By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners engaged in a heated discussion during the Wednesday, Jan. 13, Committee of the Whole meeting, with several area military veterans joining the discussion.
The board voted during the Wednesday meeting to forward to the Thursday, Jan. 14, meeting an agenda item that would re-appoint county Veterans Affairs Committee members James Carrothers and Douglas Huyck to the committee for the next four years. The item was tabled in December, as the commissioners decided to further explore all qualified candidates for the committee.
Several veterans in attendance voiced their displeasure with the board on Wednesday for not giving the new candidates a chance in the appointment process, with Shiawassee County Veterans Council member and U.S. Marine Mike Nations speaking most passionately on the matter.
“I didn’t wake up one day and decide I wanted to be on this committee; I was asked,” Nations said in his opening address to the board. “Why did you even send the letter seeking applicants if we’re not going to be considered? I have no problem with who you choose. What I do have a problem with is how you have chosen to do it. I respectfully withdraw my name from consideration and I would like my Presidential Accommodation Letter sent back to me, along with the rest of my letters that were included with my application.”
Commissioner Les Schneider agreed with Nations and suggested that the board hold interviews of all nine candidates.
“I don’t have a problem with Doug and Jim being on this committee,” Schneider said. “I just think that we should have had a meeting to discuss the credentials of all nine candidates and to do interviews, like we do with every other committee. The younger generation needs to be represented and there are currently no Iraq or Desert Storm veterans on the committee. We have wanted more young veterans to step forward, and now that they have we are telling them they don’t have enough experience. It’s not fair.”
Board Chairman Hartmann Aue responded by agreeing with Schneider that the county must look out for younger veterans before ultimately rejecting his plea for more deliberation.
“We need to take care of the young men who serve our country, there’s no question,” Aue said. “That’s why we created the Veteran Outreach Program that starts this year and we are hoping that Judge Stewart’s drug court eventually leads to a veteran court. Taking Joe and Doug off the committee now would be like pulling our All-American quarterback and running back at halftime. It doesn’t make sense. And I don’t know any other committee where we debate every individual like we do with the veterans committee, so that is a false statement, Les.”
Commissioner John Plowman agreed with Schneider and explained the reasons behind the board not replacing Carrothers or Huyck. “If there was a vacancy on the committee I would have chosen one of the applicants to fill it, but this committee is doing a good job and the members are dedicated.”
Commissioners Jeff Bartz and John Horvath supported Plowman and Aue, adding that all the candidates were reviewed extensively. The four voted to move the item to Thursday’s meeting, with Commissioners Gary Holzhausen and Schneider voting “no” on the item.