Commissioner Glenn Anderson, a Democrat, takes on Republican challenger Dan Holcomb, whom he narrowly beat in 2020.
District 3 includes Adams Township, Hancock and, for the first time, approximately 800 voters in West Houghton.
Anderson was Hancock’s longtime city manager before retiring and running for county council. He is seeking his third term.
He said he still loved the position and could still bring value to the county. He highlighted his experience in obtaining grants.
“In the State of Michigan, both federally and in state grants, we can certainly ask for even more than what the county has to date,” he said. “Broadband, I think, will be the future in the next two to four years.”
Between American Rescue Plan Act funds and federal infrastructure funding, there’s $2 billion in Michigan for broadband, Anderson said. Only $10 million of that has been disbursed so far through the Federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The county would partner with a private sector company.
“A priority for the county, if I stay on county council, would be to get $20 million to $30 million out of those federal funds to just expand broadband and internet in Houghton County where it’s underserved or no way. he said.
If re-elected, Anderson also plans to reconsider Clerk Jennifer Kelly’s request to have a fingerprint machine installed in her office for concealed gun licenses, funded by licensing fees. It would create a seamless process where people could complete the process without leaving the courthouse to go to the sheriff’s department, Anderson said.
More than 2,600 county residents have CPL licenses to date, Anderson said.
“It was voted down 3 to 2, and I was one of those who voted for it,” he said. “My hope is that once we get through the election, we’ll take another look.”
The new residents of District 3 have the same interests as other parts of the district, Anderson said. Some areas of Houghton are still underserved in terms of internet speed and capacity. He also touted the more than $1 million the council had invested in law enforcement, including seven new vehicles, raises for MPs, 800 megahertz radios for schools and a third prosecutor for the office. of the prosecutor.
Using some of the county’s ARPA money on broadband is still an option, he said. He might also be able to provide some of the money requested for a daycare center near Canal View that would give priority to the children of Canal View employees.
Anderson also supported the county’s recent purchase of property on Sharon Avenue for a potential county jail. The property could be expanded as needed and would also include the sheriff’s department and possibly the district court. Both must be in the county seat of Houghton. After new development in the city, the Sharon Avenue site is one of only three potential sites remaining.
“The town of Houghton has already opted for one of them, so we’re down to that and another, and clearly this is the most buildable and has the utilities and amenities. better ground conditions, Anderson said,
If voters don’t approve of a mileage, the state will likely step in at some point and demand the construction of a new prison, given the declining state, Anderson said. In the short term, the county could still use the property as an administrative annex to free up space in the crowded courthouse, as counties like Baraga have done, Anderson said.
“I don’t see the property ever being used by the county, but it’s worth it,” he said. “If it’s never used by the county and the jail is never built, the taxpayers will definitely get their money back from that property.”
Anderson said he thinks a 40-45 bed facility would make the most sense to offer voters, with the possibility that it could be expanded. The county’s 32-bed jail had experienced emergency levels of overcrowding in 2019 but plummeted after changes instituted at the start of the pandemic.
“As the population grows and we come out of COVID, I think most people expect prison capacity to increase over time, so you don’t want to build a new prison that can’t meet at least the next decade in space. “, he said.
Anderson didn’t think the county would be looking for a mile for several years. Even after the county completes the purchase, bond interest rates and construction costs are still too high right now, he said.
Anderson also supported the county’s pursuit of a $500,000 feasibility study for a second bridge. This would allow people to cross if the bridge is down due to mechanical failure or some other problem. A prolonged outage would leave 20,000 people across the bridge with no immediate alternative.
“The lift bridge can certainly handle the traffic we have today,” he said. “He probably can’t handle the traffic we’ll have 30 years from now…the county needs to look ahead.” In a solid fixed bridge high above the canal for ships to pass under, there would be no disruption to traffic.
