Traverse City News and Events

Election Results: Commission Race, Ballot Proposals, School Bond

By Beth Milligan | Nov. 6, 2019

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers will serve another two-year term on the city commission, joined by two incumbents and two newcomers who also earned seats in Tuesday’s election.

Carruthers defeated challenger Shea O’Brien by a 2,597-1,347 margin to win a third mayoral term, according to unofficial results with all precincts reporting Tuesday. “I am really excited that I won a third term,” Carruthers says. “Shea gave it the good college try, and I’m appreciative of that. I hope he will stay involved and get on some city boards and commissions and maybe run for mayor again someday.” O’Brien – who could not be reached for comment – was seeking political office for the first time in his race against Carruthers, saying he believed incumbents “shouldn’t run unopposed.”

Two other commission incumbents fended off challengers to win reelection Tuesday, with Amy Shamroe and Roger Putman securing four-year terms, along with newcomer Ashlea Walter. Shamroe and Walter were the top vote-getters among six candidates vying for three seats, earning 2,399 and 2,263 votes, respectively. Putman narrowly claimed the third seat with 1,634 votes over newcomer Katy Bertodatto, who pulled in 1,568 votes – just 66 shy of Putman. Challengers Dave Durbin and Evan Dalley fell short with 1,309 and 986 votes, respectively.

In a two-way race to serve the rest of former Commissioner Michele Howard’s term through 2021, Christie Minervini handily defeated Tom Mair by a 2,506-1,388 vote. Minervini called the margin “unexpected,” noting Mair has “run several times and served as a county commissioner, so he definitely has name awareness and a pretty loyal group of followers. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of support…but I am really proud of the planning that went into our campaign.”

Minervini, Shamroe, and Walter were all enthusiastic about three women being elected to serve on the seven-member commission. “I am really, really excited about that,” says Minervini. Shamroe notes she was the only woman serving on the board when first elected, and has been the only woman serving since Howard left earlier this fall. “It’s nice to have a few of us up there now,” she says. “It’s just going to make the conversation better and have us hopefully be more creative in our problem-solving in issues facing the city.” Walter agrees. “It’s a goal of mine to see more women running for office and serving in office to represent the population, so it’s certainly a big win,” she says.

Putman also credits Bertodatto for running a vigorous campaign that almost created a female-majority board, saying that because of his age, he ran a more “low-key” campaign and wasn’t certain of the outcome. “I’m certainly proud to serve four more years…it gives me an opportunity to build on the one year of experience I’ve had,” he says.

Traverse City voters also overwhelmingly supported a ballot proposal to continue funding parks projects for another five years through the Brown Bridge Trust Parks Improvement Fund, approving the measure by a 3,028-962 vote. The proposal caps the city’s Brown Bridge Trust Fund – funded by revenues from oil and gas exploration rights and royalties at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area – at $12 million and directs any additional dollars that come in over the next five years to a dedicated account for parks. The proposal is expected to raise $900,000 for park projects throughout the city. Overall Tuesday, voters cast 4,117 total ballots, or a 32.1 percent voter turnout in Grand Traverse County.

In Leelanau County, a millage to fund early childhood development services eked out a narrow win, earning 3,343 “yes” votes to 3,244 “no” votes. The 0.253 millage request will fund early childhood development services from 2020 through 2024, raising approximately $728,000 annually. Services will be administered by the Benzie/Leelanau District Health Department and cover three community health workers, a part-time coordinator, and two social workers to implement home visits, playgroups, parenting programs, and health resource connections for families. The program will also fund mental health services and a mobile dental program.

A second Leelanau County proposal to establish a metropolitan sewer district in Leelanau Township and Northport failed at the polls. While Northport voters overwhelmingly supported the measure – which would have spread a looming $1.3 million sewer debt across all property owners, rather than just sewer users – Leelanau Township voters rejected it. Approval from both jurisdictions was required for the measure to proceed.

Finally, Benzie County Central Schools suffered its second narrow defeat this year of a nearly $48 million bond proposal that would have paid for a new elementary school, two more classrooms at Lake Ann Elementary, a new bus garage and fleet upgrades, and major improvements to the middle school and high school. Unofficial results with all precincts reporting showed 1,573 voters supported the proposal, while 1,674 were opposed – a margin of just 101 votes. That outcome was nearly identical to May’s defeat of a similar bond proposal by 114 votes. An estimated 700-plus more voters came out Tuesday than did in May, but it still wasn’t enough to move the needle – sending district leaders back to the drawing board, according to Superintendent Matt Olson.

“In all honesty, I don’t have an alternate path forward (in mind) today,” he says. “I've been pretty consistent that there's really not a lot of fluff in this project. We could try to scale it back and make it more palatable to voters, but my concern is we’re trying to build something to last for generations and not have to keep going back over and over (for more funding). So we’re certainly going to have those conversations at the board level, and we’ll determine what the most viable path forward will be.”

Pictured (clockwise): Jim Carruthers, Amy Shamroe, Ashlea Walter, Christie Minervini, Roger Putman

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