County board picks Thompson

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena County Clerk Bonnie Friedrichs, left, gives the oath of office to new Alpena County District No. 7 Commissioner Marty Thompson on Tuesday. Thompson will replace Kevin Burr, who resigned earlier this year to accept a new job. Thompson is the third commissioner to represent District No. 7 in the last 12 months.

ALPENA — Alpena County’s District No. 7 will have its third commissioner in 12 months after the county board voted 4-3 on Tuesday to appoint Marty Thompson to fill a seat vacated by the resignation of Kevin Burr.

Thompson and a second candidate, Leanne Bloom, both addressed the board and responded to commissioners’ questions during a Tuesday meeting.

In the end, Thompson was chosen and immediately took his oath of office from County Clerk Bonnie Friedrichs. He will serve the remainder of Burr’s term, which expires at the end of 2020. Both Thompson and Bloom said they planned to run in 2020.

A third candidate, former commissioner Cam Habermehl — who lost to Burr in the 2018 primary — withdrew his name from consideration on Monday.

Burr resigned to pursue a new career opportunity.

Thompson said he is thrilled to be selected and eager to get to work. He also complimented Bloom and urged her to consider getting involved in local politics in the future.

“I am honored to have the trust of the commissioners and the support of the people of District Seven,” Thompson said. “This is a great responsibility, taking on this role, and I just want to say to all of them, ‘Thank you.'”

During the Q&A session with commissioners, both candidates gave their thoughts and ideas pertaining to the county’s budget deficit, the jail construction project, and the financial feasibility of Plaza Pool and Northern Lights Arena.

Thompson told commissioners he wanted to more closely examine the numbers before providing specific ideas for how to handle those issues.

Thompson previously served on the Alpena County Parks Commission, which took ownership of the Plaza Pool when Alpena Public Schools no longer wanted it.

The applicants were asked if they could make difficult decisions for things like union contracts and budget cuts, if needed. For the most part, Thompson and Bloom’s answers mirrored one another.

Board Chairman Brad McRoberts, who voted for Thompson, said he believes either one of the two candidates would have served the district well and commended their willingness to pursue the seat. He said the county and individual commissioners had received a great deal of correspondence from people in and outside of District No. 7 , which made the choice more difficult.

The fact that there was standing-room only for supporters in the Howard Male Conference room on Tuesday only enhanced how tough the choice would be.

“These are two very qualified people, and we are stuck in this abyss of trying to predict which one the taxpayers or voters want,” McRoberts said. “We received tons of emails, letters and petitions for both individuals, so it was a very difficult decision. You don’t sleep before a decision like this, and you don’t sleep after.”

Burr was only in the seat for about five months. He took his oath in January after defeating Habermehl in August and running unopposed in the fall.

There have been other shakeups on the board this year, as then-District No. 3 commissioner Nick Modrzynski stepped down to focus on his career and family. Dave Karschnick was appointed to replace him.

Before asking his questions to Bloom and Thompson, Commissioner Bill Peterson — who voted for Bloom — said he doesn’t like the appointment process, but that is the procedure the law requires the board to follow.

“If it were up to me, we would have this on the ballot and let the voters in the district decide,” Peterson said. “The state doesn’t feel the same way, though, so this is what we are forced to do.”

In addition to McRoberts, Commissioners Bob Adrian, Ronald McDonald, and Brenda Fournier supported Thompson on Tuesday.

In addition to Peterson, Karschnick and Commissioner John Kozlowki supported Bloom.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.