Eight candidates are running for seven seats open in the first election held for the newly formed Belleville Area District Library Board.
The candidates include six who had been appointed to the interim board, plus two newcomers.
Interim board member Paul Henning is not running for election.
Voters in the library district area – the City of Belleville, Van Buren Township and Sumpter Township – will be asked to vote on Nov. 2 for seven people and the winners will be selected districtwide.
Running for election, in alphabetical order, are:
Michael Boelter, 52, great-grandson of Fred C. Fischer for whom the library had been named, was appointed to the interim library board by Sumpter Township.
He has been living in the library district for six years with his wife Kelly and stepson Adam. He is a painting and decorating contractor.
Boelter graduated from Lincoln High School and State of Michigan Trade School. He is a member of the Moose Lodge and enjoys camping, photography, golf and playing cards.
Boelter said he is running for election to the official district library board, “Because I think I can be a positive contributor to the community. My family is deeply rooted here, as Fred C. Fischer was my great-grandfather.”
He said, once he is elected, “I am very interested in moving forward with new plans and ideas for the Belleville Area District Library — working on building and technology, for example.”
Christina Brasil was appointed to the interim library board by the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees. She currently serves as interim board secretary. This is her first bid for elective office.
Brasil, 41, is a lifelong resident of the library district. She is married to Ronald Brasil and they have three children Alex Brasil, Michelle Poloskey, and Andrew Brasil.
Brasil is a teacher at Belleville High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1995 from Eastern Michigan University, with a major in English Language and Literature and a minor in social science. She earned an associate’s degree from Washtenaw Community College in 1996 and a master’s degree from EMU in 2003 in special education.
Brasil is a member of the Belleville Area Women’s Club and its Past Presidents’ Club, the Van Buren Education Association, and Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations.
Her hobbies are reading, fishing, cooking, and family activities.
Brasil said she is running for office because, “The library is an important part of our community. To me, I feel that with the proper guidance and nurturing it will grow to meet the needs of everyone in our community.”
She said once she is elected, “I plan to help the library move forward to meet the needs of citizens within the district.”
Joy Cichewicz, 49, of Sumpter Township has lived in the library district for 19 years. She was appointed to the interim district library board by Sumpter Township and currently also serves on the Sumpter Township Planning Commission.
She is married to Richard and they have three children Melanie Bell, Andrew Cichewicz and Derek Cichewicz. There also are three grandchildren, Austin, Jaiden, and Aaron.
Chichewicz is librarian at the Ypsilanti District Library and Branch Manager of the Downtown Branch.
She earned a bachelor of science degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1995, with a major in psychology and minor in social work. Her master of library science degree came from Wayne State University in 1997.
She is a member of the American Library Association, Friends of the Belleville Area District Library, Friends of the Ypsilanti District Library, and Southeast Michigan Glass Beadmakers Guild.
Her hobbies include glass torch working and jewelry making, walking, biking, kayaking, and traveling.
Cichewicz said she is running for this office because, “Libraries serve very important functions. By providing our community with a building, staffing, technology and materials that can be checked out, libraries level the playing field so that everyone has access to resources and assistance in using those resources.
“At a very low cost, libraries provide opportunities for life-long learning, a community space for gatherings and activities, free programs that enrich lives, educational materials and opportunities for children and teens, and not least, they provide access to the Internet, books, magazines, movies, music, audio books.
“I feel particularly qualified because of my background. I’ve been a librarian for 13 years, working primarily in public libraries. For the past two years I’ve been the branch manager of the very busy downtown branch of the Ypsilanti District Library.
“Before working at YDL, I worked at Brighton District Library for eight years as the Head of Automation, three years at the University of Michigan in the Undergraduate Library and Social Work Library, and a few months in the UAW/Chrysler Technology Training Center in Detroit.
“One of my first jobs in a library was a library aide at the Fred C. Fischer Library while working on my master in library science. I have been committed to public service in libraries professionally for many years and will continue that focus as a trustee for the Belleville Area District Library.
“I’ve lived in Sumpter Township for the past 19 years and feel that I’m familiar with the needs of the three communities,” Chichewicz said.
