ALPENA — Two competitive races offer voters in Districts 1 and 2 of the Alpena County Board of Commissioners the opportunity to choose who represents them.
In District 1, representing the area between Alpena’s 11th Avenue and State Street, from Chisholm Street to Tuttle Street, voters will choose between Republican William La Haie and Libertarian Scott Parkham, neither .
Voters in District 2, who live north of Chisholm Street between its intersection with Johnson Street and the Alpena Marina, will choose between outgoing and current County Council Chairman Robert Adrian, a Democrat, and Republican Jesse Osmer .
The experience of running a downtown Alpena store for most of its life gives La Haie an understanding of budgets, balance sheets and financial management, he said. He believes the experience would add to county leadership.
It has not yet reviewed current county finances and has no opinion on whether county funds have been put to good use, La Haie said.
La Haie added his name to the ballot because he believes he can help his district and its people and because someone asked him to run, he said.
He believes he can perform well as commissioner, but feels it is premature to take a stand on county or district issues before the election.
Parkham, also a business owner, said the county needs to manage its spending to keep it within the county budget.
After extensive conversations with county officials about the county budget, Parkham said he believes commissioners need to learn to say no to maintain financial stability.
The county has recently shown promising signs of economic growth, attracting new businesses and new jobs, Parkham said.
Parkham hopes to join the board in advocating for spending that stays within the county’s means to maintain that positive momentum, he said.
He thinks his experience as a business owner responsible for employees and maintaining customer satisfaction while addressing many concerns at once would translate well to political leadership.
Parkham said he prioritizes listening over talking and values finding the root cause of a problem rather than just treating its symptoms, qualities he would like to bring to represent locals of District 1.
Adrian wants to return for another term to continue the positive movement he believes the board has established over the past few years.
He applauded several significant changes implemented by the council, including hiring a county administrator, planning for an improved boat launch on Long Lake and putting in place a capital improvements which he said will prepare the county for future projects that are needed.
His 10 years as commissioner and three-decade career as a firefighter make him a good fit to continue leading the county as commissioners work toward financial stability, Adrian said.
While the county’s budget has dipped into the red in some years, he feels good about its general direction, noting the county has a legal obligation to provide certain services and few options for cutting spending.
As the costs of providing required services rise, voters will have to choose between fewer services and more miles, and he thinks he can help guide the county through such decisions, Adrian said.
Osmer does not share this optimism about the state of the county’s finances.
Federal funds helped the county through tough financial times last year, but the county used that money to plug holes that will remain unsolved when that funding disappears, Osmer said.
With government experience at the federal and state levels, including assisting State Representative Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, in developing the state budget, Osmer believes he can help the county d ‘Alpena to manage its finances wisely and with foresight.
He expressed concern that the current board had not always followed its own guidelines, exceeding financial caps on spending.
After working with Allor and the late former U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Iron River, while still living in Alpena, Osmer said he wanted to get involved in local politics, where he feels the moment came for a fresh perspective and where change is easier to embrace than at the state and federal levels.
Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jriddleX.