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Meet Your Chelsea City Council Candidates

On Nov. 2, Chelsea voters will choose a new mayor and three city council members  for 4-year terms.

In addition to what they answered for Chelsea Update, here is the link to the recent Candidate Forum presented by the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce.

In alphabetical order, here are their answers.

Tony Iannelli.

Tony Iannelli

Occupation: Supply Chain Specialist, Consumers Energy

Do you have any previous elected or appointed experience to a city commission and if so, please explain how it’s prepared you for service to the City of Chelsea?

I was elected to City Council in 2017. I have served on multiple boards, including WWRA (Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority, currently Chairman), SRSLY, Chelsea Sustainability Committee, and Chelsea Human Rights Commission.

I feel that my time as a resident as well as my time on Council have prepared me well for continued service to the community.

How long have you lived in Chelsea? Since 1994.

Do you have any current public and/or community service experience? If so, please explain what that is and how it would assist you in representing all Chelsea residents?

  • Chairman of Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority
  • Chelsea Sustainability Committee
  • SRSLY Coalition (Community based substance abuse and mental health services)
  • Chelsea Human Rights Commission City Liaison

Please briefly identify the top two issues of your campaign, i.e. why are you running for city office?

  • Responsible Growth & Infrastructure
  • Civility/Cooperation/Community Focus
  • Continuing Chelsea’s destination appeal and working with Council and City Staff to make Chelsea better than ever!

Please summarize in a sentence or two how you plan to address those two issues listed above.

Any new growth will require good relationships with the surrounding townships. I have worked with the Lima board on the annexation of the potential development at Freer and Old US-12. I also have the endorsement of both Sylvan and Lyndon township’s supervisors.

Civil discourse is everyone’s responsibility, and the City Council should set an example for the community as a whole. Good communication with the council leads to good progress for our city.

In a sentence or two please explain to voters why you are the best candidate for the position.

Chelsea is a vibrant community with great people, businesses, and city management. I’m proud of this community and the work we’ve done as a Council and want to continue representing our residents’ best interests as we go into the future.

Some highlights during my term have been:

  • Adoption of the Chelsea Master Plan
  • Annexing agreement with Lima Twp. for the future Wolf development.
  • Purchase of property adjacent to city limits for future park/greenspace/community center.
  • Revitalization of the blighted Mack building to what we now know as Agricole.
  • Adoption of the new zoning ordinance
  • Acquisition of city’s rights to Old US-12 from the county
  • Approval of the B2B trail connector through Chelsea
  • Approval of Rockwell Building renovation

What are your top priorities as an elected official?

  • Responsible Growth & Infrastructure
  • Civility/Cooperation/Community Focus

Are you familiar with, and have you read the City Charter and the Council Rules?

Yes, I became familiar with them before running and revisit them regularly.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed and if so, explain how you would go about initiating those changes.

Chelsea is a great community with great schools, which creates a high desirability for people to move here. With limited inventory of available housing, the shortage pushes up prices, following the rules of supply and

demand. This has created a lack of affordable housing, a complicated issue that will affect the next council. I am looking forward to working with the council to explore ways that people who work in our city can also live here if they choose to do so.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your candidacy?

Political campaigns involve a lot of talking, but I feel that it’s much more important to listen. I am open to listening to our citizens’ concerns and always ready to take those concerns to council for others to hear. Please feel free to message me through my Facebook page or email me at any time.


David Keiser

David Keiser

Occupation: Driver/delivery at Chelsea Lumber Company

Do you have any previous elected or appointed experience to a city commission and if so, please explain how it’s prepared you for service to the City of Chelsea?

No. I have lived in this community all my life and have seen this city grow and change. I am committed to bringing civility back to Chelsea.

How long have you lived in Chelsea?

I have lived in the city for 20 years, but have been in this community all my life.

Do you have any current public and/or community service experience? If so, please explain what that is and how it would assist you in representing all Chelsea residents?

I have coached youth sports I the schools and drove school buses for Chelsea for 7 years, following in my parent’s footsteps, who drove for the schools for 30 years.

Please briefly identify the top two issues of your campaign, i.e. why are you running for city office?

  1. Law enforcement and the lack of support and respect.
  2. Transparency in local government.

Please summarize in a sentence or two how you plan to address those two issues listed above.

  1. Our law enforcement needs to be supported and not attacked for doing their job. They need to be respected for keeping our residents safe 24/7.
  2. I wear my heart on my sleeve and what you see is what you get. I will be honest and objective if elected.

