Voters to choose city commission candidates

MARQUETTE — Seven candidates are vying for three open seats on the Marquette City Commission, and soon the field will be narrowed to six.

The top six vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary election will progress to the general election Nov. 7. Three seats are opening up, belonging to Mayor Pro Tem Tom Baldini and Commissioners Mike Conley and Peter Frazier, as their terms expire.

The non-partisan seven-member commission acts as the legislative branch of city government.

Commissioners serve three-year terms and may not serve more than two consecutive terms.

The duties of the commission are to represent the citizens of Marquette, establish policies and approve the budget. The commission also has the power to hire a city manager and city attorney, and to appoint citizens to serve on numerous advisory boards and commissions.

Each candidate was asked three identical questions via email, with strict word limits of 75 words for the first question, 100 for the second and 200 for the third.

Below are the questions and their replies.

Tom Baldini

List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I’ve been very involved in community activities and have governmental work experience. I was a teacher and administrator in the Marquette schools for 22 years; founder – Marquette County Community Foundation; past president – MAPS Foundation; founder and program chair Marquette County Economic Club; Chair – 4th of July Fireworks Committee. As an aide to Governor Blanchard, Congressman Stupak and commissioner, I’ve learned to assist citizens while understanding the needs of local government.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

A number of issues are important – finances, growth, managing that growth, state legislative rules and regulations. The most critical however is finances. Without the resources and a balanced budget we will not be able to move proactively on the other challenges without money. Revenue sharing from the state has been reduced and the eventual closing of the Presque Isle Power Plant will impact our ability to handle these issues. The exciting growth in our area will require us to think about the infrastructure we will need next year and beyond. We have to think about the next decade.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 years)

I have the experience, knowledge, background and energy to continue as a commissioner. It’s an exciting and challenging time for the city. I prepare for the meetings, seek the opinion of my colleagues and the residents on the issues needing our attention. I was elected to the commission in late 2014 just as the plans for the new hospital, service center facility, and traffic issues were being considered. We will have continuing challenges in Marquette. Out city is at a pivotal point in its growth and development. I can provide a smooth and important bridge to continue the progress of the community and help with the transition of moving the hospital, planning for expansion and the growth and still maintain our character and financial integrity. It is critical we continue to grow but manage that growth in a manner that contributes to make Marquette a community to live and raise a family. I ask that you permit me to represent you in this transition. I believe my experience and commitment to Marquette will help us build on our strengths and help us continue to move forward.



List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

My name is Justin Brugman, and I’m running for Marquette City Commission. I was born and raised in Marquette, and have a bachelors degree in political science from Northern Michigan University (NMU). At NMU, I was President of their student government (ASNMU). I also worked with the Student Association of Michigan, advocating for higher education funding in Lansing on behalf of all Michigan Students. I currently work at Superior Eye as a certified optician.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

The single most important issue facing the city is money. The state is giving us less and less money through revenue sharing. The city needs to figure out how to have a balanced budget, or they need to look to Lansing to help us out. I look forward to, as a city commissioner, meeting and working with Lansing to come up with a solution for the constantly decreasing revenue sharing.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

I think voters should choose me because I will make myself available to the voters. I will be available to answer any questions or address any concerns via in-person, email, or phone. During my time as the student body president at NMU, I orchestrated a “Let’s Chat” event between city officials and the NMU community. I would like to bring something similar to that program to the Marquette community on a quarterly basis.

Being a life-long resident of Marquette, I have love for the Marquette community, and I see being on the city commission as a way to serve our community, but I don’t have all the answers. That is why I want to be available to the voters of Marquette. I want to hear all your concerns, questions, and ideas!



List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I graduated from MSHS in ’93 and Ferris State in ’99 except for my time away at college I lived in Marquette my whole life. Currently I am involved with helping a group & city build a new inclusive playground at the Island. I have been a member of city commission for about three years. Also a member of Presque Isle Park Advisory Committee for four yrs prior. I do lot of work in the …

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

Waste collection currently being discussed by commission how to handle our waste and recycling; one vendor has a local presence but is a national company, the other two vendors are located in michigan or northern WI & are midwest companies. Which ever vendor is selected they will have local employees. Power and lack of funding from state are also important. With lots of current issues in the city of Marquette I think it is best to get public comment and weigh all issues of those involved before making a decision.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

I ran for Marquette City Commission because I want to work hard to keep Marquette one of the best places to live in Michigan, much like my great great grandfather Peter White did. He saw something special and unique about this community and I do, too. I want to be involved to help make wise decisions that will benefit current and future residents as well as those who visit Marquette.



