Fourteen candidates have emerged to challenge for the seven seats on the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners, the county’s legislative and policy-making body. Incumbent commissioners Marlene Webster (District 1), Brandon Marks (District 4) and John Plowman (District 7) are running unopposed, and District 2 commissioner Dan McMaster will not run for re-election. Commissioners serve two-year terms, with all seven seats up for grabs every two years, during midterm and presidential election years.
In District 2, four candidates are vying for McMasters’ seat: Aaron Ray, Robert-Doran-Brockway, Elaine Wigle and Gregory Brodeur. District 3 commissioner Gary Holzhausen is being tested by Brian True; District 5 commissioner Jeremy Root, the current chairman of the board, is being challenged by David Hovis and Eric Sabin; and in District 6, former commissioner Jeff Bartz is back for a rematch with incumbent Cindy Garber, who defeated Bartz in 2018.
Competing for their party’s nomination on Aug. 4 will be Democratic candidates Aaron Ray and Robert Doran-Brockway in District 2, Republican candidates Elaine Wigle and Gregory Brodeur in District 2, and Republican candidates David Hovis and Jeremy Root in District 6. The remainder of the races will be contested in the Nov. 3 general election.
MARLENE WEBSTER is running unopposed as the incumbent District 1 representative on the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners. Webster has lived in Owosso for 25 years, and has two adult children with her husband of 28 years, Ted.
Webster has a bachelor’s degree from Lake Superior State University in legal assistant studies and a master’s degree from Northwest Nazarene University in religion. She has served on the Owosso Public Schools Board of Education since 2011 and was first elected to Board of Commissioners in 2018. She also serves as the pastor of Owosso City Church and as the director of Shiawassee Hope.
“In my first term as commissioner, I have advocated for more transparency in financial reporting and in decision making,” explains Webster. “I have encouraged public participation in meetings and have urged citizens to be informed about what is happening in local government. I reconvened the Community Corrections Advisory Board that had been inactive for three years. I was appointed to serve on the board of the Valley Area Agency on Aging and am serving as vice president of the board in 2020.
“I am running to help create an efficient and effective local government that is truly of the people, by the people and for the people. I am a Republican. I believe that small government is the best way for free citizens to flourish. I am strongly pro-life. I support free enterprise. I proudly defend the Constitution of the United States and all its amendments, including the Second Amendment.
“Moving forward, I would like to see the Board of Commissioners adopt a balanced, fiscally conservative budget. We need to find a solution for the county jail that is a safe working environment for law enforcement officers and is affordable to taxpayers. We should continue to foster an environment of economic growth and development.
“I have and will continue to make a difference on the Board of Commissioners by continuing to be a positive voice for the constituents of District 1. I will continue to ensure that the Board of Commissioners fulfills its role of financial oversight and sound budget management so that all department heads and elected officials have the resources they need to fulfill their duty to serve the people of Shiawassee County.
AARON JAMES RAY is running for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners in District 2. Aaron is 26 years old and has lived in Owosso for the past 22 years. He graduated with honors from Owosso High School in 2011. Before that, Aaron lived in Germany, where both of his parents served in the U.S. Army for over two decades.
After high school Aaron studied political science at Central Michigan University for two years. While at CMU, he joined the local chapter of Active Minds, a student-run group that championed mental health advocacy and suicide prevention. Aaron represented the group in the student government for a semester before being elected president of Active Minds. He was also elected to both houses of the student government, serving as a representative for a semester and as a senator for a full year.
After his second year of college, Aaron left to join the U.S. military. Aaron has served in the Army Signal Corps for the past six years and remain a current member of the Michigan National Guard as a signal specialist for the 146th Medical Battalion.
Currently, Aaron splits his time doing general labor for Tradesmen International, volunteering for extra training and duties with the National Guard and studying political science once more at Lansing Community College, this time as a part-time student.
During the Flint Water Crisis, Aaron was part of the National Guard task force that worked alongside the Michigan State Police to distribute clean water and filtration systems to approximately 20,000 homes in early 2016.
Aaron was asked to run for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners by friends and family of the late John Horvath, the previously elected District 2 commissioner who unfortunately left us just last year. Aaron says he is “more than happy to pick up Mr. Horvath’s work where he left off, and bring some long-needed transparency and accountability to Shiawassee County government.
ELAINE WIGLE is a candidate for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners in District 2. She attended Corunna High School, Class of ‘75, and she holds a diploma in executive office administration and an associate’s degree in healthcare management/medical billing and records. Elaine is now retired.
