Out of the running
MARQUETTE – Marquette County Board members Deborah Pellow and Greg Seppanen have announced they will not run for new terms on the board.
The announcements ensure half of the panel’s six current members will be changed out with this year’s election cycle.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Paul Arsenault of Ishpeming Township announced he would not run for another term in District 2. He has been on the county board since 1988.
Seppanen of Chocolay Township said he will take a break from public service to spend time traveling.
He has been active in local government since the mid-1980s on the Marquette County Planning Commission, as Chocolay Township Supervisor and two separate stints on the county board. He was most recently elected to the board in 2012. His term ends at the end of the year.
“It has been rewarding as well as a lot of work, as most local officials will attest to. It’s an effort (to) balance your career, family and the responsibility of the local office that the voters, your neighbors, elected you to,” Seppanen said. “My mother has been urging me to take a break and do some traveling now that I am retired from the Marquette school district and my wife agrees. So for the next couple of years, we will be looking at taking some extended time to travel, something that my meeting schedule has never allowed for me to do in the past.”
Seppanen said he won’t rule out running for a local position in the future.
Seppanen represents District 6, which includes Chocolay and Sands townships and Precinct 2 in the city of Marquette. The district has 10,874 residents, according to the 2011 apportionment map.
Seppanen said he is pleased with the effort the county board has made while he has served, including tackling the 20-year problem of overcrowding at the Marquette County Jail and progress made on long-range financial problems with healthcare, retirement funding and efficiency with the overall county operation.
Seppanen said there is one issue he remains disappointed about.
“I was unable to get the present board to address the present practice of full-time healthcare benefits for the county commissioners and their family,” Seppanen said. “I could not get any support for doing away with that practice. I will hope that new board coming in will have more success on that front.”
Seppanen said the panel’s new make-up will be interesting, with at least three new members. All of the board’s seats are up for renewal this year.
“They will have many challenges to continue to work on,” Seppanen said. “But we are very fortunate to have an excellent staff of county employees who are ready to face those challenges under the direction of the elected officials.”
Pellow of Tilden Township said she’s not running because it’s time to “pass the torch to someone younger.”
“It’s time to step aside and think about retirement,” Pellow said. “My baby girl was 4 when I started, she’s 30 now.”
Pellow has served the public through those 26 years of government endeavor, including 12 years as Tilden Township treasurer, four years as Tilden Township supervisor and the most recent decade on the county board.
She has been the county board’s chairwoman and is currently the vice chairwoman. Pellow was last elected to the board in 2012. Her term expires at the end of this year.
Pellow represents District 5, which includes Tilden, Richmond, Forsyth, West Branch, Skandia, Turin, Ewing and Wells townships. According to the 2011 apportionment map, 11,052 people live in the district.
“I’ve had a lot of great support,” Pellow said. “I’ve had a great run at this. I’m very lucky and honored to have been able to serve the public.”
In 2011, the county’s reapportionment committee redrew district lines, shrinking the number of county commission districts from nine to six. The move also forced Pellow and then fellow county commissioners Bill Nordeen and Charles Bergdahl to run against each other.
Instead, Nordeen decided not to run and supported Pellow. Pellow ran against Bergdahl and won. She now said she will support Nordeen in his bid to regain a seat on the board.
“He understands district needs,” Pellow said.
Nordeen confirmed he is running for the board and will file his paperwork to do so by the end of the week.
“I look forward to returning to the board of commissioners,” Nordeen said. “Given the reduced number of commissioner districts, it is a greater challenge to assure every part of the county is adequately represented. I will make sure the citizens in my district are heard, as well as making decisions for the overall good of all citizens of Marquette County.”
Pellow said Nordeen’s decision not to run in 2012 helped allow her to work on some issues she had hoped to finish before leaving the board. Some of those issues included getting a space needs study completed, addressing bed space at the county jail, resolving issues with the county’s former retire-rehire policy and retaining independent legal counsel for the county board.
“I think there’s a lot of cool things that have happened while I’ve been on the board,” Pellow said. “I didn’t get everything I wanted, no one does.”
Commissioners Steven Pence, Gerald Corkin and Bruce Heikkila have announced they are running for re-election. Pence of Marquette represents District 1, Corkin of Negaunee represents District 4 and Heikkila of Marquette represents District 3.
Those interested in running for the county board need to file paperwork with the Marquette County Clerk’s Office by 4 p.m. April 22. The primary election will be Aug. 5 and the general election will be Nov. 4.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.