In a sentence or two please explain to voters why you are the best candidate for the position.

I grew up in Chelsea. I will use independent and objective judgment in my decision making and bring our city back to being a neighborly community.

What are your top priorities as an elected official?

To bring back civility and safety to Chelsea.

Are you familiar with, and have you read the City Charter and the Council Rules?

I have read portions of the city charter and plan to study it in more detail in the immediate future.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed and if so, explain how you would go about initiating those changes. 

Chelsea is a great city! This needs to be maintained by keeping outside influences from intimidating the citizens of our community.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your candidacy? 

I am here for Chelsea with no other ulterior or hidden agendas in mind. Thank you and Go Dogs!


Christine Mehuron

Christine Mehuron

Occupation: Professor of Philosophy, Eastern Michigan University, 1989-Present

Do you have any previous elected or appointed experience to a city commission and if so, please explain how it’s prepared you for service to the City of Chelsea?

I know the importance of City planning for acquisition of green spaces, recreational development and wetland protection. I understand how to collaborate with other townships and the Huron River Watershed Council to plan effectively.

Prior to moving to Chelsea in 2018, I served on the Dexter Township Planning Commission, and I was appointed as a representative from the Huron River Watershed Council to the Dexter Township Supervisors. I earned a Master Planner Certificate from the MSU Extension Planner Program and a Certificate of Completion from the Michigan Lakes and Streams Institute.

How long have you lived in Chelsea? Three years

Do you have any current public and/or community service experience? If so, please explain what that is and how it would assist you in representing all Chelsea residents?

I represent all Chelsea residents in my service on the Chelsea Parks and Recreation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. I see the city’s impressive strides toward downtown open spaces, parklets, trail networks, and community recreation center planning. Our recreational growth needs to be informed by a celebrative and equitable spirit of diversity.

Our South Chelsea commercial area needs more inclusion in the vibrant commercial identity usually associated with our North Chelsea Downtown. Unified marketing and educational campaigns can highlight cultural diversity and inclusiveness, and should be very welcoming to our residents and visitors.

Please briefly identify the top two issues of your campaign, i.e. why are you running for city office?

  1. We need a transformed community policing model focused on de-escalation of conflict, more accountability and transparency in enforcement, and collaboration with relevant care workers, for example, mental health, domestic violence intervention, and substance abuse disorder clinicians.
  1. The city’s impressive strides toward green space acquisition, trail networks, downtown open social spaces and community recreation center planning should be informed by a celebrative and equitable spirit of diversity.

Please summarize in a sentence or two how you plan to address those two issues listed above.

  1. I advocate for a Chelsea Police Department strategic planning process, similar to the process happening in Saline, that is guided by a qualified consulting firm that would involve organized input by all the city’s residents. The outcome of the process should result in

measurable goals and objectives that improve community partnerships in safety, professionalism, and integrity in policing practices.

  1. I support the new Parks and Recreation Master Plan that recommends the acquisition of more green space to plan for the City’s growth. The city should promote equity, diversity and inclusion, using the Non-Discrimination Ordinance as a foundation to set equity goals and develop infrastructure that celebrates diversity. I would work to strengthen the Human Rights Commission’s input to City Council and support their educational and civic initiatives.

In a sentence or two please explain to voters why you are the best candidate for the position.

I have a holistic set of skills and experience to contribute to building a safe, equitable and inclusive community, and to effective city planning. My priorities lie in transparent communication and processes, environmental and recreational stewardship, and accountability in all of our civic relationships.

What are your top priorities as an elected official?

My top priorities lie in inclusive and transparent governance. Equity, respect and integrity should be a key to all Council decisions and collaborations. Responsible and efficient use of taxpayer dollars is a given.

Are you familiar with, and have you read the City Charter and the Council Rules?

Yes

Is there anything you’d like to see changed and if so, explain how you would go about initiating those changes.

First, Chelsea can be a dynamic hub of scenic and natural resources. I seek stronger partnerships with Lima, Sylvan, Lyndon and Dexter Townships, and the Huron River Watershed Council, to complete our envisioned networks of trails and vigorously protect green space and our wetlands.

Second, I advocate the most inclusive, legal voting mechanisms possible. Our surrounding townships can be important collaborators in modeling and implementing the best practices for accessible voting.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your candidacy?

With a 32-year career at Eastern Michigan University in administration and teaching social justice theories, Christine Mehuron is a strong supporter of the use of educational materials that strengthen compassion, global learning, and understanding of human diversity.