She said her first priority is to make sure the operating millage passes.
“This will ensure the funds will be available for continuing the operations of the current library and will also secure the Belleville Area District Library agreement which is dependent on having an operating millage in place.
“After that, we will be in a position to take the time to seek feedback from the community before starting on the next step.
“It is clear that that current library building has not been adequately serving the communities’ needs for many years. It is not large enough or staffed adequately enough to provide the services this community has been asking for years: more items to check out, more programs for kids, teens, and senior citizens.
“It is my goal to work toward being fiscally responsible while at the same time finally bringing the residents of the Belleville Area District Library what they’ve been asking for: more library.”
Mary Jane Dawson
Mary Jane Dawson, 63, of the City of Belleville, has lived in the library district for 22 years. She currently serves as chairman of the interim library board, to which she was appointed by the City of Belleville.
This is her first bid for elective office.
Dawson is married to Belleville Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Dawson. They have six sons, four daughters-in-law and 12 grandchildren: Jim (Malinda) Baird, Nathaniel, Anna, David, and Dahlia; Scot (Debbie) Baird; Brad (Jill) Dawson, Riley, Spencer, Owen and Claire; Jason Baird and his daughters Abigail and Alison; Ryan (Dulcy) Dawson, Vanea and Eli; and Burke Dawson.
She is a 1965 graduate of Mercy High School, 1986 graduate of Washtenaw Community College with an associate’s degree in nursing.
Dawson is a retired RN, having worked in the Chicago area as an ICU/CCU nurse and as an oncology nurse at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. She also served as a clinical manager of Odyssey Hospice, supervising all of the clinical staff and office personnel. While an employee of Odyssey and with the dedication of the staff, she supervised the Novi office and attained the prestige of becoming a 5-Star Office.
Dawson is past president of the Friends of the Library, past recording secretary for the Belleville-Area Council for the Arts, and former Midwest Regional Director for STAR Touring and Riding Association.
Currently she is a board member of the Historical Society and a life member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary.
Dawson said she enjoys crocheting, knitting, refinishing furniture and playing the piano. She said she loves to read, especially mysteries and history books.
In explaining why she is running for office, Dawson said: “As one of seven local residents appointed to the first Belleville Area District Library Board, I would like the opportunity to continue the work the first board started. The library is an important asset for any community, however, in our current economic climate, access to a full-service library with adequate resources available has been a god-send to many residents who are seeking employment (most companies require online apps) as many residents within the district can no longer afford to pay for online services and/or personal computers – yet they must use the internet to apply for a job.
“These services are available for free at the library.
“I want to be an active participant in not only maintaining the services of the library to all within the district, but also be a catalyst in improving library resources, for all the patrons who use our library – no matter what age they may be.”
Dawson said her short-term goal is to help ensure that funding for the library meets the operational needs to continue the current level of services.
Her long-term goal is to facilitate the selection of a site where a new library can be built.
“Per the parameters of the District Library Agreement, the BADL Board has been charged with obtaining at least a .7 millage so that the current location can continue to operate (at least at its current level of service).
“The other charge to the BADL Board is to select a site for a new main library building and a site for a satellite library.
“My husband was one of the elected officials who negotiated the DL agreement. I hope to be one of the elected officials to carry out that part of the DL Agreement and see the buildings come to fruition,” Dawson said.
Elaine Gutierrez, 65, of Van Buren Township was appointed to the interim board and serves as treasurer.
She was raised in Belleville, moved away, and has been back for the last seven years.
She works as a payroll accountant for Belleville Tax & Accounting and associate broker for Remerica Main Street Realty.
She graduated from Belleville High School in 1963, earned her bachelor of arts degree from Central Michigan University and a master of arts degree from Eastern Michigan University.
Gutierrez was elected secretary/ treasurer of the Livingston Association of Realtors by her peers.
She was a member of the former Tri-Community Library Board as a representative of the Friends of the Library.
She is past president and treasurer of the Friends of the Library, served on the Garden Walk Committee, and was active in the Historical Society with programs and exhibits.
