Pat LaBre designed the Lincoln Day program (The Daily News/John Eby)
Pat LaBre designed the Lincoln Day program (The Daily News/John Eby)

Archived Story

Patricia LaBre a ‘Diamond’

Published 9:14am Monday, March 8, 2010

Dowagiac Daily News

EDWARDSBURG – Cass County Republicans Saturday night at their Lincoln Day dinner inducted Patricia LaBre as a “Diamond” for her “outstanding job” on behalf of the GOP.

County Commissioner Carl Higley Sr., longest-serving member of the Board of Commissioners and chairman of the Diamond Club Committee, presented Mrs. LaBre, wife of county Republican Chairman William L. LaBre, J.D., with a clock.

Republican meetings on the fourth Tuesday of the month in the Kincheloe Room of the 1899 courthouse are open to the public.

Diamonds bestowed since 1996 also include the late Louise Cox, Vice Chair Margaret Stanley, who organized the dinner at American Legion Post 365, Ann Simmons, Ardith Higley, Dale Blunier, Bill LaBre, Bernie Williamson, Gerald Ostrowski, County Treasurer Linda Irwin, Sheriff Joe Underwood and Prosecutor Victor Fitz.

“It’s quite an honor for something I believe in,” said Pat, who thought she would be taking pictures.

“Diamonds are forever, hard and strong,” Bill LaBre praised Commissioner Higley.
Guests included: Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, governor candidate; Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, Attorney General candidate; former state representative Rick Shaffer, St. Joseph County Republican chairman; Mike Garey, Berrien County Republican chairman and St. Joseph mayor pro tem; state Sen. Cameron S. Brown, a former Cass County representative now seeking Secretary of State; Rep. Paul Scott, Secretary of State candidate from Flint; state Sen. Tom George, M.D., governor candidate; Michigan State University Board of Trustees candidate Brian Breslin, who has fond memories of Dowagiac’s Edgar Wilson; state Rep. John Proos of St. Joseph, a candidate for the Senate seat of term-limited Ron Jelinek; Cass County Board of Commissioners candidates Skip Dyes, for Bill Steele’s District 4 seat, and Roseanne Marchetti, for David Taylor’s District 7 seat; former commissioner Dale Lowe, seeking to regain the District 14 seat from Debbie Johnson; Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge, who has been on the bench for 33 years and is seeking re-election; Family Court Judge Susan Dobrich; District Judge Stacey Rentfrow, “who has grown into the job faster than any other person I’ve seen elected,” according to Chairman LaBre; retired District Judge Paul Deats; Bill Schuette’s campaign manager, Rusty Hills, former Michigan Republican Party chairman; Clerk-Register Barb Runyon; County Treasurer Linda Irwin; Sheriff Joe Underwood; County Commissioner Robert Wagel, former chairman and Jelinek’s district representative; Commissioner Ed Goodman, a former Democrat who switched parties; Commissioner Gordon Bickel; Vice Chairman Ron Francis; and Water Resources Commissioner Bruce Campbell.

State Rep. Matt Lori of Constantine, former St. Joseph County sheriff, said Shaffer approached him 2 1/2 years about running for the House “and I said no. Here I am. What have I done for Cass County? One of the first people who called me was Scott Teter and said with money we recouped we could have an office of inspector general. I thought I was going to get the bill, but (Attorney General and governor candidate) Mike Cox wanted to introduce it on a day I was in Florida, so he gave it to Rep. Bob Genetski. The governor picked up on it and she’s proposing an office of inspector general.”

Following a veto by the governor that crippled funding for local county services, several southwest Michigan lawmakers voted to restore funding to the County Jail Reimbursement Program after a long-fought battle.

The House Appropriations Committee restored most of the funding vetoed by the governor to the counties.

“The governor’s veto took millions of dollars away from public safety and from local services,” said Proos, of St. Joseph.

“The County Jail Reimbursement Program should be emulated, not eliminated. Not only does it help keep our streets safe, it keeps prison costs down.”

