ALPENA -Five candidates are seeking two seats on the Alpena Municipal Council to serve the remainder of the terms of Dave Karschnick and Michael Nunnley following their recall in November. The council appointed Mike Polluch and Susan Nielsen to sit on the council until the election.
Joining Nielsen and Polluch in the race for the two open seats are Mike Nowak, Phil Wiser and Steve Gilmore.
The candidates come from different backgrounds and area of expertise, but each said their love for Alpena and a sense of wanting to give back to the community played a role in deciding to run in the election. Each said they also have traits that can help the city and the people who live in it. Polluch, who was a member of the council before stepping down out of respect for his job but has since retired, said the experience he gained previously and his ability to work with people are two of his strong points.
"I think my experience and the fact that I'm approachable are two of my biggest assets," Polluch said. "I'm always in a good mood and if you ask me something, I will get an answer for you. If I tell you I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. There is no better feeling than to be able to do that for someone."
Nowak said his job focuses on marketing and promotion. He said those skills can help push Alpena further with tourism and recruiting businesses, which in turn can create employment opportunities.
"Knowing where to get your name and how to get it there are huge, and I think one of my strengths is I think I can get Alpena's name, and what it has to offer out there," Nowak said. "The brand is being created already and now we have to build up recognition of it."
Nielsen said she has been on the Alpena Planning Commission for 16 years and during that time she has learned how city government operates and the logistics involved in getting things done. She said the experience she has will help her on the council.
"On the planning commission you learn a lot about who the partners are in Alpena and how the whole network works," Nielsen said. "You learn who to get in touch with for information you need to make a decision, so I believe that is an important strength. I am also dependable. I am honest and I am even though I wasn't born in Alpena we have lived here for 25 years and I love it."
Phil Wiser is a retired police officer. He said he has a strong sense of duty and knows how to look at two sides of an issue and in times when a vote doesn't go his way he will support the council's decision and move on to the next issue. He said he is also familiar with past and current council members, as well as the city staff.
"I think I am a fair person and that I can make decisions based on common sense," Wiser said. "I think it is important to end the strife that exists on the board now and because I know the staff and the operations, I think I can help to achieve that."
Steve Gilmore said he has been considering running for council for some time and after witnessing the events that surrounded the recall of Nunneley and Karschnick he said he figured now was as good a time as any. He said his work in programs for the Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health have led him to get a feet-on-the-ground look at what is taking place in the city, especially downtown.
"For the last year and a half I have been working in an employment program and I have been out in the community almost every day talking to businesses about finding jobs for people receiving disability benefits and getting them back on the tax role," Gilmore said. "I think I can bring that ground level knowledge to the council of what is going on in the city."
All five candidates said economic development in the city is vital and working alongside the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, Target Alpena, Alpena Downtown Development Authority and the Alpena Convention and Visitor's Bureau is the only way to maximize growth. They agreed that no matter who the two winners are Tuesday the first step in determining Alpena's future is by selecting a qualified city manager.
"I see Northeast Michigan leading the state in tourism and I see Alpena being the leader of the region, that's what I see," Nowak said. "I see an expanded manufacturing base and I see families moving here. I see houses selling, filling up and the values going up. I see a lot of great opportunities for Alpena and think everyone will like what they see 10 years from now."
Polluch said he expects commercial and industrial growth in the years ahead. He said he also sees more people from around the world spending time locally.
"I see a great Alpena. I see more businesses coming here and I see more vacationers coming here," Polluch said. "I see them coming here because of our shipwrecks, our beaches, our bike paths, our hunting and fishing. I can see the tourism part of the puzzle really picking up."
Nielsen said when she closes her eyes and pictures Alpena down the road it resembles the way it looks now, but with more families and jobs.
"I see one of the prettiest small towns I've ever seen," Nielsen said. "Right now, physically, Alpena is exquisite. If you just go for a walk where else can you stand on the banks of a river and look at a Great Lake? In 10 years, I think it will be bustling, where people who want to work have a job to support their families."
Gilmore said he believes a decade from now Alpena will benefit from both tourism and commercial growth.
"I think we will finally have the blend of tourism and business that this area really, really needs," Gilmore said. "I think it will be a very vibrant part of the state where people want to move to and live, visit and come back to."
Wiser said there has been significant strides made to attract people and businesses and in the future the amount of growth may surprise people.
"I see a great opportunity for tourism, industry and jobs," Wiser said. "I think we will continue to grow. If you look at the west side of the state they market themselves very aggressively and with the new brand, if we do that, I think we can do the same thing. By working together I think we can market Alpena and bring people into the area better than what we have done in the past."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.