Congressman John Dingell was one of the candidates who attended the forum put on by the Belleville Area Women’s Club at Owen Intermediate School on Oct. 3.
He thanked the women’s club for giving him the “opportunity of talking to my people.”
Dingell, a Democrat, is running for his 30th term in Congress and his new district includes Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter.
Dingell asked if he could address the audience first because he said he had other appointments that evening.
“I have plans and dreams for the U.S., as do we all,” he said, adding he wants the country to grow and provide jobs and opportunity. He also briefly spoke of a decent environment.
Each of the 18 candidates who attended the forum was given three minutes to tell about themselves. Some spoke about themselves and some spoke about their platforms.
34th District Court Judge Brian Oakley was master of ceremonies and he said he was dismayed that there were more people on the stage than there were in the audience. He exaggerated slightly, since there were 19 people on the stage and 60 in the audience.
Also addressing the audience during the evening was Dingell’s Republican opponent Cynthia Kallgren who said she was the mother of four children, a small business owner, and had run for state representative and lost. She has been helping create proposed legislation in Lansing since then. She said the stories she heard at the doors while campaigning encouraged her work.
Kallgren said the 2010 census showed that one million people have left Michigan and job creation is her goal.
Other speakers stood in order from where they were seated on the stage:
• George Chedraue, an attorney who is running for a seat on the library board, spoke about how when he was on the city council he had a dream of a new city hall and a library that everybody can use. His city hall dream didn’t come true, and now he wants to work on getting a library. “That’s why I’m running.”
• Wayne County Commissioner Kevin McNamara is running for reelection and noted that the county rebuilt the Belleville, Van Buren and Sumpter parks with grants and put in a new gymnasium in VBT. He said Sumpter had the worst recreation spots and rebuilt all the parks with county money. He said if you give $100,000 to Canton, they use $50,000 on engineering and design. If you send $20,000 to Sumpter, they have a barn raising party and make it worth five times that. “They know how to spend it down there.”
Commissioner McNamara said that whether the public notices or not, the county is spending all its road funds in southwestern Wayne County now because it’s preparing for aerotropolis, an explosion that’s about to happen in the next 10 years. He said pieces of land are being bought up and consolidated into large parcels in anticipation of aerotropolis.
He urged the public to vote for the county’s proposals on the ballot, including allowing the governor to remove the county executive from office, under certain circumstances.
• Van Buren Township Trustee Jeff Jahr said he is running for his fourth term in office because he said he feels he does a good job for the people. He told of his Belleville roots, his late wife who was children’s librarian, and his law practice. “We all want a quality community that’s safe. And, where we feel safe going to the store.”
• Kathy Kovach, who is running for the school board, said she worked 20 years for the Van Buren Public Schools, starting as a lunch lady and ending up working as secretary to five different superintendents over 11 years. She retired in June.
“I know how things work. How things should work,” she said. “Public education is strong and viable and a good choice for your student.”
• State Representative Dian Slavens is running for her third term in the State House. She told of the bills she wrote or supported and said she is working for the Democrats to take back the House. She complained that all three branches now are controlled by Republicans.
• Larry Fix, who is a write-in candidate for supervisor of Van Buren Township, said he is trying to climb a mountain with his bid for office, since keeping people from pulling a lever for votes for all one party is hard. He, too, noted that the room should be packed with voters seeking to get information on candidates.
• Mike Boulter is running for reelection to the library board. He noted his great-grandfather was Fred C. Fischer, in whose honor the Belleville library was originally built. He has lived here all his 54 years, he said.
• Toni Hunt, who noted she was Mike Boelter’s sister, is running for reelection to the school board. She said she lived in Sumpter for 25 years, VBT for eight, and Augusta Township for the rest of her life. She has been on the school board since 2005 and there have been a lot of changes since then.
• Kelly Owen is running for the school board, as a first-time candidate. She said her oldest child is a junior at Belleville High School and she has volunteered with the schools, was a paraprofessional for three months, and supported the millage for the new BHS, dressing up as a ballot for Halloween. She belongs to the VBPS Educational Foundation and Band Boosters. She has lived in the community for 18 years.
• Brenda McClanahan, who is serving her first term on the school board, is not seeking reelection to that board, but is running for trustee of VBT. She said she retired after more than 20 years on the Detroit Police Department. Now she substitutes in various school districts and teaches finance at Saginaw University. She has lived in the community for 11 years.
• Joy Cichewicz, has lived in the community for 20 years and is seeking reelection to the library board. She recalled as a child riding her pony and tying it to the bike rack at a rural library to get books that took her mind away from the unhappy things that were happening at home. She said she can see the need for a new local library building.
• VBT Trustee Phil Hart is running for reelection to the post he has held for 16 years. He said he has lived in the community for 29 years and has completed his 35th year of work for Ford Motor Co. He said he uses honesty and integrity in all that he does.
• Dave Curson of Van Buren Township is a candidate for U.S. Congress in the 11th district to fill the partial term left vacant by Thaddeus McCotter when he resigned last summer. Curson said he has been an official of UAW for 39 years and was part of a small task force that when to Washington to save GM and Chrysler. He said many important issues have to be addressed in the lame duck session coming up.
• Benjamin Ross, who recently moved into the area with his wife, is running for school board. He said his wife is an administrator in the Owen Intermediate building and he has been a special education teacher for 12 years in a neighboring district. He said he is for safe schools, high student achievement, and clear lines of communication with the community. He said he was surprised that school board meetings aren’t on public TV.
• Leon Wright, who is running for reelection as clerk of VBT, said he too felt the room should be filled by people getting to know the candidates. He gave a list of things done during his term of office, including going to the high school and WCCC teaching youth that every vote counts and putting up signage in subdivisions announcing voting locations.
• Linda Combs, who served as senior director at Van Buren Township for 15 years, is running for supervisor without opposition on the ballot. She said she has been married to the same man for 41 years and they have two daughters who graduated from BHS. She said she wants to unify the township board, operate with fairness to all, make sure VBT is a true premier community and raise property values, filling the vacant homes with responsible people.
After everyone introduced themselves, Judge Oakley read questions that had been written on cards by members of the audience.
At the end of the evening, Judge Oakley said he felt this candidate forum is one of the greatest projects this club does.