are Republican and only one will be on the ballot in November.
The Advertiser reached out to all candidates in the Supervisor and Treasurer races and gave them all the same questions and same deadline to respond.
Four of the five candidates replied. Only Lockwood did not respond.
The results are as follows. The only edits made have been for style and spelling. They appear in the order they were received:
What motivated you to run for office?
Beecher (Treasurer): My decision to run for treasurer came when I learned my community wanted a change at the local level. I chose treasurer because of my skills obtained over my banking career and title company experience.
Patullo (Treasurer): Initially, the wind turbine issue drew me in. Then as I attended more meetings, it became apparent why the wind issue has become such a mess. Too many of our township officials seem to have forgotten their oath to represent, serve and protect. Now, many months and meetings later, it’s no longer just about wind turbines. It’s definitely time for new representation for Ellington Township.
Speirs (Supervisor): The past four years I have had an increasing desire to be more involved in my community. I decided it was time to run for office after attending a couple township meetings and witnessing a board of trustees and planning commission that refused to address concerns brought to them by the residents. In those early months, I learned about a conflict of interest and began to see how the board members looked out for each other’s interests more than the interests of the public they took an oath to serve. After residents overflowed township halls with no effect, I came to the conclusion: if we were not going to change the minds of our elected officials, it is time to change the elected officials.
Wilder (Treasurer): I am running for office again because I have dedicated a portion of my life to the honor of serving the residents of Ellington Township as treasurer. I am seeking re-election to continue this honor that has been entrusted in me for the past 17 years.
How old are you, are you married, do you have children (if so, how many), and how long have you lived in the community? What is your profession?
Beecher: I am 41. I married Orvil Beecher in September 1998. We have two daughters ages 10 and 8. In 1998, we purchased our home from my in-laws. My daughters are the sixth generation to be raised in our home. Willard and Carol Beecher and Willis and Barbara Beecher own the land surrounding our home. In fact, this land is one of the few centennial farms left in Ellington Township. The Beecher’s no longer farm so the land is leased to an area farmer. My full time jobs are home schooling my daughters and being a house wife. I also work a few hours per week for Deford Community Church as a secretary for Deford Christian Academy.
Patullo: I am 53 and have lived in Ellington since 2001. My husband Michael and I have seven children, four have graduated from college. Our family actively attends Colwood UB Church. My two younger children attend Schall Elementary School. I currently work as a Certified Developmental Associate at McComb Elementary School.
Speirs: I am 40 years old, have been married for 15 years and have two daughters. With the exception of my time in college and the military, I have lived in the community all my life. I currently work as a Designer for Walbro in Cass City, providing 3D concepts and drawing layouts for carburetors, throttle bodies, ignition modules, and fuel storage and delivery to Walbro’s engineering teams.
Wilder: I have lived in Tuscola County for my entire life of 55 years. I have been married to Dave for 30 years, and we have resided in Ellington Township for 30 years. We have two sons, who are both married, and three grandchildren. I am a licensed Cosmetologist and worked in that field for over 32 years. I currently work for Tuscola County.
What qualifications do you offer residents specific to the position you seek?
Beecher: I had a 20-year banking career. I began as a teller and worked my way up to branch manager. As a banker, I have the financial experience to manage the accounts of our township. My former branch was the payment location for Vassar Township taxes. From this, I have experience collecting and recording tax payments.
I worked a couple of years for First American Title (formerly Tuscola Title and Escrow). There, I worked with chain of title research, legal descriptions, data input, County recordings, and became familiar with many documents and recordings that affect our township.
I have volunteered with many service organizations in Tuscola County. I have served as President of Vassar Rotary Club, Secretary of Vassar Rotary Club, President of Caro Exchange Club, and Secretary of Caro Exchange Club.
I am a member and active volunteer at the First Baptist Church of Caro. I am currently the financial secretary. I also serve as a Sunday school teacher and Vacation Bible School teacher and work in the nursery.
