Village election still a question mark

Published 8:01 pm Thursday, November 3, 2005

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS - With the election just a few days away, it is still unclear whether there will be an election in Cassopolis at all.
Attorney Dave Taylor has filed a complaint in Cass County Circuit Court challenging the original recall, which saw Village President Julia Bell and Trustees William Curry and Maxine Snipes removed from office.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz charged Walter Malone of Cassopolis with allegedly signing recall petitions he didn't circulate. Eight petitions for each recalled official are being challenged.
The recall election back on Aug. 2, saw a small margin and few voters with the totals, Bell 178 to 166, Curry 178 to 162 and Snipes, 173 to 165.
Fitz had put Malone on a probation related to election petition charges and a disturbing the peace charge. After the Sept. 12 village meeting, when Malone allegedly called out obscenities directed to Dan Bates, director of public works, the dormant charges were activated.
Cass County Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge is expected to make a decision Monday on whether the election will be held.
Those on the Nov. 8 ballot for the position of village president include: Michelle Andrews, who is presently acting as chairman of the council; William Curry, former trustee and Frederick Senger, who served previously as a trustee on the council and as president.
Running for the office of trustee, are the candidates Tim Swenor, Leon Gilliam. Raymond Strome and Julia Bell, former village president.
Except for Strome and Bell, candidates attended a forum set up by the League of Women Voters on Oct. 25 at Sam Adams Elementary School.
At that time, most the the candidates were in agreement as to concerns of the village residents as in the need for affordable housing, a working relationship between the village and county officials and the importance of seeking ways to keep our youth from leaving the area following their graduation.
Leon Gilliam
Leon Gilliam and his wife Jennifer (Withers) have two children. He is a former police officer and was on the Cass County Sheriff's Department, and also worked as a school bus driver and with the ambulance.
With his experience with the county, he said it is important to “build relationships with the county.”
With Sam Adams becoming a Blue Ribbon School, Gilliam added the village should “toot our horn and Cass in a positive way.”
He believes it is important to investigate and find out what the short and long term goals of the village are and address any “red flags.”
Gilliam sees the council bickering and fighting as “spinning their wheels.” he wants to “get everybody in the community back together.”
Fred Senger
Fred Senger and his wife, Carol, have been residents of the village more than 50 years. Their three children all graduated from Cassopolis schools.
Senger said the village manager should make the day to day decisions, but “follow the dictates of the council.”
He also felt the village should have a good relationship with the County Board of Commissioners.
The council should also work together - “for the good of the people and listen to problems,” he added.
Senger want the council to “get things done and move ahead.”
Tim Swenor
Tim Swenor and his wife Sandy came to the village to start a business, The Home Group, after falling in love with the storefronts. They live above their window and door business.
He has been active in trying to bring more businesses and industry to the community.
He believes the main issue is continuity of the people, government officials and the county. “Concerns should be listened to,” he said.
Swenor would like to see quarterly community meetings, where the residents can address issues.
He also wants Cassopolis to be a “better place to live and grow.”
Michelle Andrews
Michelle Andrews relocated to Cassopolis and the town of her grandparents in 1996, with her daughter, a 15-year-old who attends Ross Beatty High School.
She has served on the council since 1999.
She said she sees “a need for new direction and a positive focus on issues. We need to restore the DDA and collaborate with the Chamber, schools and county.”
Andrews stressed the need for jobs in the community, so people don't have to go outside the village.
She said “the village manager needs to be accountable and there needs to be follow through, so the job gets done.”
Her vision is to “jump on MISHA grant to finish projects.” She would like to see unity on the council and suggested mini-retreats, for the members to get to know each other. A long term goal is for “accountability.”
Her top three problems in e village are: accountability to residents concerns, MISHA and the accounting department moving quickly to finish.
William Curry
William Curry, who has six children and seven grandchildren, has lived in the community 25 years.
He believes you “must stand up and fight, even if it's not popular…. Things have to be dealt with. Revenue is limited, therefore there must be effect use of it.”
He added, “the village manager is an employee, required to do what the council instructs…. Each elected official is responsible for those that voted.”
Should the village election go on as planned, it will be on Tuesday, Nov. 8, with the polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.