JACKSON COUNTY, MI — Two incumbents on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners will face challengers in the November election.
Jackson County voters will decide on who will represent their district on the county’s elected board. Incumbent Commissioners Rodney Walz, a Republican representing District 2, and Darius Williams, a Democrat representing District 8, are facing challenges from Democrat Chris Osinski and Republican John Wilson, respectively.
Walz, of Grass Lake, has been on the board since 2014. District 2 includes the townships of Henrietta, Waterloo, Grass Lake and part of Leoni. His opponent, Osinski, runs an online screen-printing business in Grass Lake.
Williams, who represents the west side of Jackson in the District 8 seat, will once again face off against Wilson. The two previously competed in 2018, with Williams edging the win over his Republican counterpart.
Williams is a senior pastor at the Second Missionary Baptist Church. Wilson is a retired Michigan Department of Corrections employee and works part-time with his family business.
MLive Media Group has partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information and other voting resources to readers ahead of 2020 elections.
Each candidate was given a list of questions relevant to the office for which they are campaigning. The voter guide can be accessed at vote411.org.
All responses in the voter guide were submitted directly by the candidate and have not been edited by the League of Women Voters, except for a necessary cut if a reply exceeded character limitations. Spelling and grammar were not corrected. Publication of candidate statements and opinions is solely in the interest of public service and should NOT be considered as an endorsement. The League never supports or opposes any candidates or political parties.
Here is how each candidate responded to the questions:
Describe your qualifications and experience for this office and explain your reasons for running. How would you be an asset?
Osinski: I am qualified to represent district 2 on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners because of my work history, which gave me experience in accounting and management. Also, I own a small home business that has provided invaluable information on how local governments can build a welcoming and sustainable system for small business.. I want to improve our public and mental health systems, reduce crime and addiction rates, enhance the parks systems under the county’s control, make tangible improvements to Keeley Park, be fiscally responsible and build a strong and vibrant community. I am an asset because of my strong work ethic and I have the vigor to dig in and get the work done for our community. I will not waste my time crafting show boat legislation. While “best practices” are a good method. I will also be thinking outside of the box in creative ways to accomplish the goals our board sets. I believe in myself, I believe in you and I believe in us!
Walz: Served as a member Grass Lake Fire and Rescue Department, worked at Foote Hospital 20 years President for 12 years for the Village of Grass Lake , retired from Jackson Public Schools as the Director of District Operations 18 years. There was in charge of several million dollars of projects.
Williams: I have served 8th District as County Commissioner for nearly one full term of experience allows me to be able to freely make decisions on what I believe is best for the district. However, over the years, I have held several leadership roles in our community in various areas I have the leadership skills to confidently to defend the voice of our community and fight for the equity of all people, not just those who call the 8th district home but all citizens of Jackson County.
Wilson: I’m a residential property owner and of age. I’m no stranger to those who vote and I’m especially not a stranger to our current or past county commissioners. Each time previous that I have been on the ballot, it’s for the same reason, and that is to provide proper oversight for each tax dollar spent and to ensure taxpayers receive the essential government services they pay taxes for. One recent example is County Administrator Michael Overton’s request that the Jackson County Board of Commission replace general fund allocations which funds county agencies with millages. Just a few months ago, county commissioners voted to defund senior services from the general fund and instead voted to place a Senior Services property tax millage on the August, 2020 ballot. This is wrong, each county agency SHOULD be funded from the county’s general fund. Taxpayers already pay county taxes and there is no reason they should have to pay a separate millage to mostly fund each and every county agency.
Due to our current circumstances, what are the most important challenges facing our community, and how do you propose to address them?
Osinski: Our biggest challenge facing our community this fiscal year will be lost revenues. I will be looking for alternative sources of revenue; grant writing, cost sharing and hosting events on county properties. Revenue will also be an issue for businesses that require foot traffic. We will need to be flexible regarding any legislative changes required that could hinder their ability to operate in a safe manner. Another challenge I foresee is an increased demand for mental health services due to the affects from covid. I would address that challenge by being proactive. I feel it is essential for the county board to cooperate with local businesses and all facets of government. The costs of ignoring mental health issues at the forefront multiply over time. Being good stewards of our environment is important and especially for district 2. We are blessed with lakes, rivers and trails that should be preserved for generations to come.
Walz: With the pandemic, we need to get people back to work and business open. Although some will never reopen. We have to work on finding safe and healthy ways to strengthen our economy.
Williams: I believe some of Jackson County’s more significant issues have been: the voice of the community being ignored. I have heard how much of the community feel as if their voice is not being heard. I spoken with people from all over the district, and listened to their needs and have done much to bring their voice to the county desk. If I am re-elected, I will continue my efforts to advocate and asking the tough questions so the 8th district can have the best representation Secondly, I have worked on building the necessary bridges to help our business in Jackson county I have advocated for business in the county in many ways. Moreover, Jackson county has an ongoing problem for many years of the Cascade lagoons flooding and causing much damage to many homes in the area. If re-elected, I will continue my efforts to rid the community of this damaging problem. Further, These are just a few examples of the commitment I have given to the 8th district.
Wilson: The lack of transparency and commissioner oversight on how the 2018 county parks millage is being spent. The parks millage passage gave county officials the green light to fix and maintain our county parks. Just after the millage vote, county commissioners decided to integrate the fairgrounds into the county parks system which would allow parks millage dollars to be spent on the new, rebranded Keeley Park. While Keeley Park is very nice, that wasn’t supposed to be part of the parks millage. Recently, county commissioners voted to purchase land in Blackman Township to construct a new county park. Just two weeks ago, county commission moved forward partnering with the city to spend $30 million on expanding the city and county’s bike and walking trails. On June 26, two years since the passage of the parks millage, Cascades Falls closed abruptly due to a major electrical system failure. The parks millage was advertised it would fix the Falls electrical issue, what happened?
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