Cass County board candidates attend meet-and-greetPublished 11:13pm Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Residents of Cass County had the opportunity to meet candidates for the board of commissioners Tuesday evening and have some of their questions and concerns addressed face-to-face.
Citizens interested in meeting commissioner candidates gathered at the Cass County Council on Aging (COA) Edward Lowe Center to hear introductory statements and ask questions on candidates’ viewpoints in an open forum. The League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties sponsored the event along with Dowagiac Rotary Club, Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce, Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce and Leader Publications, who provided reporter John Eby as moderator. With 115 members, Liz Ennis, of the League of Women Voters, said they were often associated with organizing these forums.
“We have a good name for doing this,” Ennis said. “Our sole purpose is to inform the public who is running for public offices.”
Of the 18 candidates in the election, 12 were present for the forum. The redistricting of Cass County has reduced the number of commissioners from 15 to seven, pitting some incumbents and newcomers in a race for the same district. The 12 candidates present at the event included Commissioners Ed Goodman and Bob Wagel, and Jim Jerue, for District 1; Commissioner Ron Francis and Burke Webb for District 2; Commissioner Dwight “Skip” Dyes for District 3; Commissioner Carl Higley, Sr. and David Taylor for District 4; Commissioner
Johnie Rodeush for District 5; Bernie Williamson for District 6; and Chairwoman Minnie Warren and Commissioner Clark Cobb for District 7.
Citizens who attended the forum were allowed to freely move from one candidate’s table to the next, prompting open conversation and personal question-and-answer opportunities.
“It was good for me to come and find out specifically who is running for my district,” an independent voter, who asked to be unnamed, said.
“I wanted to come tonight and see what they had plans for in the county, but it was good to be able to speak to the candidates all in one spot.”
Pokagon Township resident Linda Kramb said the forum was informative and gave her a voice to the candidates.
“I basically came to see why they wanted to be a commissioner,” Kramb said.
“I also wanted to know how they would see to the county’s tax dollars being used properly.”
Paulette Nodruff, of Cassopolis, said she worked for the county for 18 years and she had high expectations for the forum.
“I needed to hear what they had to say,” Nodruff said.
For the candidates, the event presented an opportunity for communication and interaction with the voters.
“I think the turnout was pretty good, though I would have liked to see more,” Cobb said, who expressed an interest in translating citizen’s views into his work as a commissioner. “I hope to educate people about the election and the board.”
Wagel agreed, saying he would have liked to see more residents attend the forum.
“I would have liked to see candidates for other offices, also,” Wagel said. “The commission is going to have to look at the issues; with the redistricting, we have a bigger role to fill.”
Williamson, who is among the newcomers to the election, said she decided to run to give the community a voice.
“I’ve always been involved … when the opportunity presented itself, why wouldn’t I take the chance,” she said.
“The role of the commission impacts things that are important to me and even if I’m not elected, I’ll still find another avenue so I can continue to be involved.”
The next League of Women Voters forums are 6:30 p.m. July 19 at Berrien RESA, 711 Saint Joseph Ave., Berrien Springs, for District 78 candidates and Drain Commissioner candidates, as well as 7 p.m. July 25 at the Greater Niles Senior Center, 1109 Bell Rd., Niles, for the Niles Township candidates.
Other candidates running:
Dixie File, District 2
Gordon Bickel, Sr., District 3
Roseann Marchetti, District 4
Shaun Timm, District 5
Robert Ziliak, District 5
Kevin Harris, District 6