Patullo: I have extensive business experience including managing Thumb Office Supply and a HUD Apartment Complex. I have also worked at a title insurance company. My training and experience includes cash handling, balancing accounts, invoicing, task oriented organization, sales tax, billing and deposits.
Speirs: I am open, honest and approachable. I seek first to understand in order to make educated decisions.
Wilder: I feel that I am a qualified candidate because I have extensive experience with the BSA tax software system, tax procedures, due dates for taxes and forms. Knowledge of current and changing Michigan property tax laws such as PRE, qualified forest, qualified Ag, veterans’ exemptions, poverty exemptions and deferments.
What do you view as the top issues in your community?
Beecher: Wind energy is by far the hot topic. I believe government was created to help us do things we can’t do for ourselves. Local government is tasked to manage many areas: road maintenance, fire coverage, garbage collection, cemetery management, tax collection and zoning ordinances. I believe that many people are so focused on wind energy that they forget there is an entire township to run. That being said, I also feel that through research and open communication the decisions made by any local government should meet the needs of the township and be agreeable to the vast majority.
Patullo: Lack of communication, representation and accountability by too many of our township officials. Our citizens and their tax dollars are a resource we can utilize to benefit our township residents as a whole. This township must be run by us, the voters, not a privileged few that are pursuing their own agenda.
Speirs: I am sure everyone expects the answer to be a weak wind ordinance, but that isn’t it. A weak wind ordinance is a symptom. The problem is a lack of transparency, poor communication, and a self-serving attitude by some of the board members. Issues surrounding fire protection/budget seem to be reoccurring and I have recently heard a couple concerns about some gravel roads.
Wilder: Currently the top concern in Ellington Township is the coming of the wind turbines and the existing ordinance that was developed in 2014 by the township planning commission, reviewed by Tuscola County Planning Commission, hearing held by Ellington Township Planning Commission with required advertising in local public newspapers, then adopted by the Ellington Township Board as ordinance. The township is looking into hosting a website so that we can better inform our residents.
What would be your top priorities if elected/re-elected?
Beecher: The top priority is to help resolve the wind energy debate that is hurting our community. We need to get this issue settled agreeably and as quickly as possible. I would also help move the township forward with its use of technology. Online communications via a township website is one way to increase communication between township and residents. I would also look into road side pick-up of recycling.
Patullo: Full and easily accessible disclosure of Township spending and budgets. Citizens should have an easy way to find where their tax dollars are going.
Create a township website to provide our citizens with complete transparency. Including the option to be automatically notified about meetings and changes in our township
Enact ethical bylaws. Our Planning Board has a clear set of bylaws containing rules that forbid even the perception of a conflict-of-interest. Our Board has no such rules.
Find more ways to purposely engage our citizens, not avoid them. No more meetings held during a blizzard.
I believe strong communication with citizens and fellow board members is essential to accomplishing goals that will prepare Ellington Township for long term stability and growth.
Speirs: Ellington needs a responsible wind ordinance. Next I would like to improve communication and transparency with a township website. I also envision being able to send township notifications via emails or text messages to those who want to sign up. The way we handle fire protection has seemed to be a hot topic at times. I would like to study that issue and I am confident proper communication will prevent that from being a major problem in the future.
Wilder: My top priority if re-elected would be to continue the duties as I have in the past as treasurer for Ellington Township by preparing, printing, collecting, and disbursing of tax monies, to pay all bills, completing state and federal tax forms, responding to residents, escrow, title company questions in person, phone and e-mails, prepare spreadsheets for all township accounts. I work closely with the township clerk in the preparation of the annual budget, balancing accounts, and the biennial audit. I assist with information in the annual newsletter sent to residents during the winter tax season. I will proceed with looking into a website for the township and all that is requested to be obtained on such. I will work with ALL residents on the wind energy issue.
This question-and-answer continues with part two, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/2aKl6RP