MARQUETTE - Members of the Marquette County Board exchanged tributes and farewells Tuesday at the last regular meeting for four commissioners leaving office as a result of reapportionment, retirement or results of the latest election.
Commissioners Michael Quayle, Nick Joseph, Bill Nordeen and Charles Bergdahl are leaving the board as the panel's numbers shrink from nine to six under reapportionment Jan. 1.
Joseph decided to retire from the board after 20 years instead of facing fellow board member Gerald Corkin in the Democratic primary last August. Joseph -who also served in city government - said he will not return to the county board, nor any other office.
"This is the last job I'm going to have," Joseph said. "I'll never have another nighttime job and I've been going to nighttime meetings for 40 years. It's done. I've dropped out of everything else. I've gotten out of everything else.
"Getting off the board here, were there things I wanted to get done? Yes, there was. Am I going to stay to get them done? No, I'm not. There's other people that are very capable of going on from here.
"It's been a great 20 years."
Quayle said he would be watching the board and offering commentary from the public comment podium. Quayle ran as an independent and was defeated by Commissioner Bruce Heikkila in the November election.
"Looking back over the two years, I think we accomplished a lot of things. We didn't agree on everything, obviously, but I still think that we did some good things," Quayle said. "I know I've made maybe not so many friends and I probably rubbed some people the wrong way when I was here. It was nothing personal. Everything I do is above board and what you see is what you get and I expect the same from other people."
Quayle said he believes the smaller county board will result in greater time and work challenges for remaining commissioners.
"I think that the citizens are ultimately ... going to be the ones that are going to suffer," Quayle said.
Nordeen decided not to run for another term in the Democratic primary. He would have faced Chairwoman Deborah Pellow and Bergdahl in a battle of three sitting commissioners for one open seat. Bergdahl was defeated by Pellow, ending his 20-year tenure on the panel.
Nordeen has served a total of six years on the county board, from 2001 to 2004 and from 2010 to 2012. He said there's been some good accomplishments over the past two years.
Nordeen of Gwinn said he's a little concerned the south end of the county is not going to be represented by someone from that area. But Nordeen supports Pellow, who lives in Tilden Township, and said he believes she'll do "a great job."
"I do believe that the commissioners always do what they think is right. They really do. And sometimes we all have different opinions. I think none of us have an idea that we're here to harm the county," Nordeen said. "I think everyone has an idea like most people that are in politics, that we're trying to improve the county and help the county and the citizens. I think everyone does that."
Laughing, Nordeen said, "And, if the south end of the county doesn't get proper representation, then in two years I'll come back. So there's my threat."
Bergdahl said when he first ran for office he never thought he'd stay for two decades. Maybe two or four years, he said.
"I've enjoyed it, the up and down," Bergdahl said. "It's been a lot of work on a lot of committees. I did my best through the years."
Bergdahl commended county administrative staff and employees and their ability to work with the public.
He said he will return to his farming profession.
"There's only 1.8 percent of the population that feeds the rest of the world," Bergdahl said. "So just remember when you go to the grocery store I'm helping you put some food on your table."
Pellow recalled her first interactions or working relationships with the four departing board members.
"I think the citizens of Marquette County will lose by losing the commissioners that are leaving this next week," Pellow said.
"Commissioner Joseph, I've been shopping in your store since my kids were babies," Pellow said. "And now you don't have that anymore either, so where am I going to see you?"
Pellow recalled seeking advice on running for county office from Bergdahl, working in township government where she first met Nordeen and having had the pleasure of working with Quayle on the board.
Other board members took turns paying tribute to the outgoing members.
Commissioner Steven Pence complimented Quayle.
"He's been my favorite sparring partner on the board," Pence said. "But if this was show business we would also say he is the 'hardest working man in show business.' Nobody has explored the issues as deeply as him - with his unique and sometimes contrary perspectives - and I've enjoyed it. He's done a good job for this county."
Corkin said Joseph "is a special person." He said the two men go back 50 years to a basketball league they started.
"I don't know too many people with more integrity," Corkin said. "I guess he was a very good commissioner, but he's a better person. So I can't actually say anything more about anybody."
Commissioner Paul Arsenault wished "all the retiring commissioners well and continued success in their future lives."
Heikkila said Bergdahl is "that person who has the common sense here on the board." He said Joseph has "that extra detail," digging into something to find a question to stump civil counsel. Heikkila praised Nordeen's spirit and his fearlessness to say anything.
Heikkila lauded Quayle.
"Even though I had to run against you, you're a hard worker and I respect you and you're a very detailed person," Heikkila said. "You're probably more detailed than anybody on this board and I think that's a fantastic trait. It's unfortunate that you're leaving. I'm sorry to see any of you go because I think everybody has made a lot of contributions to this board."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org