The Shiawassee Chamber of Commerce (SRCC) hosted an online Topics@Twelve event on Tuesday, Oct. 27, offering members the opportunity to virtually “meet the candidates” of the 85th District House of Representatives. The event, planned one week in advance of Election Day next Tuesday, offered insight from the challengers as incumbent Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) and Andrea Kelly Garrison (D-Owosso), were both offered a 10-minute period to highlight their backgrounds and political platforms. The 10-minute period was directly followed up with a brief question period.
David Hood of Stifel – Schluckebier Hood Wealth Management Group, emceed the event. Hood stated the event was a great opportunity for the community to meet the candidates. He believed there are many who have still not voted and are eager for an opportunity to aid in forming an opinion. “The whole experience of emotions that you [i.e., the candidates] run through in an electoral process and the whole goal, obviously, is to let everybody get their message out to everybody so we can all make an informed decision,” he said. A video is posted at www.shiawasseechamber.org.
Andrea Kelly Garrison was the first 10-minute speaker. She stated she is a Michigander “who comes from a strong political family.” Her grandfather, Harry F. Kelly, was a decorated war hero and state governor – and an enormous inspiration in her life. Garrison studied business at the University of Michigan and has had a career working with entrepreneurs, nonprofits and the Michigan Development Corporation. Moving to a lake house near Owosso a few years ago, she fell in love with the community, volunteering with Friends of The Shiawassee River and supporting the Lebowsky Center. She describes herself as “an enthusiastic cheerleader” for the county. Just over a year ago she married Ray Garrison at her lake house property, supporting local businesses in her wedding plans.
After finding herself particularly moved by an Owosso Main Street video, she was drawn to serving the area “in a more impactful way.”
Why run? Garrison said she cares about the well-being of people, is inspired by unity and connection instead of fear and division, desires to help the needs of all sectors in the community and is seeking a new vision for the future. “We need to unite, not fight one another in a crisis,” she said. She thinks the county has everything needed to succeed, including hardworking and resourceful people, a great river, historic towns, healthy farm life, arts, dining, schools and more. “We can pivot back to encourage more teamwork, ingenuity and resourcefulness with a vision to help Shiawassee County build on its strengths while growing a modern, sustainable, vibrant 21st century economy in which businesses and citizens thrive,” she said.
She expressed embracing change through the modernization of technology and a willingness to listen to all stakeholders on an issue in developing plans for economic growth. She thinks people should stop fearing change and prepare for a “new post-pandemic future.”
Why vote for Garrison? She thinks the district needs a unifying voice in Lansing to work with, not against, the governor. ‘I dive in and I’m not afraid to stand up for what is right,” she offered. “I am part of your community now, and I want to fight for you in Lansing. I will be a listener, a nudger, an activist, a collaborator and a leader. I promise to serve you boldly and diligently and do my best to help our district during these times.” Further information on Garrison is available at www.pivotback.com.
Rep. Ben Frederick stated he is currently completing a second term for the district and it’s “a true honor to do so for me and my family.” Frederick was born and raised in Owosso. His family “moved around six times in the city limits before I was in high school. The spark I can point to as far as serving or giving back to the community came with the selection of my family to be the recipients of a Habitat for Humanity home.” He described it as a helping-hand, not a handout. His parents still reside in the home, and the experience proved motivational for him. Frederick still lives in Owosso, having met his wife in high school. He has two children, ages 11 and nine. He and his wife have been pleased with the educational “landscape” provided to their children, particularly considering special needs services for their children.
Frederick became involved with the legislature 18 years ago. In his current position “as a staffer” he has served in various roles in the house and as chief of staff in the senate, representing portions of mid-Michigan for 14 years. At the local level, Frederick ran for Owosso City Council in 2007, serving nine years with three terms as mayor – reaching term limit in 2016. As mayor, his “main motivators” included “neighborhood revitalization, economic development and catalyzing conversations and facilitation” during and after the great recession and housing crash. “Much good work was done in those years and I think back on the service there and am very proud of those who stepped forward, those organizations, those individuals, who sparked their own service during that era,” he said, continuing on to mention the development of Owosso Main Street, stewardship of historic resources and the creation of the parks and rec commission, lending to increased volunteer activity.
In discussing his experience as a state representative, Frederick shared he first ran with a “heavy emphasis on workforce and talent development and the skilled trades integration into our education space.” He thinks not every student should be pushed toward the goal of 4-years in college, as many students are interested in other avenues. Along with skilled trades talent development, Frederick has focused on state agricultural processing capacity and worked with the MEDC to establish a rural designation for top processing redevelopment sites. He continued by elaborating on second term work related to auto no fault and advocating for “the restoration of critical rural services funding,” referencing rural health care delivery and road patrol support. More information on Frederick can be found at https://gophouse.org/member/repbenfrederick/posts.