Manistee News Advocate, October 12, 2018
LWV forum features judge, county commissioner candidates
By Ashlyn Korienek
Incumbent commissioner, Margaret Batzer (democrat), and competitor David Holmer (libertarian), are running for the Manistee County Board of Commissioners seventh district seat. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)
MANISTEE — While the Nov. 6 election approaches, candidates are busy campaigning and attending public forums before residents head to the polls.
To inform voters, the nonpartisan organization League of Women Voters of Manistee County (LWV) hosted a forum on Thursday night. The group partnered with the Manistee News Advocate for the event, which was held at the Manistee Intermediate School District (ISD) ofﬁce.
About 60 people were in attendance.
Running for the Manistee County 85th District and Probate Judge seat, which is a six year term, incumbent Thomas Brunner, and Manistee County chief assistant prosecutor Jonathon Hauswirth, started out the forum. The position is nonpartisan.
Following was incumbent commissioner, Margaret Batzer (democrat), and competitor David Holmer (libertarian), running for the Manistee County Board of Commissioners seventh district seat — a two year term.
Michelle Graves, managing editor of the News Advocate, who acted as the mediator for the debate, asked Brunner and Hauswirth to introduce themselves to the public within a two minute time limit.
Up first, Brunner said he has nearly 12 years of experience as the Manistee County Probate Judge, first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2012. He is completing his second term.
“I am running for re-election for this nonpartisan position,” said Brunner. “I would like to offer to you, for your consideration, experience and proven judicial performance. Before I was elected as Judge, I practiced law for 31 years in Manistee County.”
Hauswirth has worked in the Manistee County Prosecutor’s Office for nearly six years. In the past, he served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, and was honorably discharged.
“(I) believe that I have come to this place by a little different road than most people,” Hauswirth said. “There are a lot of different things that give me a blue collar type of base, and that’s important. Those are the types of people that live in Manistee County, and what I loved about this (place).”
Graves asked both candidates about the greatest challenges facing the 85th District Court and Manistee County Probate Court over the next three years, and how they plan to address them.
Hauswirth said the number one challenge facing Manistee County, and all of Michigan is the opioid epidemic.
“That’s been in the news a lot lately, and if it has not personally affected you in this room it probably will in the next few years — it’s that widespread,” he said. “Since 2015, overdose deaths in Manistee County have risen 50 percent… that’s certainly the number one challenge I think we’re going to face.”
Brunner agreed with the opioid epidemic, listing many options the courts have today to help those who struggle with drug abuse.
“Opioid use is certainly problematic,” Brunner said. “(In) Probate Court, we do have the Guardianship remedy, if somebody lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make informed decisions, because of chronic drugs use, somebody could file a petition…”
Following several prepared questions and inquiries from the audience, both candidates were allowed a closing statement.
“Over the past five and a half years I’ve had over 30 jury trials, which is more than most lawyers get in their entire career,” Hauswirth said. “I am going to go out and try to improve things for everybody who comes through the courts, and the community in general.”
Brunner closed with his final statement.
“Our time guidelines performance is frankly outstanding. We are in court going five days a week, and there were very few counties in the state of Michigan where the entire District Court judgeship is placed on one person,” said Brunner. “I think we are doing an excellent job.”
During her opening statement, Batzer spoke on her experience as a commissioner since her election in 2016. She is a fourth generation Manistee resident, who graduated from Manistee High School.
“I would be honored to serve as your county commissioner for the seventh district,” said Batzer. “Sixteen years ago I returned to Manistee to start Healing Perspectives Acupuncture… 10 years ago I opened a second office in Ludington.
“In my practice, my goal is to work with people toward their best quality of life. My priority in my work is to best serve the needs of each individual. As your county commissioner, I bring the same concern for the well-being of all of our residents.”
Holmer followed up, naming his involvement with many local organizations such as the Manistee Civic Players. The candidate is a published author, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and a cancer survivor.
“I have a degree in computer science, with a minor in accounting. I have 10 years of experience of working with the homeless and low income in California,” he said. “I am one of the co-founders of the Manistee Writer’s Group… I am also an active member of my church, the Manistee Art Institute and Divine Mercy’s Community Table.”
Graves asked both candidates to describe what needs the seventh district has over the others, and how they plan to address them.
Holmer said he brings to the table strong relationships with commissioners, and hopes to make more connections in the future.
“What is unique to our district, or to at least three of the districts versus the others, is that we are (within) the city,” said Holmer. “I would like to bring collaboration and work together with community projects, in specific, with growth and development.”
In her statement, Batzer said housing remains a huge problem in Manistee, and she has been working with others to provide opportunities at all levels of income.
“We are the only district that’s location entirely in the city of Manistee,” she said. “It’s actually the densest populated district within Manistee County… Because of the dense population within district seven, housing is also a major issue; that’s one of the issues I have been working on since becoming commissioner.”
During Holmer’s closing statement, he said his priorities are job creation and affordable housing, like increasing home ownership opportunities for low income residents.
“We need growth and I believe the strongest way to do this, and to help with our infrastructure and bring up revenues, would be jobs in the industry,” he said. “This is something that I have been working on for the past year, and I will continue to work on with Margaret Batzer, regardless of whether I am a commissioner or not.”
In her closing statement, Batzer said she aims to collaborate with others, consider all ways to increase revenues and work with residents to identify their needs.
“As a county commissioner I look at the big picture, while considering all of the moving pieces,” she said. “Decisions are not always easy with the many needs in Manistee County and limited funds. Yet, I remain hopeful for our future.”
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