MARQUETTE - Incumbent Democrat Jim Cihak will face independent challenger Gus Rydholm in Tuesday's general election race for a District 1 seat on the Marquette County Board.
The term of office is two years. The winner of the election will be sworn in in January.
The candidates were asked to provide some information about their backgrounds. They were also asked what they think is the biggest issue facing the county and, if elected, what they would do to address it. Word limits were imposed.
Cihak discussed his background saying: "I have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University and retired as a state probation/parole agent in Marquette County. I am currently serving my fifth term as county commissioner. Offices: president, Upper Peninsula Association of County Commissioners, vice chairman, Michigan Association of Counties Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and United Auto Workers Local 6000 district chairman. I served as Marquette City Commissioner 1991-1993. I have worked diligently for a balanced county budget each year with no tax increases."
Cihak said the biggest issue facing Marquette County is "the looming fiscal crisis. In lieu of the projected lack of revenues, providing mandated and non-mandated services to the residents of Marquette County will be a challenge. The current levels of service, along with all the other amenities, is what makes Marquette County the best county to live in among all 83 counties in Michigan. The U.P.'s 15 counties have had recent success by collaborating on the U.P. State Fair, the U.P. 911 Authority and working together to establish a permanent home for the state crime lab in Marquette. At a recent fall conference of the U.P. Association of County Commissioners, Delta County Board Chairman Dave Schultz, Marquette County Board Chairman Gerald Corkin and I formed a sub-committee to explore additional methods to reduce costs to county taxpayers. We will be looking at establishing a U.P.-wide health insurance 'policy' for employees which may include any municipality or township that would like to join and therefore save taxpayers money. Other areas of collaboration will be looked at also. We will present our findings at the spring conference of the U.P. Association of County Commissioners in May of 2011. Given the economy, it is important not to raise residential or business taxes and fees in Marquette County. We must continue to promote family sustaining jobs and assist our current employers as needed. As a county, we must continue our policy of reducing costs and improving the efficiency of county government."
Rydholm described his background saying: "I'm a native of Marquette, a 1979 graduate of Marquette Senior High School and a graduate of NMU with a bachelor's degree in political science and criminal justice. I am the owner of Rydholm & Son Distributing and I am committed to the youth of my community as a MSHS swimming and diving coach. I am also committed to my community as a Shriner and I am a member of the Ishpeming Blue Notes Drum and Bugle Corps."
On the biggest issue facing the county, Rydholm said: "Aside from the issue of retire-rehire, my main concern for the County of Marquette is the lack of funding and lack of cooperation on the part of the commission with the Marquette County Sheriff's department. Year after year, the department has requested additional funds, equipment and personnel for increased road patrols. But the commission has steadfastly allocated these needed resources elsewhere. This has caused a strain on the department and the county has had to depend more and more on the Michigan State Police, who are also stretched thin, to provide road patrols. As a businessman, I drive extensively throughout our county and I can count, likely on one hand, the number of times I've observed a sheriff's deputy on patrol. As a result, the ability of the sheriff's department to proactively control crime has dwindled to near zero. This then turns our roads into speedways because drivers know that the county police presence is simply inadequate. If elected, I would fight to get these resources that are needed by the sheriff's department that would allow them to better protect and serve the citizens of Marquette County. As we all know, there is only just so much money to work with. I would ask that the commissioners closely examine the budget and determine where waste can be eliminated. I would attempt to form coalitions with the other commissioners that would help accomplish these ends."
In Thursday's Mining Journal, we will profile the county board race in District 2. Six of the nine districts have contested races in Tuesday's general election. We will be profiling them all.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.