Democrats challenge each of four GOP seats in Saugatuck Township recall
The recall election for four of the five Saugatuck Township Board positions will pit the four Republican incumbents against four Democratic challengers.
Former township supervisor Bill Wester is running as a Democrat against recall target and Republican Brad Rudich for clerk. Jon Helmrich will seek to replace Lori Babinski as treasurer, while Stacey Aldrich and Abby Bigford will run against current trustees Doug Lane and Roy McIlwaine.
Each is a partial term, expiring Nov. 20, 2020.
Township residents Cindy Osman and Kathy Sturm petitioned for the recall mainly related to the incumbents’ vote in August 2017 to amend the International Fire Code and their subsequent reprimand of township manager Aaron Sheridan.
Republican supervisor Christopher Roerig, appointed in the spring after previous supervisor Jon Phillips moved out of the township, faces no opposition in his bid for election to the remainder of Phillips’ term, which also expires in 2020.
“I grew up in Saugatuck next to the High School from which I graduated in 1986. My wife Janna and I have lived in the Township since 2002 with our son Andrew. I have a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Davenport College.
“In my position as Clerk I have served for four years on the Planning Commission, attained the title of Certified Michigan Municipal Clerk and have faithfully kept office hours to serve my constituents. I suspect my opponent will not.
“I am proud to say that I have served the people of Saugatuck Township and will continue to look out for township residents’ desires, not just special interest groups like the SDCA or Fire Department. Can’t we work together but still have our differences?
“I believe a recall should be used in only the most egregious circumstances, not matters of opinion. This recall effort has torn apart this community.”
William W. Wester Sr.
Wester is a 20-year Township resident and was supervisor from 2006 to 2016. He also served on the township Zoning Board of Appeals from 2002 to 2006. He has been married 40 years and has four children and seven grandchildren.
As owner of a small business, Wester employs eight Township residents. His corporate history includes 20 years of experience in sales in the Midwest, having won top sales awards.
“I am coming back to the political arena to improve the image of the township, that has declined the past two years,” said Wester.
“We need to remember: the voted-in board members work for the people. Enough of the tail wagging the dog.”
Babinski has been Township Treasurer since 2012 and employed at the township office since 2004. She is dually trained as a Michigan Certified Assessing Technician and Qualified Election Official.
“I’m the Secretary of the Allegan County Treasurer’s Association and for years provided free notary public services to the public,” said Babinski.
“I oversee all township investment accounts as Chief Financial Officer of the Township Board. I successfully managed tax revenues and yielded five years of consecutive growth for the Township’s General Fund balance and cash balances — all while lowering your tax millage rate.
“I successfully service one of the busiest local permit offices in Allegan County.
“I am a lifelong resident. As an elected official I face many challenges and controversies, which is to be expected with the rapid growth occurring.
“I’m a loyal and friendly treasurer and take my job very professionally. I’m qualified to stay in my position as treasurer.”
Helmrich is a Michigan native and has lived in Sauga-tuck Township for 15 years.
“I moved my business consultancy here and have been responsible for financial strategy and fiscal operations for diverse clients including HBO and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council,” said Helmrich.
“I represented the township on the Harbor Authority for four years and have served on local boards and volunteered with others.
“I have BA and MA degrees from George Washington University and New York University, respectively.
“I proudly married my partner of 39 years, three years ago in Douglas.
“As treasurer and board member, I will focus on three areas: Cooperation with our two neighboring cities to improve communications with them and township residents.
“I want to bring transparency and openness to board operations and put a stop to behind-the-scenes changes to reporting structures between the board and our commissions.
“I also want to begin the creation of an economic development plan for the township.”
Bigford and her family have lived in Saugatuck Township for six years. She earned her BA in Criminal Justice at GVSU. She worked for Allegan County Circuit Court for 15 years. There she served as a Juvenile Justice Specialist, Team Leader, Diversion Officer, and Probation Officer. She and her husband have fostered six youth and adopted three.
“I have served as a youth mentor for Ottawa County Courts, am certified through the North American Riding for the Handicap Association, have taught therapeutic horseback riding to people with special needs, and am currently board secretary for Children First Lakeshore, an organization that addresses youth hunger in Allegan County,” said Bigford.
“My motivation to run for Trustee is rooted in my strong desire to get involved and do the right thing.
“I possess the experience and the professionalism to excel in this position and to help get things back on track in Saugatuck Township.”
“I have lived in Saugatuck Township for over 24 years,” said McIlwaine. Since retiring, I have been actively involved with local organizations and elected as a Trustee of the Saugatuck Township Board. I was elected to this position twice by you, the voters of Saugatuck Township.
“I feel very strongly that this ‘recall’ election, two years into my second four-year term, is a travesty of the election process.
“I and three other members of the board got on the wrong side of a couple of special interest groups. My votes were not without input from all concerned parties. I did what I was elected to do: protect property rights, keep taxes low and at the same time develop a strong township ‘rainy day fund’ and maintain a small government.
“Six years of active board involvement and being willing to take on special interest groups qualifies me to be ‘re-elected.’”
Aldrich is a lifelong resident of Saugatuck and Saugatuck Township. She has been married for 44 years and has two daughters and three grandsons. She has owned and operated her own successful hair salon for over 30 years.
“I feel my strongest asset is to listen and learn,” said Aldrich, “with the ability to be open minded. I would like to reach out to the City of Saugatuck, City of Douglas and Fire Department to restore communication with Saugatuck Township, which is damaged. I hope to restore communication and mend fences.
“Saugatuck is a popular place to live and retire because of our natural beauty, progressive attitude and small town atmosphere.
“I would like to be a part of the planning of thoughtful future development. I would consider it a great honor to serve on the Saugatuck Township board.”
Lane was elected trustee in 2016 and has served on the Road Committee and Planning Commission. A Saugatuck High School graduate, he studied business administration at Ferris State University. He now works in title insurance.
“I love the uniqueness and the history of Saugatuck Township,” said Lane, “and I have fought hard to protect you as a homeowner, citizen planner, a parent of two grown children and one new grandchild.
“I’m not a special interest group.
“I, like so many of my neighbors, came back to this community to raise my family after graduating. I was raised in Saugatuck by my parents Art and Kit Lane, who taught me to serve my community and stand up for what’s right, wherever the wind blows.
“The board and I have done this. We’ve made difficult decisions based on fairness and truth. We hold everyone accountable, including landowners, employees and uniformed officers.”