NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Business Association focused on local candidates seeking office in the Nov. 3 General Election during its Sept. 16 Facebook Live Chat.
Participating were New Buffalo City Council candidates John Humphrey and Karen Billingslea along with District 9 County Commissioner Candidate Rich Eichholz (a Democrat who will face incumbent District 9 County Commissioner Ezra Scott, a Republican).
Also on the ballot in New Buffalo for three open City Council seats are: Roger Lijewski and Brian Flanagan.
Humphrey (who said he’s been coming to New Buffalo since 1995, ran three recording studios in Chicago and was a contractor and commercial property manager before moving to New Buffalo to raise his two daughters) said he was prompted to run for the council by a “dramatic and not pleasant change in our neighborhood” involving due to the presence of unregulated short-term rentals.
He said Lijewski, Flanagan and himself are running to represent people who live in New Buffalo full time.
“We would like a City Council that is attentive to the residents’ needs, that is available, that it transparent, and that is accountable for its policies and positions,” he said, adding that they would also like to have the city’s laws enforced.
“I love living here and I would like to restore some of that quality of life that I had six years ago when I bought my house,” he said (also urging people to visit his johnhumphreyforcitycouncil page).
Billingslea said she’s running for City Council to continue its positive trajectory in addressing infrastructure issues such as roads, bridges and water.
“As a former municipal finance person I applaud the strengthened financial condition of the city over the last several years, particularly that it’s been accomplished by managing expenses and finding new sources of revenue … not by raising taxes,” she said.
Billingslea said she wanted nothing to do with local government when she first moved here (seven years ago) due to the vitriol that was going on in public discussion that has since eased.
She said there are still a lot of challenges, noting that she lives directly behind “what is probably the most notorious short-term rental house in the city” and has seen a big increase in such rentals just on her street.
“I want to work toward stronger policies ad regulations to reduce these problems caused by this growth,” she said.
She also said she agrees with Humphrey that communication with the community from city government needs to be improved.
Eichholz said as a county commissioner he would be committed to sustainably growing the economy, building resiliency in the infrastructure, and improve people’s quality of life.
He said his first priority would be to help businesses, schools, the county government and family farms re-open from the pandemic in a scientifically and medically sound way.
Beyond COVID, he said his top three priorities are: 1. To help small businesses create good-paying, rewarding jobs; 2. To create affordable housing; 3. To accelerate the availability of universal broadband internet.
Eichholz pledged to be an advocate for the local area and participate in as many local meetings as possible.
Incumbent County Commissioner Ezra Scott was unable to participate due to being out of town, but sent a written statement that mentioned his ongoing involvement in attempting to secure a $28 million grant to expand fiber broadband in the county, his support for a “true balanced budget,” and him being “heavily involved in expanding our public transportation system.
Scott also wrote that he is working with Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to bring a true solution to our Shoreline deviation.”
Candidates in contested local races as posted by the Berrien County Clerk’s office include the following:
Trustee (two seats, 4-year terms) – William Marske (Republican); Rich Sullivan (Republican); Jill Underwood (No Party Affiliation – NPA); Running unopposed are Superintendent David Bunte, Treasurer Liz Rettig and Clerk Paula Dudiak.
CITY OF NEW BUFFALO
City Council member (three open seats, four-year terms) – Karen Billingslea; Brian Flanagan; John Humphrey; Roger Lijewski.
THREE OAKS TOWNSHIP
Trustee (two seats, 4-year terms) – Rexalee Gordon, Christian Mitchell (Democrats); John Swanstrom (NPA).
VILLAGE OF THREE OAKS
Village President (one seat, 2-year term) – Tom Flint; Richard Smith.
Village Council (three seats, 4-year terms) – John Kramer; John Pappa; Tyler Ream; Troy Zebell; Joe Hinman.
Treasurer (one seat, 4-year term) – Michelle Tackitt (Republican); Shawna Krieger (NPA).
RIVER VALLEY SCHOOLS
Board Member (one seat, term ends 12-31-2022) – John Pawlik; Nikki Springer.
9th District (one seat, 2-year term) – Rich Eicholz (Democrat); Ezra Scott (Republican).
78th District (one seat, two-year term) – Dan VandenHeede (Democrat); Brad Paquette (Republican); Andrew Warner (NLP).
79th District (one seat, two-year term) – Chokwe Pitchford (Democrat); Pauline Wendzel (Republican).
As of Sept. 21 the County Clerk’s Office had not posted Ballot Proposals.