When the next Monroe County Board of Commissioners convenes in January, it will be a decidedly different panel than in previous years.
In January, there will be seven Republicans and two Democrats on the panel.
Five of the nine commissioners will be first-timers — three of those have never run for elected office before. Compare that with two years ago when voters re-installed the entire panel of incumbents.
Longtime commissioners Dale Zorn, a Republican, and Floreine Mentel, a Democrat, opted this time not to seek re-election. Their decisions not to run created the catalyst that has changed the makeup of the board — currently there are five Democrats and four Republicans.
Mr. Zorn, a 20-year incumbent, successfully ran for state representative. His departure created a heated battle — eight people ran against one another on the primary ballot — for his District 2 seat on the county board.
In that race, Republican David C. Hoffman handily defeated Democrat Ron Tuttle 3,723-1,982.
Mr. Hoffman, a Dundee contractor, acknowledged Tuesday night that assuming the seat held by Mr. Zorn the past 20 years will be a lot of work.
“They are certainly some very big shoes to fill,” Mr. Hoffman said. “But I’m sure going to work on it. I’m ready to go.”
Dr. Stephen Bell, a Republican from Carleton, successfully beat incumbent Democrat Al Potratz for the District 3 seat on the board by 231 votes. Dr. Bell earned 3,198 to Mr. Potratz’s 2,967.
“Now we’re going to be held to fulfilling what we’ve been talking about,” Dr. Bell said. “Now there’s a certain obligation to perform. I think the country expects that it’s not going to be business as usual.
“There’ve been a whole lot of people like me who saw what was going on and said, ‘Enough.’ I’m jumping into the game here,” he said. “I think there needs to be a really different way that things are done.”
District 4 incumbent Commissioner Mentel’s decision to leave the county board this year resulted in Democrat Robert Lambert pitted against Republican Daniel Donahue, who won the day. Mr. Donahue garnered 2,287 votes to Mr. Lambert’s 1,971.
“It’s a new chapter in my life,” the Monroe businessman said, adding that with the overwhelming majority of Republicans on the county panel, “we may be able to get some really neat things done for the county.
“We should be able to come up with some really good ideas that’ll be solid for the entire county. I’m excited to use my working skills to work with all of the commissioners to see if we can’t help move Monroe County forward,” he said.
In District 5, incumbent Democrat William Sisk – the current board chairman – staved off a challenge by Republican Martin Selvidge to retain his seat.
“It feels good,” Mr. Sisk said from his home Tuesday. “They put me back. I’m not taking this as a mandate. I’m taking this as a second chance to do better. I now have another shot to see if we can right this ship.”
Mr. Sisk secured 3,015 votes to Mr. Selvidge’s 2,173. Incumbent Democrat Jerry Oley narrowly defeated this-time Republican David Roberts to retain the District 6 seat in the duos fourth match-up. Mr. Roberts has run as a Democrat, an independent and now a Republican in his bid for the seat, which he held when Mr. Oley first ran for the job 10 years ago.
“This will be my sixth term,” Mr. Oley said. “I’m so proud that my constituents decided to put me back in there. I’ve been very capable of working with anyone. I’ve worked with the Republicans and the Democrats. I’m going to continue to do that.
“We have a job to do. And my constituents gave me a passing report card.”
Mr. Roberts, who lost by only 42 votes — 1,750–1,792 — said he doesn’t plan to challenge the results.
“I knew it would be a challenge from the start. Monroe is Democrat, liberal. It’s tough to get in as a Republican,” Mr. Roberts said. “I consider myself a conservative Democrat. There’s no such thing anymore.
It was close. But close only counts in horseshoes.”
In District 7, Republican Mary O’Neill defeated incumbent Democrat John Fowler by 70 votes or 2,581-2,511. And in District 8 Republican Jason Sheppard defeated incumbent Democrat Connie Velliquette by just 36 votes.
He got 2,465 compared to her 2,429 votes.
“We’re going to start anew, rebuilding Monroe County and it starts today,” Mr.
Sheppard said. “With this new group of county commissioners we are going to stay focused and work with our Lansing government to put things into perspective here in Monroe County.”
Mrs. Velliquette, who is serving her second term on the panel and Tuesday night wouldn’t rule out a challenge to the election results, said she was caught up in a “changing climate.”
“This is what happens in politics,” she said. “I feel it’s the tide. When the climate changes, you get caught up in it.”
Incumbent Republican commissioners J. Henry Lievens and R. LaMar Frederick were the only two not facing opposition Tuesday. They will be the senior Republicans on the board in January.
J. HENRY LIEVENS
R. LAMAR FREDERICK
Jason Sheppard, new county commissioner