Her hobbies are quilting (member of the Western Wayne County Quilting Guild) and tai chi.
She said she is running for the board because, “I enjoy giving back to the community where I grew up and to the library that holds a place in my heart.”
Guiterrez said as far as the district library goes, “We’ve only just begun.”
She said, “Now that the district library is established and the ground rules are set, it is time to plan for a bigger and better library that meets the needs of the community.”
John Juriga, 66, lives in the City of Belleville and has lived in the library district for 38 years. This is his first bid for elective office.
He is a retired Romulus teacher. He and his wife of 38 years Deb have three children, Justin, 36; Travis, 32; and Jesse, 28.
Juriga earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial education at Murray State University in Kentucky in 1969; a master of arts degree at Eastern Michigan University in 1974, and post-graduate work towards a specialist degree at Michigan State University.
He is active in the Belleville Area Council for the Arts, Historical Society, Friends of the Library, and as a church trustee.
He started the Belleville Boys and Girls Club in 2007 and serves on the advisory council for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Belleville and Romulus (1,000 members in three clubs).
Juriga is a member of the Belleville Planning Commission. He served on the Board of Canvassers in 2009 and Zoning Board of Appeals in 2003-4. He was a member of the Van Buren Township Planning Commission in 1986-87.
Juriga is an enthusiastic volunteer, serving with the Red Cross as assistant shelter manager in Deweyville, Texas for hurricane Rita in 2006; Habitat for Humanity volunteer in Van Buren Township in 2006; Volunteers in Mission in Avon Park, Florida, replacing residential roofs lost in hurricanes in 2005; Volunteers in Mission in Moscow, Russia in 1991 rebuilding senior citizen housing; Volunteers in Mission in Petit Goave, Haiti, as part of a work team to build a school in 1986; and U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Kingston, Jamaica, 1967-68.
“There are a lot of positive things happening in this area,” Juriga said in explaining why he is running for this office. “The new high school, the new streetscape and now a new, much-needed district library.
“The high school and the library are the jewels of this community. I would like to be a part of this positive growth,” he said.
“I would like to see the library grow in size and interest. Have more programs for children and adults and have cultural events,” Juriga said of his goals once he is elected.
Joseph Monte, 68, of Van Buren Township has lived in the library district for 37 years. This is his first bid for elective office.
He serves on the interim library board after being appointed by VBT.
He is married to Karen and they have two children, Joshua and Jessica.
Monte retired as principal of Elwell Elementary School after a career in education. He holds a master of arts in teaching and masters in educational leadership.
He serves on the Parish Council at St. Stephen’s Church and enjoys woodworking and marathon running.
Monte said he is running for office because, “As an interim appointee to the Belleville-Area District Library, I would like to continue working with the other board members to implement the tri-community Belleville District Library Agreement.”
Once he is elected his short-term goals is to work with the other committee members “to work toward passage of the .7 mills needed to continue operations of our newly formed library district.
“Long-term goal is to implement that part of the agreement to build a modern, up-to-date main library and satellite library.”
Harry Van Gelder
Harry W. Van Gelder, 53, of Van Buren Township, has been a resident of the library district for 21 years.
Van Gelder is a social studies teacher at Summit Academy High School in Romulus. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, and his master of arts in history at Eastern Michigan University.
He is a newcomer in seeking a seat on the library board. This is the second time he has sought elective office, having run unsuccessfully for the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education.
Van Gelder is married to Cheri and he has four adult daughters, Michelle (Mike), Jennie (Matt), Jackie, and Ayssa.
He is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Belleville Area Historical Society, and Friends of the Library. His hobbies include fishing and reading.
Van Gelder said he is running for this office because, “We have a good library and I would like to help make it a great library. Our community library could be the shining star of Belleville.”
He said of his goals, “I would like to see the library partner more activities with all our local schools. We need to find a new home for the library so we can bring it into the 21st century.
“It is very important for the community to support the .7 mill tax this November so that we can successfully break away from Wayne County and control our own destiny in the future.
“I would like to invite all the voters to come visit the current library and see all the programs we currently offer. There is something for all ages at our library,” Van Gelder said.