Traverse City News and Events

City Commissioner Ashlea Walter Files For County Commission Race

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 18, 2022

Traverse City Commissioner Ashlea Walter filed Thursday to run for the Grand Traverse County board of commissioners this year in the new District 3, which includes Traverse City precincts 1,3, and 10 and Garfield Township precinct 2. She will run as a Democrat, meaning she will challenge incumbent Bryce Hundley in the August primary. If Walter ultimately wins the seat, she will have to leave the city commission at the end of the year, leaving an eleven-month vacancy on that board that would likely be filled by an appointment process.

Walter tells The Ticker she decided to file for county commission even though her term is not up on the city commission because she feels there's a "leadership void that needs to be filled at the county level." She adds: "I've gotten some great insights working on issues as a city that should really be addressed at the regional level, like the affordable housing crisis." Walter cites childcare, mental health, the climate, and aging infrastructure as additional issues that need "thoughtful and collaborative leadership" at the county level. In a Facebook post Friday, Walter wrote that she is "stepping up to end the division and bring people together to work on real issues that improve the quality of life for all people in Grand Traverse County."

The Grand Traverse County board of commissioners is expanding from seven to nine seats this year, with Walter running in the new District 3 as a Democrat. Current Commissioner and Democrat Bryce Hundley is also in District 3 and intends to run again, though he has not yet filed his paperwork. While newcomers don't often challenge incumbents of the same political party, Walter - who says she informed Hundley of her plans shortly before making them public - says she doesn't "see our community values represented well enough in this district" and felt compelled to run. For his part, Hundley says he's saddened to face a primary challenger but respects the rights of any candidate to run.

"I certainly have no right to assume a clear field, and I would never think it was mine for the taking," he says. "We'll just put our cases to the voters and see what they decide." Hundley says he was surprised by Walter's reference to ending division on the board, believing that has been one of his own strengths as a commissioner. He notes he often tries to stay out of the spotlight and to work instead in a lowkey, collaborative manner with other commissioners. Those relationships have produced unanimous votes on key issues recently despite having a bipartisan board, he says, including on bonding the county's pension debt and hiring a new healthcare provider for the county jail. "There's been a lot of progress made on that board of building bridges and crossing divides, and that's what I've been focused on," he says.

Walter's city commission term expires in November 2023. If she loses the county commission race this year, she can remain on the city commission to complete her term. If she wins the county commission race, she will assume that seat on January 1 and leave the city commission at that time. According to City Clerk Benjamin Marentette, the city commission could then either choose to hold a special election or appoint someone to fill Walter's seat until the general election in November. "It'd probably make a lot more sense to do it by appointment," he says, noting that by the time the city was able to schedule a special election and give candidates time to file, it'd only be a few months until the general election anyway. Commissioners have typically filled vacancies by an appointment process in recent history unless a vacancy was longer than two years, Marentette says.

No Republicans have yet filed to run against Walter or Hundley in District 3. Grand Traverse County commission candidates running as Democrats or Republicans must file by April 19 to appear on the August 2 primary ballot. Candidates without party affiliations must file by July 21 to appear on the November 8 general election ballot. Several candidates have already filed to run in multiple districts; the complete list to date is as follows:

District 1: Brian Paul McCallister (Republican)
District 2: No candidates
District 3: Ashlea Walter (Democrat). Bryce Hundley (Democrat) intends to file, but has not yet done so.
District 4: Brad Jewett (Republican), Scott Hardy (Republican)
District 5: No candidates
District 6: Darryl Nelson (Republican), Amanda Scott (Democrat)
District 7: Wayne Schmidt (Republican)
District 8: Charles Jetter (Republican)
District 9: Pam Kaiser (Democrat)

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