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Candidates compete for Ontonagon County commissioner seats

November 3, 2012
By Scott Viau ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

ONTONAGON - Several candidates are running for the open seats on the Ontonagon County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner from District 1, Democrat Dennis O'Brien, is challenged by Republican Jill Johnson.

O'Brien said he should be re-elected because he has the experience and the track record that proves he's up to remaining in the job. He also said he's not one to go along with the crowd and is not afraid to be a dissenting vote.

"I don't try to hide from any issues," O'Brien said. "I'm not afraid to express my feelings whether they're popular or not."

O'Brien also stated he's done whatever he could to support new jobs and will continue to do so if re-elected.

Johnson said voters should vote for her because it's been stagnant in the county and new people are needed.

"When I went to the ballot here, we never have a choice on who to vote for," Johnson said. "I tried to talk other people into running and then I thought I would."

Johnson said she would like to work with the sheriff's department to get more officers on the road and bring business back to the county.

In District 2, Democrat Hubert J. Lukkari is running unopposed, as is Democrat John E. Pelkola in District 3.

Democrat Carl Nykanen in District 4 is running against Pat Kitzman, who is not affiliated with any party.

Nykanen said he's qualified to be re-elected because he's had 20 years experience working in public service, as well as nearly four years experience on the county board. He also would like to see more industry brought back into the area.

"Mining has been the heritage here. (We need to) keep the logging industry alive and kicking," Nykanen said. "Tourism is obviously a big business. If you have jobs and families that stay here, tourism will always follow."

Nykanen said he is a lifelong resident of Michigan and is genuinely concerned about the area.

Kitzman could not be reached for comment.

In District 5, Democrat Dale J. Parent, who is running against Republican Robert E. Niemela, said he thinks he has done a good job as commissioner and has worked hard to keep the the county afloat.

"We had to make some major cuts in our budget because of lack of income," Parent said. "Property values have dropped but we're still in the black. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it."

Parent added that he's tried to do the best he could for the community and will continue to do so if re-elected.

Robert Niemela could not be reached for comment.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.



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