Archived Story

Mayor, millage outcome to be determined Tuesday

Published 9:00am Friday, November 1, 2013

When polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, citizens of Dowagiac will be asked to make two big decisions for their city.

First, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a millage that would merge the Cass County Transit Authority and the Dowagiac Dial-A-Ride Transit (DART). The merge would save Cass County money in the long run because it would be funded in part by .28 mill (28 cents per $1,000 of taxable value). Merging the bus systems would help alleviate the costs of rising gas prices and maintenance costs, while keeping the bus fare at a manageable price.

DART’s services would continue running with the same operational hours, with potential additional hours on Saturday morning.

Voters will also be given the option to choose between two candidates for Dowagiac mayor, the incumbent, Don Lyons, or his opponent, Junior Oliver.

Both have lived in Dowagiac for the majority of their lives and feel they have the city’s best interests at heart.

“I have a passion for the community. It’s my home. I believe in it. I was raised there. I love it. I’m going to live there until I die. I’m not going to move to Florida or Arizona or any place else.  And I have the unique perspective of having started a business and run that business for forty-some years,” Lyons said.

“I think that I have a general interest of all the city in my heart because this is home to me. I wasn’t born here, but the majority of my life has been here,” Oliver said.

However, each candidate has a different take on what those interests are.

“The thing (city government) is most concerned with now is health care,” Lyons said. He explained that he has put a lot of time into providing proper facilities for physicians to practice in, and is continuing to do so through the construction of a new clinic across the street from the City Hall.

“Prior to the Don Lyons Health Center, doctors were practicing out of converted gas stations and Victorian Homes,” Lyons said.

Oliver is more concerned with finding outlets for younger people to spend time, so as to reduce crime among teenagers and young adults.

“I want to invest some time and money into the youth programs that we could have in town,” said Oliver. “We need to have things that would be of interest to say 18-50 year-old people that are of low income.”

Oliver said he has been talking with a member of the Pokagon tribe who would like to open a music store, which he feels would appeal to the younger age group in Dowagiac.

Lyons has continuously served in public service positions since 1975, including seats on the Dowagiac school board, Cass County Economic Development Commission and the Lee Memorial Hospital Foundation, among several others.

Oliver served on Dowagiac’s city council from 2009 to 2011. He left the position to take care of his wife who was ill, and wanted to get involved with the city again.

“The girl that I would be running against if I were running for city council this year has the same goals and ideals as me, so I didn’t want to oppose her,” he said, referring to Lori Hunt, who is a current member of the council. “This would give me a chance to get involved.”

Lyons said he originally decided to run for mayor about 17 years ago.

“What I viewed as an opportunity when my predecessor decided to step aside was that somebody had to step forward. I felt that I was uniquely qualified,” he said. “There’s a little saying that goes something to the effect of ‘if not me, then who?’”

Lyons said moving forward as mayor, he feels there is always room for improvement, and he plans to continue to improve the city of Dowagiac.

“Change is a constant. That is literally my guiding principle in life. I love change. I embrace change. Change is how we get better. So I am constantly looking for opportunities to change things,” he said.

Oliver, on the other hand, said he wishes that a lot of change hadn’t occurred.

“I’ve seen so much here when I was a child and how it’s gone away, and I want to bring some of that back. Make people feel comfortable here, and good and safe,” he said.

Oliver said he feels he would be the better choice for mayor because he has the interests of a larger group of people at heart.

“I feel that I have the interest of the common people at heart more or less than what Don does, because I grew up in the low income part of this town, and kind of understand the way of life of the upper middle class,” he said.

“I’ve got about a dozen guiding principles that I try to run my life by, and one of them is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, so one of the ways you can tell what you’re getting into is by looking at the people you’re doing business with,” Lyons said.

Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Dowagiac City Hall.

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