Anderson, Holcomb running for Houghton County seat
HOUGHTON — Two candidates are facing off for District 3 on the Houghton County Board of Commissioners, which includes the city of Hancock and Adams Township.
Democratic Commissioner Glenn Anderson is running for a second two-year term against Republican challenger Dan Holcomb.
Anderson was elected to the board in 2018, shortly before he retired as city manager of Hancock after 23 years.
He said he is seeking another term because he wants to continue tackling big issues facing the county, such as obtaining money for repairs for the Father’s Day Flood. For Houghton County roads, the county still needs $3 million to reimburse agencies for repairs, which the state has yet to provide. The Department of Natural Resources also has a commitment to repair $7.2 million worth of damage to county trails, though COVID-19 has delayed those repairs.
The county also has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, including getting as much testing for residents as possible.
“We still have pretty critical issues that the county faces, and I’m just as good an advocate as any to try to remain for the next two years to fight for the additional funds and fight for more COVID testing in Houghton County,” he said.
With county revenues uncertain in the era of COVID, the county board, including Anderson, approved a budget with no capital outlays or travel funds last week. On the bright side, he said, the state budget approved last week does not reduce revenue sharing to local municipalities.
“On the other hand, the county generates a lot of its revenue by fees, and with COVID and the limited access to what’s going on in the county, we could certainly expect to see a hit in some areas of revenue,” he said. “So it’s a good time to be fiscally conservative.”
Another facet of the county’s caution with the COVID-19 epidemic has been putting talk of a millage for a county jail on hold to see what impacts COVID will have, including on jail populations. Michigan is also conducting studies on sentencing and bail reform, which could also impact the number of prisoners Houghton County would expect to have, Anderson said.
“Certainly it is outdated and has to be replaced,” he said. “The only question is what size, when and where, and I think the board has taken the prudent position to just put it on hold until we ultimately can get out of the COVID scene and move on to normal operations.”
With property sales strong in the area, Anderson said it was important for the county to secure land for a new jail, and long-term, a building for administrative functions. The county board has discussed a potential long-term project of moving the county courthouse to a new building, with the old building, as a historic landmark, being preserved.
While a jail could be located elsewhere in the county, other offices, such as the district court and sheriff’s office, are required by state law to be in the county seat.
“Wherever it is, the land has to be in Houghton or a property that has to be annexed into the city, so that is being more limited as far as options go as we go forward,” he said.
Anderson said he supports more recycling options throughout the county as much as can be afforded. Ideally, the cost of expanding recycling would be funded by users, he said.
“Coming up with the right formula to expand recycling is a high priority for me, to make more opportunities for Houghton County outside of both cities,” he said.
Holcomb, an Alabama native, came to the area to attend Michigan Technological University, as his father had. After graduating with a degree in industrial technology in 2010, he then joined Calumet Electronics, where he worked as a cam engineer and technical reviewer for government contracts. After five years, he moved to L’Anse Electronics, where he works as a project manager and helps the company pursue defense contracts and aerospace work.
Holcomb was motivated to run for the board by its March vote against a symbolic resolution declaring Houghton County to be a Second Amendment “sanctuary county.” Anderson was among the three commissioners to vote against the resolution.
“I know everybody has their different feelings about the Second Amendment,” he said. “But my personal view about that is it’s a deterrent. It’s not about owning AR-15s. It’s not about owning special pistols. It’s about being able to protect your family and protect your country.”
Holcomb, who lives in Painesdale, is also part of a group dedicated to preserving the Champion No. 4 mine shaft. If elected, he’d like to be able to look for outside funding to be able to restore the site, possibly with a park and pavilion.
“That’s the only way we’re going to make this place safe, and actually come and visit and learn something about our Copper Country history,” he said.
Holcomb said he thinks the county should do more to publicize the need for a county jail. However, he doesn’t agree with one option the board is considering — purchasing an option for land off of Sharon Avenue for a new complex. Instead, he’d like to see the county renovate Camp Kitwen, a former minimum-security prison near Painesdale which closed in 2009.
A jail task force convened after the last attempt to fund a jail addition recommended against pursuing the Camp Kitwen option, citing challenges ranging from the cost of transferring inmates to the courthouse to the expenses in upgrading infrastructure at the site.
“If I’m elected to this position, I would love to dive into this kind of stuff, because this is kind of what I do for a living, as far as just budgeting and pricing, just seeing if a job is worth going after, without losing it,” he said. “We just need to be smart with our taxpayers’ money.”
Holcomb said he would be supportive of a county-wide recycling program. Though he said he would need to look more into the matter, he was also receptive to selling or leasing the transfer station to a private company that would operate county-wide recycling, which the county has considered.
Other priorities as commissioner would include finding ways to aid and encourage local education programs, such as the Career and Technical Education program at the Copper Country Intermediate School District, and the FIRST Robotics program, for which he is a judge.
“Since we’re trying to pick up manufacturing in America again, we need to think outside the box and see what our children want to do, especially in high school,” he said.
Holcomb, who turns 35 later this year, said he people should vote for him to bring in someone new with fresh ideas. If elected, he said, he does not plan to serve more than two or three terms.
“I’ve been hearing some people saying, ‘Well, we need the younger generation to step up to the plate,'” he said. “Well, you know what, I’ll be more than happy to do that. Because I’m doing this for the right reasons. I’m not doing this for myself. I’m just going to do this just to make this place a little bit better.”
This story was edited on Oct. 15, 2020, to correct information in Dan Holcomb biography.