Elaine has two children, both of whom also attended Corunna High School, and she has nine grandchildren. Elaine has “had the pleasure of calling Shiawassee County my home base for 48 years.”
Along with raising her two children, Elaine worked in the newspaper media and printing sectors. She was employed for several years at The Tri-County Citizen in Chesaning, with Dan Lea, and then for several more years at The Independent with Michael Flores and Leonard Krawczyk. Elaine went back to college later in life and then worked in the healthcare sector.
“I decided to run for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners because I believe we need transparency,” explained Wigle. “And while I realize it is not always possible, I think we need to involve the community in more decisions.
“I will strive to make a difference by bringing as much transparency and honesty as possible to the residents. Being considered a low-income senior citizen gives me insight into many of the problems many of our younger fellow residents do not understand. Like it or not, we are a small county that consists mostly of low-income and elderly residents, which is a very important factor that has to be taken into consideration when decisions are made about every action that is being voted on.”
Elaine would also like to address issues such as failing sewer systems and flooding, rapidly rising property taxes, bad roads, recycling, wage increases, retirement plans and the controversy over the jail.
“If I am elected, my soul purpose will be to work for the good of the residents of this county. Please exercise your right to vote. You can make a difference.”
GREGORY BRODEUR is one of four Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners candidates in District 2. Greg has been a resident of Owosso for 26 years and, along with his wife, has raised three children who all still reside in the area. Brodeur served for eight years on the Owosso Public Schools Board of Education, including time as president. A good deal of this time was spent helping set policy for personnel and working on budgetary priorities.
Brodeur holds a degree in economics from the University of Michigan-Flint, and he is currently employed as the senior software developer for Jackson National Life in Okemos.
“As we all deal with the current Covid crisis, we need to also look to the future of our community,” explained Brodeur. “Many city and county governmental units around Michigan are in danger of financial insolvency in the future due to unfunded liabilities – promises and obligations made in the past which must be paid for now and in the future. If these liabilities are not dealt with soon, they threaten to bankrupt many local governments throughout Michigan. I don’t want our county to be one of those.
“To avoid this I hope to work with fellow members of the board, county department staff and local citizens to set realistic priorities for current and future spending given budget realities. We MUST deal with these realities before it is too late. The taxpayers of Shiawassee County and its employees deserve this stability.
“Given my educational training, my experience on the Owosso school board and my work in the financial industry for nearly 20 years, I can help bring sound fiscal management to the county budget using best practices and realistic forecasting.”
GARY HOLZHAUSEN is seeking re-election to the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners in District 3. District 3 includes the city of Corunna, New Haven and Hazelton townships, and the northern areas of Caledonia and Venice townships.
Holzhausen was born in Owosso and has lived in Shiawassee County his entire life, and he is a graduate of Owosso High School. Gary and his wife of 56 years, Nicki, have two children, Shawn (Paul) VanFleteren of Owosso and Todd of Lansing. They also have three grandchildren, Nicole, Jaron and Joel.
“As a past business owner, I know firsthand the importance of spending money wisely, and I recognize the need to save for future unexpected costs,” shared Holzhausen. “I will strive to keep the public informed on the board’s decisions. I listen to public needs and concerns. You deserve to be heard and have your questions answered.
“I support the I-69 Trade Corridor project to promote more business in Shiawassee County that would increase revenue and job opportunity. I also support 4-H, veterans, seniors and agriculture.
“It is an honor to represent my district as well as the county on a whole.”
BRIAN TRUE is running for the District 3 seat on the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners. The 54-year-old has lived in the area since 2016, when he moved to Shiawassee County to be closer to his children, who have lived here for 13 years. Prior to 2016, True resided in Swartz Creek since 1993.
True possesses a Bachelor of Science from RIT in Rochester, NY, and professionally, he has been a commercial/industrial real estate broker for 21 years, mostly representing users and investors in real estate.
As for political experience, Brian has become more active in the past four years, due to, as he sees it, “a need for more strategic and practical government leadership.”
“We need a county commission that can place services above self,” explained True. “It is time for a team of county commissioners who have the experience, energy and professionalism to lead while not creating distractions. I possess these qualities, and it is my hope that the citizens of the 3rd District will allow me to represent their interests as a member of the Board of Commissioners.
