HOUGHTON - The Houghton County Board of Commissioners could look considerably different next year, with at least two and as many as four of the five seats changing hands in the November elections.
Two commissioners are facing contested races. In District 3, Anton Pintar (D) is facing challenger Bill Manderfield (I). In District 5, incumbent Tim Palosaari (R) is running against challenger Judith Rupley (D).
In District 1, Rick Kasprzak (D) is facing off against Tom Tikkanen (R) for the seat now held by Ed Jenich, who decided not to run for another term.
District 4 Commissioner Scott Ala (D) is running unopposed. So is District 2 candidate Albert Koskela (R), who will take over the seat held by Commissioner Dennis Barrette, who is not running for another term.
Pintar, of South Range, has served three terms as commissioner for District 3. He taught chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University for 36 years before retiring in 2002.
Pintar said he had initially decided to run because he felt he had the background to be able to help as county commissioner. He believes the biggest accomplishments of his time in office have been keeping the budget balanced despite tough financial conditions, and the construction of the county's new transfer station in Atlantic Mine.
"As far as I can tell it's going very well," he said. "All the comments I've received have been positive, with the time it takes ... it's very efficiently run. As far as I know, the volume we're handling is about the same as it was before."
For the next term, he said, he'd like to look into another option for the jail and district court. A $15 million combination jail, sheriff's department and district court to be built west of the courthouse was defeated in 2010.
"I guess I would like to see us start moving towards building a new jail, with a timeline of four years, put together a citizen's committee to look at options for a new jail and district court, and put together the one that's going to cost the least," he said.
Manderfield has worked as a journeyman electrician and master electrician, being part of the family business, Manderfield PHE Inc., for more than 25 years. He now works as an instrumentation electrician at Osmose in Hubbell.
He said he was motivated to run by the update to the county's master plan approved by the board last summer.
"I thought it was a prelude to zoning in the area, and personal property rights being taken away, and encroachment on people's rights," he said. "The board was not listening to people, and just ramming things through ... If it was unified, it would have been fine, but it wasn't."
Manderfield said his priorities would be property rights, keeping taxes low and paying money into the pension fund, pointing to more than $7 million in unfunded liabilities. The county is amortizing the amount as a percent of payroll over 30 years.
"I've worked my whole life, and I believe that I personally have been fiscally conservative, and I believe I will go into it like I do spending my own money, making sure the bills get paid first ... It sounds a little boring, but that's the way I think it should be," he said.
In District 1, Tikkanen has worked with Main Street Calumet since 2003, has a background in real estate and previously served on the Calumet Township Board. In June, he said he was excited about the potential for "quality of life" improvements in the county, such as linking communities through recreational trails. He also said county voters had decided in 2010 that a solution to the county's jail problem would have to be less expensive.
Kasprzak has worked as dairy and frozen manager at Pat's Foods in Calumet since 2005. In June, Kasprzak said he is against new taxes, including any millage for a new jail. He is also for local control of government and against county-wide zoning, which the current board also opposes.
In District 5, Palosaari is finishing his first term in office. Palosaari, who co-owns DP Construction, said he would like to see taxes go down or at least stay where they are.
Rupley taught at L'Anse Area Schools for 32 years and serves on several community boards. She said in June she would work to make decisions that benefitted the most people in the county and try to foster entrepreneurship.