BAY CITY, MI – The Bay County Board of Commissioners is seeing a bit of a shuffle this year. Several newcomers are vying for a spot on the board in the Nov. 3 general election.
The two contested races are in District 4, representing West Side Bay City and southwest Bangor Township, and District 6, representing East Side Bay City.
Republican challenger Lance Anson is challenging incumbent Kim Coonan for the 4th District seat. Democrat Kaysey Owczarzak Radtke, who defeated incumbent Tom Ryder during the primary election, faces Republican write-in candidate Dennis Banaszak for the 6th District seat.
Other commission seats are unopposed in November.
District 7 newcomer Jayme Johnson is running unopposed in November after defeating incumbent Michael Lutz in the August primary. In District 1, Marie Ann-Fryzel Fox is running unopposed after defeating Steven Gray in the primary for Commissioner Michael Duranczyk’s spot.
Candidates for the 2nd, 3rd and 5th District seats are incumbents running unopposed, with Ernie Krygier running for the 2nd District spot, Vaughn Begick running for the 3rd District, and Thomas Herek in the 5th District.
This year, MLive Media Group partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information for readers. Each candidate was asked to outline their stances on a variety of public policy issues. Information on all state and federal races and many of Michigan’s county and local races is available at Vote411.org, an online voter guide created by the League of Women Voters.
The Bay County Board of Commissioners is made up of seven Commissioners, who comprise the legislative branch of Bay County government and the term of the office is two years, according to Vote411.
The following background information was provided by each candidate in the contested races.
District 4 incumbent Kim Coonan is a lifelong resident of Bay County. Aside from serving as a Bay County Commissioner, Coonan owns and runs Coonan’s Irish Pub at 1004 N. Johnson St. Coonan is a Democrat who has held a commission seat since 2002.
Anson is the founder and operations manager of Divide Enterprise Inc., a locally based freight shipping and trucking company.
In District 6, Owczarzak Radtke holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University and a master’s in principalship from Saginaw Valley State University.
Banaszak is a civil engineer and he holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. MLive/The Bay City Times files show Banaszak served on the Bay City Commission from 1993-1997 and from 2010-2013.
The Bay City Times previously reported that the state Bureau of Elections had examined Banaszak’s use of city envelopes to mail campaign literature to some absentee voters in 2013. Banaszak admitted to the act and issued an apology, saying that he used 75 city envelopes to mail out some campaign literature as he was rushing to get to class at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
Coonan was also in the spotlight in 2012, when he admitted to slapping a fellow commissioner at an election polling site, but claimed he did so in self defense.
Here’s a look at how candidates responded this year to questions on some key issues in Vote411. Their responses have not been edited.
Describe your background, experience and qualifications for this office and the reasons you are running for it.
Coonan: My background is I’ve been a county commissioner 20 years and I’ve got a degree from Delta, Business Management. I’ve been a resident of Bay City my whole life and I’ve been a Commissioner for 20 years. One of the reasons I’ve been a Commissioner is I enjoy working with people. I like working with people because there are times when a constituent calls and they have an issue and they may not know how to get it resolved, and I just make the call, get them the information and I think that’s one of our biggest roles. We also set policy.
Anson: I started and have ran Divide enterprise inc. since 2017. We started out with one semi and grew to 11 series in one year. Taking our annual income from $275,000 to 1.2 million dollars. I know how to manage and budget large and small operations while increasing there growth potential.
Radtke: I am a proud lifelong resident of Bay County. I was born and raised in Essexville and have lived in Bay City for the past 8-years with my husband and our three children. I am passionate about Bay County and I am running for County Commissioner out of a sincere desire to serve our community. As County Commissioner, my goal is to represent Bay City residents and their perspectives to the County Board in the most dedicated and independent manner possible. I am open-minded and will listen to and advocate for our residents. I will search for opportunities to grow and improve our county while protecting what we love.
Banaszak: Two-time former City Commissioner, former Planning Commissioner. Current Chair of the Columbus Avenue Citizens District Council/TIFA Council. I am running because I feel there needs to be more balanced representation on the County Commission.
What are the top 2 priority issues that this office should address, and what actions would you take regarding each of them?
Coonan: We’ve got to get more young people in this community, somehow we have to incentivize people to move in here, educated people, young people with great ideas. And I was thinking that somehow we look at some of these homes that have gone back to taxes and maybe they need some repair or what have you is to come up with a plan to give these homes at a very low cost to young, educated folks and if it needs work, with a contract that they’re going to maintain it. It would do a couple of things – it would get new, young people into some of these homes. If there are homes out there we should work with the entire county to see. We need young, fresh ideas and give them an incentive to come in and possibly it could be done through housing, so I would think that is something we could work on together.
What I think we should do as well, whether you’re in the City of Bay City, Bangor or monitor, wherever it is, businesses that want to come into the community. Anytime you have a new business or they’re taking over an old facility, I think we should streamline the requirements, the regulations and I would like to see a county wide, one group or one set of rules to businesses that may want to come into Bay County. You get with all of the entities involved and you come up with rules that are reasonable, rules that don’t hinder economic development.
Anson: 1. Roads. I would start by meeting with the county road commissioner and finding out his plan and need along with wants. From there I would draft a plan to present to the rest of the commissioners. 2. Citizen concerns: I want to hold monthly townhall meetings with residents so that they can voice there concerns and needs. I will then write a report of the meeting and present it to the rest of the commissioners.
Radtke: The top two priorities go hand-in-hand, they are Economic and Community Development. In order to see our community thrive and retain our younger residents, who are leaving for better opportunities, we have to have business development here which includes well-paying jobs. I believe in contributing to Bay Future and supporting policies favorable to small community-based businesses that support economic development. As to community development, people come to and stay in communities where there are things to offer families. This means community recreation and opportunities to provide good healthcare and childcare.
Banaszak: Priority One is going to be ensuring a balanced budget in these times of Covid. I have worked through eight City budgets, so big numbers are not an issue for me, and making cuts was not unusual while serving the City. The County does have a Reserve Fund, and the current environment begs that it be tapped, but I would like to work with the rest of the Commission to limit any such appropriation since our Revenue Sharing has not been reduced. Pursuing improvements at the Bay City State Recreation Area would also be a focus for me. I spent the decade of the ’80′s living on the beach, and it was unconscionable what the State did trying to outsmart Mother Nature there – in trying to create an emergent wetland they destroyed half of the beach. Laura Ogar has interesting ideas for amenities there, and I would like to work with her to see use of the area increase.
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