“It is important that the Board of Commissioners includes those with a variety of skills and knowledge who can rise above political ambition and work together. I feel my experience in commercial real estate fills an important knowledge gap, knowledge which allows me to know real opportunity from a wishful one, and a financially prudent deal from a money pit. I understand the process and pitfalls of attracting jobs and opportunity to this county. I have and will continue to work with others to promote Shiawassee County as an excellent place to live, work, farm and build.”
Brian considers himself a “left leaning centrist who believes in the ideals under which this nation was founded.” He also notes that, “We need to reestablish our ideals and be considerate of the needs of everyone in this county, from farmers to the homeless. Politics should be about debate, not division. We can no longer let those with limited agendas use their issues to divide us. Instead we need to emerge from this difficult time rededicated to our community, recognizing how much we all have in common.”
True hopes to bring “greater transparency and professionalism” to the board, and to help put an end to “voting just based on party affiliation.”
BRANDON MARKS has announced his candidacy for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners – District 4. Marks has served as the board’s District 4 representative since January of 2017, and he says he has “really enjoyed being your commissioner and will continue working hard to make Shiawassee County a great place to live for everyone.” Marks was first elected to the board in 2016 and is seeking a third term.
“There are many challenges that we will face together in the upcoming years,” begins Brandon. “I understand the issues we are facing in our communities during this difficult time. I also believe that great opportunities are on the horizon if we just work hard, as we always have.
“I am proud to represent some of the hardest working people in mid-Michigan. Our communities are strong. Together we will work to preserve the wonderful progress we have made over the last several years.
“As I have always said, I will work with my fellow commissioners to find creative solutions to any budget constraints that may arise. We will continue to live within our means while providing important services that are valued by the residents of Shiawassee County.
“I know that there are many other issues that are important to our county residents, and I want everyone to know that their voice is being heard. I promise to continue to focus on the issues that are important to my constituents.
“I remain a servant of the people of Shiawassee County and a neighbor who is always accessible, honest and ready to work hard. I would be grateful if I could count on your support in the upcoming election. Together, let’s build a better future.”
DAVID HOVIS is running for the District 5 seat on the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners. Hovis graduated from Linden High School in 2001 before going on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and an associate’s degree in law enforcement from Northern Michigan University in 2004. In 2005, he started working for the State of Michigan as a corrections officer, and in 2010, he transferred from working in the prison to working in the field as a probation/parole agent in Genesee County. Currently, Hovis is employed at the Shiawassee County Felony Probation/Parole Office, and he is also a certified police officer with the Genesee County Parks since 2014.
Hovis is 38 years old and this year will be celebrating 15 years of marriage to his college sweetheart, Tara. David’s family moved to Shiawassee County in 2012 to be closer to family and work. Tara and David have three “wonderful daughters” who attend Morrice Area Schools.
David describes himself as conservative but is open to discuss ideas from any political viewpoint to ensure the betterment of Shiawassee County.
Through his employment at the Shiawassee County Probation/Parole Office, Hovis has been able to work closely with various community organizations/resources, and courts and treatment centers, which has given him a unique perspective on how the county commissioners’ decisions impact the county.
“Some issues that I would like to see addressed within the county are fiscal responsibility, transparency of the county’s decisions and utilization of county resources. I am running for county commissioner because I know that I can make the tough decisions, bring a fresh perspective and be a voice of reason and understanding to change the aforementioned issues.
JEREMY ROOT has announced his bid for re-election as the District 5 representative on the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners. Root was first elected in 2014 and has been elected by his fellow commissioners to serve as board chair for three of the six years.
“Under my leadership, and over the past six years, the board of commissioners has had many successes,” explained Root. “We have implemented many new technologies across the county, including online bill pay and certain electronic filings, thus making services easily accessible for the residents. These decisions also resulted in significant savings to the county’s general fund.
“Over these six years, the board has been far more hands on than its predecessors. The board under my leadership as chair created a new finance office for better oversight of the bills and budget process. This board has been responsible for bringing back road patrol to the Sheriff’s Office, including a partial night shift to ensure county-wide police protection.
“As chair of the board, I spearheaded the implementation of a wage study, which had not been conducted in 20 years. This was much needed to keep and maintain current and future staff, who are crucial to county functions.
“I also led the addition to the Capitan building. This allowed some of our most at-risk individuals access to crucial health department services. This was a 40-year problem that we as a board tackled and completed, resulting in a new state-of-the-art barrier-free public health department.
