By JOHN EBY / Cassopolis Vigilant

Published 10:55 am Thursday, November 4, 2004

By Staff
CASSOPOLIS - The 2005-2006 Cass County Board of Commissioners will have some different faces, but the only incumbent turned out of office Tuesday was Democrat Debbie Ann Johnson, 47, of Niles, seeking her second term.
In a rematch with Republican Dale Lowe, 68, of Niles, Lowe prevailed 742-680.
District 14 offered the only upset in seven races between 22 candidates for the 15-member Board of Commissioners.
District 3, former Dowagiac resident Cathy Goodenough, 46, a Marcellus Republican, won over Democrat Burke Webb, 68, of Marcellus, 883-543, for the seat held by Republican Bruce Butchbaker, who did not seek re-election after one term.
District 4, Republican Alan Northrop, 46, of Marcellus, received his second term over Democrat Bill Steele, 52, of Vandalia, chairman of the county Planning Commission and a building inspector and contractor. The tally was 1,095 for Northrop to 992 for Steele.
District 5, Republican newcomer Gordon Bickel Sr., 74, of Constantine, who knocked off Commissioner Mike Raab in the August primary amidst the Porter Township sewer controversy, won with 941 to 493 for Democratic newcomer Connie Dalrymple, 60, of White Pigeon, and 167 for Rick Russwurm.
District 6, Republican incumbent Jack L. Teter, 63, of Edwardsburg, won his second term by beating independent Max Brown, 63, of Union, 629-385.
District 7, Democratic incumbent David Taylor, 64, of Edwardsburg, was unopposed and named on 749 ballots.
District 8, Republican incumbent Carl Higley Sr., 74, of Edwardsburg, was unopposed and got 1,131 votes.
District 9, Republican incumbent Ronald Francis, 68, of Casspolis, was unopposed and received 1,138 votes.
District 10, Republican incumbent Dixie Ann File, 60, of Cassopolis, clinched her second term against Democrat Paula L.C. Beauchamp, 46, of Cassopolis.
District 12, Democratic incumbent Minnie Macon Warren, 58, of Dowagiac, was unopposed in receiving 795 votes.
District 13, Democratic incumbent Johnie Rodebush, 81, of Niles, was unopposed and received 974 votes.
Cass County treasurer
Republican Linda Irwin, appointed county treasurer from 12 applicants, took office two years ago on Oct. 1, 2002, when Sharon Hansell retired.
She won her first nod for her own term over Democratic challenger Rosemary Gillam, 12,925-8,237.
An advantage of local control is, "I would have the discretion to pull property from the tax sale and work with you to get those taxes paid. The treasurer is not a real estate agent. It's her goal to get those taxes paid - not to take your property," Irwin assured.
Accepting credit card payments in the Treasurer's Office for delinquent taxes is Irwin's other goal. "When your taxes are due, you have until Feb. 28 to pay," she explained. "After that time it's a three-year process. I have found a company, Government Payment Services, which charges the fee for using a credit card back to the card's holder."
Previously, "I hesitated to take credit card payments because I don't feel the rest of us as taxpayers should be charged when someone uses a credit card. There's always a fee. If the county pays the fee, that's your money."
Gillam got her start in government and politics working in the Treasurer's Office 25 years ago (1976-1980). Working with Hansell "made me want to be treasurer myself someday." She was village clerk from 1990 to 1998.
Cass drain commissioner
Jeff VanBelle defeated Lennel Smith, 11,969-8,661.
The drain commissioner, 43, was appointed to his first elected position seven months ago to succeed Allan Butchbaker, who retired after serving since 1988. A county resident for 15 years, VanBelle grew up in Niles.
VanBelle said he devoted his first few months developing a relationship with the Road Commission and its new manager, Joe Bellina.
First-time candidate Smith, 58, is a lifelong county resident. "I believe in protecting our environment to the best of my ability," said the retired heavy equipment operator. He's also a certified building inspector.
The county's chief elected officials either had no opposition or dispatched with their foes in the August primary, including: Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr. (16,297); Prosecutor Victor Fitz (15,526); Clerk-Register, Barbara K. Wilson, 15,477 to succeed the retiring Ann Simmons; Circuit Judge Michael Dodge (13,05); and Surveyor Roger Stephenson (15,154).
Southwestern Michigan College trustees were returned to office, including Paul File (11,967), Carole Tate (11,007) and Bill White (10,003).
Pokagon Township
Supervisor John True did not seek re-election. That office was sought by Democratic Clerk Linda Preston (645), with Democrat Carrie Sandberg running for clerk (591).
Former Republican Treasurer Lynn Schantz tallied 492 votes.
Republican Trustees Gary Mihills and Robert Shaffer were re-elected to four-year terms with 576 and 627 votes, respectively.
Wayne Township
Republican candidates are unopposed for new four-year terms, including Supervisor Dr. Frank Butts (966), Clerk Kurt Reich (944), Treasurer Dawn King (926) and Trustees James Griggs (778) and Michael Krager Jr. (836).
Silver Creek Township
Two new board members will be elected, with Bill Saunders (1,215) succeeding Robert Ausra as supervisor and another Republican, Maureen Sullivan-Kuriata (1,241) set to follow retiring Treasurer Marie Huff.
Seeking re-election are Clerk Walter Lehmann (1,195) and Trustees Joel Moore (1,080) and Douglas Swisher (1,117), all Republicans.
LaGrange Township
Republican Supervisor Naida Covyeou Wallace withstood a challenge from Democrat Joe Decker, 724-666. She was the county's first female supervisor when she was first elected 26 years ago in 1978.
Democratic Clerk Amy Juroff was re-elected with 1,003 votes.
Republican Treasurer Naomi J. Criswell garnered 984 ballots.
Totals for trustees were: Republican Ronald D. Carlisle, 729; Republican Paul D. File, 732; and Democrat Lois M. Harris, 713.
Volinia Township
Totals include Republican Supervisor Wendy Elsey, a former county commissioner, 375; Republican Clerk Gwenn Johnson, 365; Republican Treasurer Esther M. Mead, 399; and Republican Trustees Donald L. Huff, 381, and Harry R. Rasmussen III, 361.