County Commissioners Split Again On District 5 Appointee
March 10, 2020
By Danica Katnikfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Livingston County Board of Commissioners was once again split on their decision for filling an open seat, and will reconsider all candidates at a special meeting Thursday.
Commissioners interviewed four candidates at their Finance Committee meeting last Wednesday, aiming to fill the open District 5 seat that was recently vacated by Don Parker. The Board has until March 13th to fill the seat and avoid a special election that wouldn’t take place until August at the earliest. Two candidates were nominated at the meeting; former Commissioner and Howell attorney Jay Drick, and clinical nurse manager Lee Ann Blazejewski. The board was split four to four, with Commissioners Bob Bezotte, Doug Helzerman, Wes Nakagiri, and William Green voting for Drick. Commissioners Kate Lawrence, Carol Griffith, Dennis Dolan, and Gary Childs supported Blazejewski.
The board then decided to reconsider both candidates at their regular meeting Monday night, but the result was no different, with the same commissioners voting for their original candidate of choice. Monday’s tie vote meant that both motions for each candidate failed. Commissioners then voted to hold a special meeting this coming Thursday morning, at which time they will reconsider all candidates for the seat. Commissioner Childs stated that he doesn’t feel another vote will change anything, but Commissioner Dolan said the board should do everything in their power to attempt to fill the position. Dolan was the first to make a motion to hold a special meeting but later withdrew that motion, noting that he did previously state that he thinks they’ve “done everything they can”. Helzerman then made a motion for the meeting, and Dolan voted against holding it as did Commissioner Green.
Thursday’s meeting begins at 7:30am and will be held in board chambers. A candidate being reconsidered the first time only requires a majority vote to be appointed to the seat. If they are put up for a second reconsideration, a two-thirds majority is required.
Helzerman said he was sad they couldn’t come to an agreement, but still didn’t waiver from his decision. He shared his basis for sticking with Drick, which he says is due in part to his predicted outcome in the event a special election were held, stating, “I think that Jay will be elected in the fall and that’s my first reason. I know Lee Ann and I like her and I think she’d do a fine job, but that’s my first choice. We’ll see whether there’s any movement in our minds but I think the district needs representation.”
Commissioner Bezotte previously stated that he nominated Drick because he feels he is a natural fit for filling Parker’s seat, having experience on the board and legal experience, like Parker. He reiterated similar thoughts at Monday’s meeting.
Commissioner Nakagiri too has voted in favor of Drick both times, and said at Monday’s meeting that he’s familiar with Drick and his conservative values. Nakagiri went on to say that he feels the board, which is almost entirely Republican save for Democratic Commissioner Childs, should be able to agree on a conservative candidate. Nakagiri tells WHMI, “We have seven Republicans on the board and one of the two candidates has majority support of the Republicans and I would think that the Republicans ought to pull together and get behind the one that majority Republicans want to appoint to the board.”
The board currently has eight members, meaning Nakagiri was speaking to all but Childs, who announced in September that he had left the Republican Party and is now a Democrat. Childs reminds that there are eight members on the board, even if one has a different letter after his last name. Childs expressed to WHMI, “All votes count. It doesn’t matter what party you align with. I did vote for a conservative Republican – Lee Ann!”
Board Chair Carol Griffith both times has voted in favor of Blazejewski and while their votes may differ, Griffith feels all commissioners can agree with the need for representation for the residents of District 5. Speaking to the failure to agree on a candidate Griffith says, “I think this evening gave us a very good idea as to why it is important on a board to have an odd number of commissioners or board members. It’s unfortunate that we have been tied on each vote but we’re hoping by Thursday morning at the special meeting we will break the tie or come up with one candidate so that we don’t have to move into the August election.”
Commissioner Kate Lawrence also shared her frustration with the failed motion saying, “I was disappointed tonight that we could not come to a resolution because the loser here is all of the residents in District 5 who are not being represented. If we cannot come to a resolution we’ll have to go to a special election and the next one is in August so that leaves several months without representation.”