Before the governor’s veto, judges had the discretion to allow prisoners with short sentences to serve time in county jails instead of state prisons.

The state reimburses counties $43.50 per day to house prisoners – about half of what it costs to house prisoners in state-run prisons.

“Counties are still providing the same services, but without the funding,” according to state Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton. “This is cutting into their ability to provide services to our communities, and I look for quick action through the legislative process on this important reform.”

Lori said counties are able to house prisoners for so much less than the state because they have less bureaucracy, lower administration costs and it is more cost-effective to maintain smaller prison populations.

“The reality is that the counties have in place a program that works,” Lori said. “This was a short-sighted elimination by the governor, and we will keep fighting for common sense and spending reforms in state government.”

“That issue is very important to sheriffs,” Lori said. “I was able to go to Rep. Alma Smith, a very liberal Democrat, but at least she listened to me. Cameron Brown and Sen. Jelinek are very good on the Senate side. You are very fortunate in southwest Michigan, which Sharon and I were just talking about (at the head table). Tonya Schuitmaker, John Proos, Sharon and myself. Everybody in southwest Michigan on the Republican side talks and tries to work things out. You are blessed to have representatives who communicate. I congratulate Carl Sparks, Bill White and Bill LaBre. I see they brought some young Republicans. The Republican Party needs to get young, intelligent people involved.”

Dowagiac’s Rep. Sharon Tyler of Niles added, “We truly listen to all of your voices when we’re there. We’re very different from the other side of the state. Our corner sometimes gets ignored, but I’ll tell you, Matt, Ron and myself are very loud and outspoken and they do hear us, although they might not like what we say. Next year we’re dealing with a $1.6 billion deficit. Last year we lost 285,000 jobs. It’s going to be tough for all of us and, hopefully, a lot of reforms and improvements. We’re going to have to all pull together and look out for one another. We, as Republicans, are going to have to fight. Next year we have the greatest chance in the world to really take over. Just because this economy is bad, you will see more relationships being built and talking across the aisle than ever before. Unfortunately, last year the budget took us right down to the end. I’m concerned, and hopefully, we won’t have to deal with that. I know my schools and others had to wait for our decision to know what type of budget they had to work with. Hopefully, we’re on the right track. We have to look out for our existing businesses and retain what we have here in Michigan first, then go after attracting others. If you lose these, it’s very hard to bring them back.”

Jelinek, the master of ceremonies at his last Cass Lincoln dinner, introduced his bride of three weeks, Dee.

They have known each other since high school in Three Oaks.

“I’ve appreciated all the support I’ve gotten,” he said. “We tried to do our best and I’m proud to serve Cass County. Twenty-nine of my colleagues are also term-limited out of the Senate. There’s a lot hanging in the balance, but it looks good for us. You know what the tone is out there in the country. We need to maintain the majority in the Senate and get back the majority in the House. It’s so important. We need to have a Republican governor. We’re going to be looking at redistricting. The new Legislature will be deciding those boundaries. It’s really important for Republicans to be in control. A year ago we were down in the doldrums and didn’t think we were going to be coming back soon. But we are coming back, and we’re coming back with steam. We are going to be really bountiful this election season if we can just keep this steamroller rolling. Don’t just work for candidates here, but across the state.”

Fitz, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s Cass County re-election chairman, read a letter from the congressman explaining his absence.

“I did vote against cloning,” Fitz read, “and, unfortunately, cannot be in two places at once. I agreed five months ago to stand in for my folks as they are being honored at the Lake Michigan College scholarship event this evening. At 58 years of marriage and counting, Mom and Dad escape the snow for warmer weather, and I answered the call of duty.”

Legislatively, Upton said he has been helping leading the fight against “government health care” and working to defeat the trillion-dollar, cap-and-trade “jobs killer that will be a dagger for Michigan.”

As co-sponsor of the line-item veto, “I will continue to fight for Cass County jobs,” Upton wrote. “The next battle will be the president’s budget, which doubles the national debt over the next five years and triples it over the next decade. Democrats continue to spend and jobs continue to disappear.”

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