By Julianne Pitcher and Lauren Evasic
Meridian Times staff writers
Of the nine candidates running in the 2012 election for the Meridian Township Board of Trustees, only four will win. There are four Republicans, four Democrats and one Libertarian.
The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, and their positions will begin at noon Tuesday, Nov. 20. Trustees serve four-year terms.
According to Democrat Ron Styka, “Trustees adopt the township budget, hire township employees and give overall direction of the township manager, who handles day-to-day management of the township.”
Styka has served on the Okemos Board of Education for 22 years and was president for three of these years. Styka has also been a trustee of the Okemos Education Foundation and has worked as a state attorney. With this experience, Styka says he has demonstrated the ability to work with other board members in a collegial manner.
Styka said, “I want the township to be pro-active in seeking sensible, smart development, not development that changes the nature of the township, but development that is consistent with the nature of the township and has a positive impact on the community.”
The three other Democrats running are Angela Wilson, Milton L. Scales and John Veenstra.
Wilson is a parent advocate for education issues at the state capitol and has worked with two state representatives on various issues.
“I am a thoughtful decision maker and will support policies that make Meridian Township a great place to live, work and play today and for years to come,” said Wilson. “I will listen to all the stakeholders involved because I firmly believe that a trustee cannot do the job if they cannot or will not listen to the community.”
Wilson said providing quality services to residents, keeping a safe and healthy community, and promoting policies that will make the township a strong community are some of the most important issues Meridian Township faces.
“I will take the time to make myself available to our community members,” said Wilson. “Above all, I will be respectful to my colleagues and all the members of our community, even when I disagree on an issue, and I will be open minded and willing to change my mind on an issue if the facts warrant a change of heart.”
Scales served six terms on the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Board of Directors and was a state conservation officer for more than 30 years, working his way up to chief. Scales is also an advisor for various boards that assist at-risk youths, strengthen families, advocate early childhood education and enhance the professionalism within law enforcement, said Scales.
According to Scales, one of the biggest problems in Meridian Township is the aging population because the younger generation is not as financially well off as its parents.
Scales said, “We must think about what we owe our grandchildren and begin to plan with youth in mind because they will inherit this township. To be successful, we must provide a township where tomorrow’s leaders want to live today so they can provide a future to be enjoyed by our grandchildren.”
Veenstra has been a township trustee for nearly eight years and is an active member of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization. He has a master’s degree in political science from Michigan State University and has long been interested in government and politics.
According to Veenstra, it is important that Meridian Township is a nice place to live, which means protecting the environment and making the township a nice place to walk and ride a bicycle. Veenstra believes it needs more pathways, bicycle lanes, bicycle racks and recycling.
“We need to step up our efforts at encouraging energy conservation because we have to take global warming very seriously. Encouraging more recycling falls under that category,” said Veenstra. “We are currently in the process of revising our master plan.”
4 Republicans running
Republican candidates are Tom Klunzinger, Bruce Little, James McGillicuddy and Mary M.G. Helmbrecht.
Klunzinger served in township government for eight years. Having been elected a township trustee in 1980 and working as treasurer from 1996 to 2000, he said he is confident with budget and zoning procedures.
Klunzinger said, “It’s important to elect new leaders who have the experience and continuity we need to help plan for the years ahead.”
Klunzinger hopes to get the opportunity to help fight the challenges that the township government continues to face. He believes it is necessary to maintain a proper level of services, even when times are difficult with declining revenues, said Klunzinger.
Little is a former Meridian Township supervisor with 35 years of experience problem-solving for local governments.
“I have a proven track record of facilitating bipartisan and intergovernmental cooperation,” said Little.
According to Little, the most important issue the township faces is high spending, which he said has “resulted in an endless stream of millage requests for property tax increases.”
Little said that, if elected, he will encourage the board to return to the basics of township government.
Working as a physician and surgeon for 40 years, McGillicuddy hopes to share his contacts in the medical and business community to add a health focus to board deliberations, said McGillicuddy.
“I want to support the current residents, keep people in their homes as we age, and maintain necessary services while keeping taxes low and our budget balanced. Because our township is aging, it’s time we have health represented,” McGillicuddy said.
McGillicuddy feels his previous work gives him the skill set and connections to add real value for township residents.
The fourth candidate, Meridian Township Clerk Mary M.G. Helmbrecht, could not be reached at this time. Refer to the Meridian Township website for more information on Helmbrecht.
First Libertarian candidate
This is the first year a Libertarian candidate is running for a Meridian Township trustee position. Will Tyler White has been a resident and business owner in Meridian Township for nearly 40 years. White is a member of the Michigan Downtown Association and a board member of the Downtown Development Authority and Economic Development Corporation.
White said this experience has given him a better perspective on what it takes to build a “vibrant, people-oriented community with a unique sense of place that all residents can be proud to call their home.”
According to White, with proper economic development, Meridian Township can build on its strengths, emphasize its best qualities, and create a better sense of place for everyone.
“Listening to what people say they want in their community and implementing that vision is a goal worth achieving,” said White. “I think we can do a better job engaging the community to plan the future while preserving our cultural history. As a trustee, I would do my best to reach these goals.”
With Election Day quickly approaching, all nine candidates continue to seek the township’s support and share their beliefs and goals with voters. It is up to the community’s votes to determine which of these candidates will fill the four trustee positions.
Voice-over slideshow can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11Nv3iltjPk&feature=youtu.be