MARQUETTE - Republicans Mark Curran and Nick Smaby will face-off in an Aug. 5 primary race for a seat on the Marquette County Board.
The winner of the Republican primary will meet the Democratic primary winner in the Nov. 4 election. There are four Democrats running including Marquette residents Karen Alholm, Erik Booth and Dwight Brady and Randall Yelle of Sands Township.
The vacancy was created when incumbent Gregory Seppanen decided not to seek re-election. The term of office is two years. District 6 includes Precinct 2 in the city of Marquette and Sands and Chocolay townships.
The candidates were each asked to provide some details about their backgrounds they think voters should know, why voters should choose them and what top three priorities they would have in office if elected. Word limitations were imposed on answers.
Describing his background, Curran said: "I've lived in Marquette since 1991 and am married with three children. I want to make Marquette a place where my kids can stay and not have to leave to find a good job. I would love if they take over my businesses. I graduated from Northern Michigan University with a degree in business management. Currently, I am a board member of the Home Builders Association and a member of the Marquette County Building Codes Board of Appeals."
On why voters should choose him, Curran said: "It's about jobs! I know what it takes to create jobs and I know what businesses need to create jobs! I am a small business owner of Curran & Co., which has built and manages over 300 rental housing units. I also own Cruise-n-Coffee, which has taught me quite a bit about young employees (which are our future).
"It's time to make the changes Marquette needs to move forward. As county commissioner, I will do all I can to help our families and businesses by providing a voice that is responsive, responsible and realistic."
Curran said he is endorsed by the Marquette County Deputies Association and Home Builders Association of the Upper Peninsula.
Curran detailed his top three priorities.
"I'd like to see a push for more 'Local Loyalty.' I know it's easy to go online, but I've found that most local retailers will beat the online prices. Let's support our community.
"Law enforcement. I've worked with many law enforcement officers and I know what challenges they face. One of my main goals is to fix the lack of police coverage from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. around Marquette County. Both the sheriff's department and state troopers have been cut so much in our area and we may only have one car on patrol for all of Marquette County during this time.
"We need to get our officers the help they need and deserve. I'm also looking at the issue facing the Marquette County Jail. Do we need to remodel or build new? We need to be careful to make the right decisions that support us for the next 20 to 30 plus years.
"Some of the other issues we face that I would like to work on are: The power plant - we should have been proactive on this issue. It was just in the news that someone now wants to build a new natural gas power plant. The new hospital and a re-use plan for the old; continuing the fight for County Road 595; we need this for future growth; the need to make the permit process easier."
Smaby described his background saying: "I am a Christian, husband, father, grandfather, longtime community servant, journalist, business owner, marketing consultant, conservative and a local Republican leader.
"Two years ago I staged a highly-successful political campaign going directly to the people of south Marquette, Chocolay and Sands townships by knocking on more than 2,200 doors. I nearly succeeded then and I'm dedicated to doing so now. This time, I am joined by a stable of other committed conservative commission candidates too."
Smaby said voters should elect him because: "We (Republicans) represent change. What we have right now is one-party leadership. Democrats control all six commission districts. They could be doing a far better job of being fiscally prudent and responsible.
"What one-party rule has led to is cronyism, exploding unfunded pension costs, communication problems, a lack of transparency, very real threats to public safety, excessive regulations on businesses (the job providers) and bloated and unresponsive local government.
"As a business owner, I know how to run a lean and successful operation. As a journalist, I know how to ask tough questions, listen, take notes and get answers. I have the experience to formulate and implement action plans. I'm not easily intimidated. Many folk know me on radio and television as 'Nick Sawyer.' I have a three-decade long track record of community service. Name a charitable organization and I've probably donated time, money and/or radio airtime to it."
Smaby said his top three priorities would include jobs, methamphetamine addiction and unfunded retirement expenses.
On jobs, he said: "Regretfully, our number one export remains young people. This problem must be solved by supporting our local business community. Government has never created a single good-paying job without taking money from someone else to do so. As your next commissioner, I will work to make and keep our community a great place to live and work, to tell our great story, attract and encourage businesses, re-write cumbersome regulations, modernize infrastructure and lower taxes."
On meth addiction, he said: "No candidate has more first-hand experience in dealing with meth addiction than I do. A very close family member was once possessed by this demon. We need the jail space to get these dangerous individuals off the streets immediately. We then need long-term substance abuse treatment - not lengthy prison sentences - to help get these people successfully rehabilitated and back to becoming productive members of society."
On the "huge and growing unfunded obligations to former county employees," Smaby said: "Many who retire at a relatively young age and will live on and collect benefits for a very long time. Many claim that the retire-rehire debacle is a 'dead issue.' But in reality, it will continue to burden taxpayers for decades.
"Unfathomably, some of the authors of this abhorrent plan still hold leadership positions on the board of commissioners today. Once elected, my first motion will be to end the ridiculous practice of giving full-time healthcare benefits to part-time commissioners. Using an elected position to feather one's own nest and the nests of cronies in government must end immediately."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.