List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

My name is Tony Ghiringhelli and I am a lifelong resident of the Upper Peninsula. I grew up in Gwinn and graduated from there in 2000. I have lived in the city of Marquette for the past 15 years. I am a husband and a father of both a son and daughter ages 4 and 2. I work at the mines and am very active with my local union always fighting for workers rights.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

I feel the city of Marquette has many issues to deal with but the biggest one is good jobs for working families. I feel the city should have Community Benefit Ordinances in place that will guarantee local jobs for local workers. We have a very skilled workforce in this area but contractors are bringing in out of state workers to complete major construction projects while our own local workers are struggling to find good jobs with benefits to support their families. With CBOs in place it will be required to utilize the local workforce and give us jobs we deserve.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

I know the struggles most families are dealing with in this area. I love living in the city of Marquette and want to raise my family here but it is getting harder to do when good jobs are being lost and with a housing market that is growing at a 40% increase compared to the rest of the state. We also keep losing revenue sharing from the state through tax loopholes. Marquette is a very clean and safe city to live in but if these problems are not addressed we are going to eventually see public services cut and families moving away because they cannot afford to stay here. As a city commissioner I will work with other elected officials to try and close tax loopholes and get back money the city has been losing. I will make sure we keep our police, fire, and public service departments strong so that we do remain a safe and clean city that we can all enjoy. I will be proud to serve the wonderful people of Marquette and will listen to every concern that comes before me. I will be a commissioner that you will know you can turn to for help.



List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I am a graduate of NMU, lived in Marquette for three different times since then, lived on the south side of MQT and now North MQT. I currently work in town and plan to stay. I am full of ideas, and not enough time to explain it all, and that’s why I am running. To get more than three minutes to speak with our representatives.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

Next Generation Leadership. Most of the decisions made by the city commission involves many years of repayment. For instance the 20 million dollar contract with Johnson Controls will last 20 years. Seems like current third graders will be paying this off when they graduate from high school, instead of using the experience to train the community. Roads are rerouted, yet very little thought to the congestion that is created by the decision. This all is a result of limiting discussion inside the chamber.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

I hate this question. Voters, you vote for whomever you want. Never let someone else tell you what to do. I will do my best, and that is all I can ever ask of someone.



List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

I’ve lived in Marquette for most of my life. I’m married and have three young children. I attended Marquette Senior High School then NMU, and graduated with a degree in Political Science in 2006. Since then, I have worked within the claims organization at Farmers Insurance. My job has given me the chance to see many different parts of the country and it has made me appreciate how amazing our city is.

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

The most important issue in Marquette is the budget. The next city commission will need to be able to find creative ways to generate revenue to help with the increasing costs of operating the city. I do not support an increase in property tax to the residents of Marquette. I believe we can find alternative ways to generate the revenue that is needed. Marquette needs to greater capitalize on the increasing tourism industry in the area. If we can generate additional revenue from people visiting our city, the tax paying citizens will not have to carry as heavy a load.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

Voters in Marquette should choose to vote for me because I can bring a fresh set of ideas to the city commission. I have no agenda and am not attached to any group or organization that will influence any decision that I would need to make while on the commission. My biggest goal would be to connect with the people living in the city to ensure the commission is making decisions that are not only best for the city, but the residents are in favor of.

Currently most people only find out about the happenings of our city government after a decision has been made. We need to get more citizens involved. Marquette is a wonderful community with amazing people. Everyone living here should be informed and should get the opportunity to come before the commission to share their opinions. I plan to use every platform including social media to keep the people of our community up to date with the happenings of our city government.

Most importantly, I love Marquette. This is one of the most unique and amazing cities in the country and I want to do everything I can to ensure it stays that way.



List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

NMU graduate, spent 27 years in the US Army retiring as a Lt. Col. I have served on a number of city committees Harbor Advisory, Harbor Planning, Income Tax Study, and Local Development Finance Authority including two terms on the city commission (2008-2014). In addition I served as the city representative to the statewide Michigan Ports Collaborative; president and was a founding member of the Marquette Maritime Museum (volunteer).

What do you think is the single most important issue facing the district? (100 words)

Creating a climate supporting economic development while keeping the values our citizens cherish is critical. We can’t sacrifice those qualities that “make Marquette special” to chase every dubious proposal. We need to improve the ability of “city hall” to work with business, not at the cost of our standards but finding ways to help developers meet them.

For too long Marquette has exported three things: wood, rocks (iron ore) and our children. We were sending our future elsewhere because good employment opportunities were largely lacking. We need to break that cycle in Marquette by bringing good jobs to our city.

Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

I am running to keep the city moving forward to the benefit of all our citizens. A commissioner must represent all the people; those that voted for him, against him and did not vote at all. We are at a critical point with declining state revenue and increasing financial demands. Having experienced, knowledgeable leaders on the commission to make the tough decisions is vital. I have shown by my record I am that leader.

During my previous two terms on the commission I helped lay the foundation for solid economic development establishing the Smart Zone (together with NMU and MTU) and the Marquette-Delta County Superior Trade Zone. Working as a commission we were able to keep the hospital in the city, reach an agreement with Eagle Mine to pay for repair to Wright St., establish Clark Park and transfer the old Coast Guard property to the city. Marquette is unique in that the city owns perhaps 95 per cent of our waterfront. The new Clark’s Park and the old Coast Guard property added even more. The public waterfront is and should be in “trust” for our citizens. Our lakeshore is sacred. I also support exploring regional solutions to common problems.