By CAITLIN TAYLOR
Capital News Service
LANSING — Bronna Kahle’s campaign for state representative came full circle when she was sworn in at a ceremony in her hometown of Adrian, rather than the state capital.
“A lot of people do that in Lansing,” said Kahle, R-Adrian. “But I just had to do it in Adrian. I’m representing Lenawee County.”
Over 100 people watched as Kahle took the oath of office administered by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in an Adrian College lecture hall in mid-December. Looking into the audience, she said it was humbling to recognize everyone in the room who helped with her campaign.
“I remember when I did that with that person, I remember when they made phone calls — oh, they hosted a coffee with me,” Kahle said in her Lansing office, gesturing toward the community members she recalled sitting in her swearing-in crowd. “I am honored to serve these people.”
It was because of this connection to her community that Kahle said she decided to run for public office. Knowing that previous Rep. Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton, was term-limited, Kahle said she felt she was the right person to serve Lenawee County.
Kahle defeated Harvey Schmidt, a Democrat and previous mayor of Tecumseh, by 13 percentage points with 23,697 votes.
“Running for office was a new venture. However, I enjoyed it a lot,” she said, later adding that the position is a sacrifice. “You give up a lot, you’re not at home as much as you’d want to be, but it’s worth it.”
Kahle said she discovered one of her priorities as a lawmaker while campaigning.
“We all know the roads are bad, so as we knocked on doors I expected to hear a lot about the roads,” she said “But what people were surprisingly most concerned about was our auto insurance rates.”
She said people from both towns and rural areas asked her to find a way to lower the cost for auto insurance.
Additionally, Kahle said improving the climate for jobs and business growth is a top priority. She said she is focused on improving infrastructure, encouraging workforce training, lowering taxes and training those coming out of prison.
By driving economic growth and attracting more people to Michigan to work, she said she believes costs will be covered by a larger population paying income, property and sales taxes.
The care of senior citizens is also of primary concern, as she served as director of the Adrian Senior Center for nearly six years. That’s why she said she’s pleased to serve on the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee.
“Rep. Kahle’s background with seniors will be a huge asset to the committee,” said Robin Naeyaert, legislative aide for Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, the committee’s chair. “She worked with the funding of senior issues in her career, and that will be crucial as we move forward to advance issues that protect and advance the elderly population.”
Kahle also serves on the Health Policy and Tax Policy committees and is the majority vice-chair of the Workforce and Talent Development Committee.
“She has been a very welcome positive influence, and I am very excited to have her as a vice chair because of her background as a business owner,” said Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, chair of the Workforce and Talent Development Committee.
Kahle’s first bill would enact a recommendation of the Human Trafficking Commission, so victims of human trafficking who commit a crime will be treated as victims in court, rather than criminals — even if the victim has prior convictions. It is scheduled for a hearing.
Kelly Castleberry, the wife of Lenawee County prosecutor, R. Burke Castleberry Jr., is with a nonprofit organization that advocates for human trafficking victims. She will testify in committee on behalf of this bill.
Kahle also introduced a bill to lower the sales tax for used vehicles and another updating a law that allows businesses to raise capital through crowdfunding.
She said she is working on upcoming legislation geared toward making Michigan more competitive and to bring jobs to Lenawee County and the state overall, but details are still under wraps.
Though Kahle said she feels honored to take on the responsibilities as state representative, she said the decision did not at all come quickly.
“The first litmus test for me was my husband,” Kahle said. “If he was not supportive or had any reservations, I wouldn’t do it.”
Kahle’s husband, Patrick, works in the dairy industry.
When she knew she had his full support, she took a Michigan Excellence in Public Service course once per month for nine months. The course focuses on leadership and public policy training for Republican women interested in running for office for the first time.
She said her family also did a lot of praying before she resigned as the director of the Adrian Senior Center and announced her campaign.
“Naturally, we were very disappointed (when she resigned), but realized she was the type of individual who had to share her talents,” said Heather Barker, the center’s new director who worked with Kahle for three years.
“Everybody understood why she needed to move forward. She really gets people energized, and she is a wonderful speaker with a very compassionate heart,” Barker said.
Kahle holds community office hours at the Lenawee District Library in Adrian on the second Friday of every month. On the fourth Friday, she rotates to various locations around Lenawee County.
Updated locations and legislative information can be found on her Facebook page or at gophouse.org/representatives/southeast/kahle/.