“The current board has been very successful and has worked really well together on behalf of the residents. If re-elected, I will continue the momentum of moving Shiawassee County forward. The board has already done many great things in just six years, but there is always more room for improvement. I’m locally dedicated. I have the experienced leadership necessary and the results have been proven.
“I’m asking the residents of District 5 for their continued support and for their votes in the Aug. 4 Republican primary. It would be a great privilege to continue serving the best district in Shiawassee County.”
ERIC SABIN is a Democratic candidate for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners in District 5. Sabin lives in Owosso with his wife and their pets. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and he ran for 85th District State Representative in 2018. Eric is a lifelong resident of Michigan, growing up in Kingston, a small village in the Thumb.
“My father was a union maintenance mechanic and my mother the head cook for Kingston High School,” shared Sabin. “My family did everything they could to get by. We experienced several financial hardships while I was young and worked hard to pull our family through. My father worked all the overtime he could, and my mother picked up second and third jobs.
“They were the personification of the phrase ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.’ They taught me that if I worked hard, I would succeed. Unfortunately, that lesson doesn’t apply to many citizens of Shiawassee County. Many families work multiple jobs, yet still find themselves struggling financially. Due to the high costs that our healthcare and higher education systems incur, and a lack of fair paying jobs in our county, our economy keeps our citizens from being able to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps,’ no matter how hard they try.
“The current pandemic we are facing is exasperating the situation and undeniably bringing these inequalities to light. In times like this, our citizens should have full confidence in our local government to protect them, to improve their lives and to provide them with the full opportunity to succeed.
“Sadly, our citizens look to our current government with distrust and disdain. Worse yet, it is filled with political gridlock and dysfunction, a lack of transparency and a failure to place our citizens first.
“I’m running for county commissioner because I believe that every person who works hard should be able to not only survive, but succeed in their life. I believe that our citizens deserve the opportunity to afford to raise a family without the fear of bankruptcy or poverty. I believe that we should be able to look at our local government and see examples of leadership, transparency and legitimacy.
“Most of all, I believe in a government that serves its citizens and places their needs first and foremost. I’m asking for your vote to make this all possible.”
JEFF BARTZ is running in District 6 for the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners. Bartz is a lifelong resident of Shiawassee County. He was born in 1960 and attended Owosso Public Schools. After high school Bartz began working in the family excavating business, which is now in its third generation as a family business.
Bartz owns Jeff Bartz & Co. Excavating and B&C Inspections. He is a member of the Shiawassee Conservation Club, St. Paul’s Catholic Church and the Owosso Knights of Columbus, where he previously served as Grand Knight. Bartz was also previously part owner of Bartz Pools & Excavating. Jeff and his wife currently live in Bennington Township.
“I am business oriented, and I have previously been a commissioner and board chairman,” Bartz shared. “If elected, I would work on balancing the budget, and I would work with both parties for the betterment of the citizens.
“I am knowledgeable and transparent, and I can be reached anytime,” continued Bartz. “I would attend all meetings, and as commissioner I would work hard for all citizens in the county, address unfairness, build partnerships that would protect the rights of the residents and small businesses, and improve programming for those in most need: senior citizens, veterans and children.”
CINDY GARBER is running for re-election to the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners in District 6. In her 16 months as a county commissioner, Garber says that what stands out to her the most are the improvements in county administration. As a member of the Finance Committee, Garber has been actively involved in the audit, budget process and the hiring of the county’s new finance director.
“The hiring of an interim county coordinator after terminating the previous contract, while not an easy thing to do, was in the best interest of the county,” explained Garber. “I will continue to work with the board to cut costs wherever possible, and to make decisions that best serve the residents of Shiawassee County.
“Having served as the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, I work to support the Health Department, MSU Extension, Shiawassee Health and Wellness, Capital Area Community Services and the Veterans Affairs office. I attend monthly Veterans Affairs Committee meetings and am proud of the job we do serving our veterans. I look forward to working with the board to expand these services in the coming years.
“I’ve lived in District 6 most of my life, graduated from Owosso High School and was a member of the Busy Farmers 4-H club and an officer in my FFA chapter. I went on to Michigan State University, furthering my education and love of agriculture.
“Things came full circle when my former 4-H leader, Dorine Luft, agreed to work with me as my deputy treasurer. For 10 years I served as the elected Bennington Township Treasurer. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve District 6 as your county commissioner, and I ask for your support and your vote this November.”
Candidate profiles for Robert Doran-Brockway (District 2) and John Plowman (District 7) will be included in the next edition of The Independent.