Commission to replace Cambensy

But viewpoints differ on how to proceed

Tom Baldini

MARQUETTE — As Sara Cambensy prepares to step down from the Marquette City Commission in coming weeks to be sworn in as a state representative, a couple options exist for the commission to fill her vacant seat, which expires in November 2018.

Cambensy was elected Tuesday to represent the House 109th District, and the same day, three candidates out of six were elected to the city commission.

Cambensy said this morning in an email that she submitted her resignation letter to the mayor today. Even though the election for the 109th won’t be certified until Wednesday, Cambensy said she decided to do this because Monday’s commission meeting is the annual organizational meeting, when the commission elects a new mayor and mayor pro-tem.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. in commission chambers of Marquette City Hall.

“I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to stay on to vote for the next leadership roles and then resign that evening or the next day,” Cambensy said.


According to the Marquette City Charter, the commission may appoint a new commissioner to fill Cambensy’s partial term by a majority vote. If such an appointment is not made within 60 days, the city clerk is to call a special election. Candidates would be nominated by petitions or by paying a filing fee — as commission elections normally go — but there would be no primary election.

Under the charter, the seat should be left vacant only if the term expires within 90 days of the vacancy occurring.

Mayor Dave Campana said he sees the commission as having three options: hold a special election, take the fourth place finisher, or accept applications from the wider public and make an appointment from those individuals.

He said the cost of the special election makes it unattractive.

“We have not decided how best we’re going to address this,” Campana said. “We’re almost sure we’re not going to do a special election, so it’s between the other two options, basically.”


Mayor Pro-tem Tom Baldini agreed a special election would be too costly.

“The commission will probably, after Sara resigns, have a discussion about how do people let us know” who they think should be appointed, Baldini said. “So we’re probably going to try and set up some system where people can submit a letter or something, OK, but that’s a commission decision.”

In regards to the commission’s selection process, Cambensy said she suggests appointing the fourth place candidate.

“It’s fair to the electorate and it will be the quickest way to replace me,” Cambensy said. “Since I only have one year left, this person would have to file to run again next April. Many residents have mentioned that an application process is unnecessary and would be biased or have the perception of being biased if the next highest vote-getter was not picked.”

The fourth place vote-getter in Tuesday’s city-wide non-partisan race was Tony Ghiringhelli, who received 1,300 votes.

Baldini was elected in first with 2,922 votes, Fred Stonehouse second with 2,259 votes and Commissioner Peter Frazier third with 2,091 votes. All three begin their three-year terms this month.

After Ghiringhelli were candidates Jeremy Ottaway with 1,149 votes and Justin Brugman with 1,061 votes.

Ghiringhelli said in a phone interview this morning that he will apply for the position should the commission open it up, and he hopes they consider him.

“I ran for that spot because I want that job, I want to work for the people of Marquette,” Ghiringhelli said. “I feel I am a qualified candidate. I ran. I didn’t get into the top three, but I came in fourth and I think I’d do a good job.”

Ghiringhelli said he doesn’t support a special election due to the cost.

Regarding appointing Ghiringhelli, Baldini said some people have expressed that should have been stated before the election, “because maybe somebody would’ve voted differently.”

“I don’t know,” Baldini said. “That’s a commission decision. Obviously, some people will probably want us to take the fourth because they came in fourth, … but at the same time, you probably should say that to the public beforehand, because, would people vote differently?”

He added that the charter offers two options.

“Maybe the people who came in fourth, fifth, sixth might apply, and I suspect even people might apply who maybe didn’t win the primary even; they’re allowed to do that,” Baldini said. “So we’ll see; the commission will have to have that discussion.”

Commissioner Sarah Reynolds said in a text interview that her ideal preference would be an open application process, followed by an appointment.

“One candidate from yesterday already has emailed and expressed his interest in applying,” Reynolds said. “I think that it’s important to look at everyone interested as a whole as Commissioner Cambensy was a popular and well-liked commissioner, and I’d like to find someone with an equal caliber.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is