Bill Ruddock

Bill Ruddock

Occupation: I am a retired information technology certified project manager. In that role I implemented accounting systems for the State of Michigan and top tier universities. As a service to my community, I am currently the financial manager for Chelsea First United Methodist Church. 

Do you have any previous elected or appointed experience to a city commission and if so, please explain how it’s prepared you for service to the City of Chelsea?

I was elected to the Okemos School Board. Okemos had a $40M budget at the time, which compares to Chelsea’s $4.8M city budget. Membership on a school board shares similarities with serving on Chelsea City Council. State of Michigan laws and ethical guidelines follow the same principles for both School Board and City Council members. Both entities are supported by an Executive or Administrator who is responsible for the day-to-day operations. Both are funded through tax revenues and grants. Both require a keen eye for the needs and best interests of the community. Both often require tough decisions, and a thorough understanding of how policy and regulations affect the way government runs. My experience on the Okemos School Board prepares me well for service on Chelsea City Council. 

How long have you lived in Chelsea? 

A little more than three years. My wife and I love the Chelsea community and are committed to giving back. We feel very fortunate to have been embraced by and integrated into this community.

Do you have any current public and/or community service experience? If so, please explain what that is and how it would assist you in representing all Chelsea residents?

I have recently been elected to the Faith in Action board, as treasurer.   Faith in Action is dedicated to reducing hunger and poverty for people in the Dexter and Chelsea areas. This position will help keep me aware of the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and will allow me to support them with my knowledge and skills.

I am the finance manager for Chelsea First United Methodist Church. My experience with “fund accounting,” the same kind of accounting used by the city of Chelsea, will allow me to easily review and analyze the City’s financial statements and help answer questions citizens may have.

I have served on the governing boards of all the churches I have been a member of (Greenwich, NY, Ferndale, MI, and Okemos, MI) since the age of 14. I have deep experience working with a diversity of people with a variety of opinions to achieve the best solutions. 

These experiences have made me keenly aware that council leadership requires:

Listening to all members of the community – even if I don’t agree and even if they express themselves in harsh tones.

Brainstorming with other members of council about what’s best for the community

Implementing, through the City Manager and administration, solutions to meet the needs of all Chelsea.

Please briefly identify the top two issues of your campaign, i.e. why are you running for city office?

First, I want to say that I did not seek this on my own. So many people approached me and encouraged me to run, that I started seriously considering doing so. My reason for running is simple. I love Chelsea and I want to give back to the community. I want to help us to continue to flourish and become an even more welcoming community for everyone.

My first priority is to listen and respond to the needs of residents of Chelsea and help create a transparent process of dialogue, decision-making, and implementation of solutions. I would like to see Chelsea City Council address issues that are important to citizens, formulate solutions and then help make those solutions reality.  

I will place a high priority on housing, support for small businesses, strong infrastructure, and community policing.

Please summarize in a sentence or two how you plan to address those two issues listed above.

I will listen to citizen input, evaluate relevant data and information, and work tirelessly with other council members and City Administration to develop and implement solutions.

In a sentence or two please explain to voters why you are the best candidate for the position.

I have extensive experience working with teams and boards – throughout my career implementing large accounting systems, as a leader within many church communities, and my experience on a School Board. I have a proven track record of working effectively with a broad spectrum of people, guided by high ethical standards, and by listening, caring, and taking action.

If elected, I will work tirelessly in my role as council member. I will also pledge to model civil discourse. This requires a servant-leader approach with the humility to understand that I may not know all the answers and to acknowledge mistakes. I see my role as a servant to the community; nothing more and nothing less.

What are your top priorities as an elected official?

My goals are to work with other council members and listen to our citizens and business community, build a shared vision for Chelsea, and embrace our City Charter to accomplish that vision. I want to work to make Council function well together, as a place where the best ideas can be brought forward and discussed. Where members respect one another. Where we, for example, grapple with what community policing means for Chelsea, respecting alternative perspectives and knowing that officers and employees of the Chelsea Police Department are dedicated to their mission and are key stakeholders in this process along with citizens and city leaders. My vision is that together, we recognize all strengths and accomplishments and strive to be an ever-better city for everyone.

Are you familiar with, and have you read the City Charter and the Council Rules?

Yes. This document has a rich history and was developed with great consideration. I especially value that the Charter is prefaced with 5 Ethical Principles, which provide the foundation that guides all that we do. I have demonstrated my commitment to ethical actions and decisions throughout my career.

Is there anything you’d like to see changed and if so, explain how you would go about initiating those changes.

