ALPENA - The residents of district No. 1 will have to decide to continue to move forward with incumbent Jeff Kowalski as it representative on the Alpena County Board of Commissioners, or take a chance with challenger Jordan Susewitz in November's general election.
Each has expressed their love for the county in which they live and want to add a perspective of the younger generation on the board.
Kowalski has had his share of ups and downs during his first two years as a commissioner. He had a pair of brushes with the law, on which he was convicted with two drunk driving incidents, including one where there was a child in the automobile. He said he has learned his lesson, is dealing with his problem and hopes the community can forgive him and give him a second chance.
"It is unfortunate that I came into these circumstances and while in office," Kowalski said. "I chose to run again because of my commitment to see through what I started and to continue on with what the reasons I ran the first time. I want to continue to serve the community the best way I can. I want a chance to carry on and have a chance to right the ship."
Susewitz is currently serving on the Alpena Planning Commission and will resign if he wins his election bid. He said he has nothing against Kowalski, but believes he can do a better job.
"I decided to run because the county needs strong leadership and I don't believe district No. 1 has had strong leadership," Susewitz said. "I think I can help take the county down the route which will help our children and grandchildren moving forward and that is why I stepped forward."
Susewitz said there are some big things on the horizon for the county, including the commissioners effort to lure unmanned aircraft manufacturing, development and training to the airport. He said there is still a lot of work to do on that project, but in order to truly make the county better, a strong focus on finance must continue, as well as working with others to cut costs.
"In the ever-changing world and the fact we have been in the same style of life for a long time we need to consider way for consolidation," Susewitz said. "Change is never fun, but we are going to have to step up to the plate and consolidate some things for not just the betterment of the county, but our friends in the city and townships as well. Really for all of northeastern Michigan."
Kowalski said how the county's budget is handled is what ultimately will determine how the county and taxpayers will fare in years to come. He said because of the unmanned aircraft project and questions concerning finance, he thinks he is better suited to serve district No. 1 than Susewitz. He said it takes time for a new commissioner to adjust to the role and believes retaining his experience is important, especially with a new treasurer coming onboard and new equalization director and emergency management coordinator just being appointed.
"Two year ago there were so many things that I didn't have a clue about and I really had no idea how things work," Kowalski said. "When you're campaigning you tend to throw out what equates to sound bites and talking points, but then you get there and there is a huge learning curve. I'm way more prepared now. I think that can only help with changes in staff we are going to experience."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.