Anderson said voters should consider him because he is a good listener and knows how local government works. The county council itself controls about $20 million and 100 employees. By adding other agencies under the county umbrella, such as Canal View, which is expanding to 400 employees and about $55 million.
“The county is a big business” he said. “I think you have to have some experience in larger operations to govern well, and I think I’m that person.”
Holcomb, a cost estimator for L’Anse Manufacturing, works for the second time.
After a narrow loss in 2020, Holcomb has taken steps to boost his name recognition. Since then, he has become chairman of the Copper Country Republican Party, which he says has allowed him to build relationships within the community and with Houghton County officials in the state legislature.
“It’s very different from what it was last time, because I have a lot more support now,” he said.
Holcomb talked about several things he would pursue if elected. The first would be to move the location of monthly board meetings from the courthouse’s fifth-floor meeting room to the circuit courtroom. Council has used the hearing room in some previous meetings with greater attendance.
Holding the meetings in a more inviting space would increase transparency, Holcomb said.
“I don’t think it’s very helpful for the commission that everyone is locked in such a small room because it puts people off, especially with COVID,” he said. “I was practically coughed at the last meeting. We are so close to each other.
Holcomb agreed that a new county jail was needed, but criticized the council’s recent purchase of the location of the First Apostolic Lutheran Church on Sharon Avenue. Buying the land before the council had a clear idea of what would be built on it was “put the cart before the horse” he said.
“I look for defense contracts on a daily basis, and if I had had this kind of approach, I would have been fired a long time ago,” he said.
Holcomb proposed that the county start from scratch and reassess what was right and wrong with the 2018 proposal to build an extension behind the courthouse. The county formed a prison task force after the close 2018 vote, ultimately recommending building on a new site somewhere in Houghton.
The county could have affordably purchased the former Camp Kitwen property in Adams Township before conditions deteriorated, Holcomb said; if that had happened, he would have supported a new prison there. Currently, he said, the use of teleconferencing for some hearings would have reduced the burden of transporting inmates to and from the Houghton courthouse.
He thought the Dodge Street site on county-owned land across from the courthouse would also be a good location. The site had been proposed for a prison in a previous proposal in 2010.
Holcomb suggested seeking grants to fund improvements to the courthouse to extend its useful life. The discussion included talks about using the historic building as a museum if the county built a new one.
“As an outsider looking inside, I think the courthouse is in pretty good shape,” he said. “We just need to have people here who want to fight for it, because I like to preserve our historical monuments here.”
Holcomb supported the idea of a second crossing bridge at Houghton. State Representative Greg Markkanen told him that funding a feasibility study was a high priority, Holcomb said.
“It’s going to have to be a really, really tall bridge, where we don’t really have to worry about an elevator,” he said. “…And another benefit of having other infrastructure crossing the canal there is that we can make that lift bridge last a lot longer. And if there’s anything that needs to be done at the lift bridge, we’re not watered.
The second bridge should also be as close to Houghton as possible, so as not to harm small businesses, he said.
Holcomb was a Republican representative on the redistribution committee that redrew the county’s district boundaries, including the redrawn District 3. He said the process was a model for how he hopes to represent the community.
“We all recognized ourselves as people trying to do the right thing,” he said. “And after the first meeting, the thought of partisan politics never crossed my mind. At the local level, that’s how it should be.
Holcomb went canvassing in the new area of the neighborhood, located behind the old ShopKo. As a graduate of Michigan Technological University, he was able to bond with many professors who lived there, he said. He picked their brains about the jail and the bridge, and also challenged them to run for office.
Advice should be a “revolving door” commissioners serving one or two terms before leaving the position to others, Holcomb said.
“That’s the only way places really grow is if they have a new thought,” he said.
Holcomb said voters should choose him because he comes from a younger generation and the attention to detail he honed during his career in advanced manufacturing.
“I love this area so much that I’m willing to take the time of my life to really help and improve it,” he said. “I just want to give back to the community in a big way because they gave me a life.”