I strongly support initiatives to become a more welcoming community for everyone. The Human Rights Commission already helps promote equity and inclusion for all. I laud the Planning Commission’s latest Master Plan that seeks to foster more affordable housing so more people can live and work in Chelsea, including those working in the service sector.

Last year, the City Council hosted listening sessions that revealed many ways that Chelsea could be more welcoming and safe for all people. Our work is far from complete. I believe this is important to say, because we are perfectly capable of creating a stronger, more vibrant, and culturally rich community for everyone. As the recent policing audit recognized, Chelsea’s unique strength is its engaged, well-informed, and passionate citizens.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your candidacy?

I grew up in village in upstate New York, where my uncle was mayor, and my grandmother was village and town clerk. Their selfless contributions to the community made a big impact on my life. I strive to be a servant leader, I understand the workings of community boards, and the importance of working collaboratively to accomplish great things.


Phil Sawicki

Phil Sawicki

Occupation: I retired from the Ann Arbor Police Department on January 20, 2014.

Do you have any previous elected or appointed experience to a city commission and if so, please explain how it’s prepared you for service to the City of Chelsea?

No

How long have you lived in Chelsea?

I bought my house here in June 1992.

Do you have any current public and/or community service experience? If so, please explain what that is and how it would assist you in representing all Chelsea residents?

I am not currently serving in any public capacity but my entire vocational life was devoted to public service.

For example, in 1993 I volunteered to participate in the Community Oriented Policing Program at the Ann Arbor Police Department. I was assigned to Arrowwood Hills Co-op on Pontiac Trail. Arrowwood Hills was a low income, largely government subsidized, mixed race community. They had requested to participate in the program because they were experiencing a significant crime problem that they believed would improve through a closer relationship between themselves and the police. They were right.

An increased police presence not only reduced crime but restored a feeling of safety and security to the community. As important were the relationships I developed that allowed me to identify their specific community needs and guide them to available city services.

We established a relationship based on trust and communication and we all benefited.

I also helped develop a relationship between my community and Ann Arbor businesses. Donations from generous business owners provided the ingredients for community activities from ice cream socials to children’s Christmas parties.

That experience taught me that any divide between a community and their police can be overcome by open communication, mutual respect and a spirit of cooperation.

Please briefly identify the top two issues of your campaign, i.e. why are you running for city office?

  1. I am running with the intention of maintaining the character and charm of Chelsea.

I believe the future direction of residential development should be determined by the free market. We should not attempt to subvert that process with taxpayer dollars either in the form of subsidies or tax abatements.

I don’t believe a majority taxpayers support raising taxes to subsidize housing.

It is true we don’t have housing available to people of every income level but that is a reflection of the desirability of this community and not our desire to exclude any particular group.

Our high property values and the resulting property taxes have allowed us to afford superior city services without tax increases.

We should also support our business community by allowing it to thrive free of unnecessary regulations and government interference.

Our business community should remain a collection of small businesses offering a variety of goods and services and we should do what we can to protect them from the big box retailers that have destroyed small business in other communities.

  1. I want to restore an ideological balance to the council that does not currently exist.

The actions of our current council have made it clear they will use their influence to favor the causes of ‘social justice’ while simultaneously trying to find fault with the police.  

Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent trying to establish the police were wrong in their efforts to maintain order with regard to the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. When the first investigation concluded the police had acted lawfully and in the interest of public safety, a second investigation of police policies and procedures was initiated.

This obvious bias has left the community divided between those that feel supported and those who don’t.

I believe the council can begin to heal this division by focusing on the efficient delivery of services and backing away from advocacy for partisan social issues

Please summarize in a sentence or two how you plan to address those two issues listed above.

  1. I plan to be an advocate for our existing businesses while allowing the free market to dictate the future direction of residential development. Both areas should be evaluated in light of what we want the City of Chelsea to become going forward.
  2. My emphasis is on getting back to the intended functions of government and leaving the social justice causes to special interest groups. I consider simultaneous participation in both camps to be a conflict of interest.

In a sentence or two please explain to voters why you are the best candidate for the position.

I love the City of Chelsea and want to protect it from people who appear intent on dragging all the problems of the outside world here to town.

While we may not reflect everyone’s ideal of diversity, I think we are a beautiful community of friendly people who would welcome anyone regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

I believe the division we have been experiencing lately is largely unnecessary.

What are your top priorities as an elected official?

My top priority is seeking input from the community regarding their priorities and using the resources of government to achieve them.

Equally important is restoring cohesion to our town through mutual respect for opposing viewpoints. We are all in this together.

Are you familiar with, and have you read the City Charter and the Council Rules?

Yes

Is there anything you’d like to see changed and if so, explain how you would go about initiating those changes.

Something has to be done about the old Federal Screw Works property. It is an eyesore and I think we can do better.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your candidacy? 

I believe this election will determine the future direction of Chelsea. I would use my position to heal the division that has resulted from a relentless preoccupation with contentious social issues that have little bearing on our lives here in Chelsea.

I believe we need to restore respect and support for our police department. I think they do a wonderful job of serving our community. They should always be scrutinized but, when they pass muster, they should be commended not reinvestigated looking for a different outcome.

Let’s get back to the business of running the city in the most cost efficient way while reflecting the preferences of our residents and business owners.


Steve Wright.

Steve Wright

Occupation: Retired University of Michigan professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Do you have any previous elected or appointed experience to a city commission and if so, please explain how it’s prepared you for service to the City of Chelsea?

Chelsea Solid Waste Committee, Chair of Chelsea Water Study Committee (2007-2009), Huron River Watershed Council, Chelsea delegate. The Solid Waste Committee dealt with issues related to the groundwater contamination at the old landfill site and later the development of the waste transfer facility. The Water Study Committee had a charge to review Chelsea’s water systems and make recommendations to council, primarily with respect to problems with the operation of the then-new water treatment plant and problems that led to a developer filing legal action against the city due to a development freeze imposed by the state due to lack of water capacity.

Both activities involved working with local officials and public utilities employees to gain an understanding of infrastructure issues and to formulate recommendations for solutions.

How long have you lived in Chelsea? More than 44 years

Do you have any current public and/or community service experience? If so, please explain what that is and how it would assist you in representing all Chelsea residents?

Huron River Watershed Council Executive Committee (service began in 1979, not continuous but most of the time since then); Detroit Water and Sewer District, Dispute Review Panel; University of Michigan Advisory Committee on culturally unaffiliated human remains and funerary objects under the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (federal legislation), since 2009.

These various organizations require a variety of skill sets that I have developed over the years. The Dispute Review Panel is a hearing board to hear appeals from Detroit citizens appealing their stormwater fee assessments. Typically, they have not reviewed the existing regulations so we need to interpret these for them and suggest potential courses of action to reduce utility charges.

The UM advisory committee was established to recommend policy on the university collections of Native American human remains and various associated objects. The committee was asked to handle this charge while improving relations with Michigan tribes.

The HWRC is a member organization that involves cities, townships and counties within the watershed and we establish policy for the staff and provide budget oversight. HWRC increased its annual budget over tenfold during the time period of my service due to a deliberate plan for expansion of capability.

Please briefly identify the top two issues of your campaign, i.e. why are you running for city office?

  1. Concern about political polarization at national level reaching down to local levels
  2. Variety of infrastructure concerns within the city

Please summarize in a sentence or two how you plan to address those two issues listed above.

  1. People who know me well comment that my approach to resolving problems is always so “level-headed.” This is a skill developed over a long professional care and it can be applied to advantage during times of political conflict.
  2. I have seen some issues developing in recent years, including increases in Main Street traffic, availability of affordable housing within the city, etc. My background as a civil and environmental engineer provides a framework for addressing these types of problems as demonstrated by the work I performed for the city as chair of the Water Study Committee several years ago.

In a sentence or two please explain to voters why you are the best candidate for the position.

There are three positions open on city council and I believe that I am one of the stronger candidates for a position. My career of service at the University of Michigan and beyond has prepared me to value multiple perspectives and to thoughtfully arrive at well-considered solutions.

What are your top priorities as an elected official?

To assist the city in resolving infrastructure issues that arise with my technical expertise as demonstrated by previous service for Chelsea and other communities, typically on a volunteer basis. To contribute to an approach to city governance that focuses on arriving at optimal solutions that address community needs.

Are you familiar with, and have you read the City Charter and the Council Rules?

Yes

Is there anything you’d like to see changed and if so, explain how you would go about initiating those changes. 

Not in the City Charter or Council Rules, but section 33 was added to Code of Ordinances in 2016. Specifically, section 33-8 that establishes the Human Rights Commission. It seems appropriate to review the commission now at five years after establishment to review the function and determine whether it is meeting its intended purpose. I have heard complaints that it is very constrained in its work. A review committee established by the council could review and make recommendations on potential changes to the ordinance.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your candidacy? 

You know that I will do the “Wright” thing

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