By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

A group of former mayors have issued a letter to the Howell community, making endorsements for the upcoming council race, while simultaneously saying a strong non-partisan city council is in the best interest of all residents.

The message for Howell City voters came from former mayors Paul Streng, Mike Yost, Esther Brown and soon-to-be former Mayor Nick Proctor. It states the City charter mandates a non-partisan form of governance and although each council member brings their own life experiences to benefit decision making, “they are neither republican nor democrat when serving on the Howell City Council.”

The letter then goes on to endorse incumbent Jan Lobur and challengers Luke Wilson and Jacob Schlittler for the November 2nd race in which six candidates are on the ballot for the three open seats. Incumbent Jeannette Ambrose previously announced she would not serve beyond her current term, but did so after the official withdrawal date, so her name will appear on the ballot. The two other Council candidates to appear on the ballot are Lee Ann Blazejewski and Kevin Shopshire, while Bob Ellis and Bob Parker are vying for the mayor’s seat. Ellis is a current council member and has said he will resign his seat if he wins the mayor’s race.

Despite the call for nonpartisanship by the former Mayors, two of the candidates they endorsed, Schlittler and Wilson, have also been endorsed by the Livingston County Republican Party. Proctor says Schlitter and Wilson indicated that the party’s endorsement was not coordinated, supported or endorsed by either and that they were not happy about it. Shopshire, who works as the Legislative Director for Democratic State Representative Stephanie Young, notes that he also did not solicit an endorsement from the Democratic Party, and isn’t sure why he’s being treated differently.

As Mayor, Proctor told WHMI he reached out to all of the candidates by email both before and after the primary making himself available to help to discuss issues confronting the City. He says neither Shopshire nor Blazejewski reached out, although Shopshire says he doesn’t recall ever being contacted. Proctor added that both Shopshire and Blazejewski are very active on social media on a partisan basis. He said “there have been some red flags in postings that indicate they might not be able to set aside their ideology or partisanship to effectively represent all Howell residents”.

When contacted about the mayors’ letter, Shopshire said that he wasn’t upset the group didn’t endorse him, noting that he understands how subjective endorsements can be. Instead, it is the reasoning. In an emailed response to Proctor, Shopshire stated “You claim I cannot be non-partisan, yet you and the county GOP endorsed two of the same people. Clearly, you do not know me or what I do in the Michigan Legislature. To think I can’t set aside my ideology or partisanship to represent all the people of Howell is insulting and wrong. When people call our office seeking help with unemployment, their tax refund or any other issue I have never asked their party affiliation before I helped them.”

Meanwhile, Blazejewski sent the following statement to WHMI in response to the letter, "The people who signed this letter do not personally know me and never asked to meet to discuss my views. The former mayors only know the misinformation that WHMI News has spun about me. Being "non-partisan" doesn't mean not having a set of moral and ethical guiding principles. I am a fiercely independent woman and I make my OWN decisions based on my set of guiding principles and the evidence that is presented. I am also blessed to be a highly educated PhD (candidate) registered nurse and I believe we should make evidence-based decisions regardless of party affiliation and ideology. If any of the former mayors would like to discuss my set of guiding principles and how I have maintained neutrality throughout my 33 year career as a healthcare professional and former business owner I would be happy to meet with them. Moreover, similar to the other candidates mentioned in Mayor Proctor's letter, I am a native of the City of Howell and I graduated from Howell High School. My family has resided in Howell and Livingston County for centuries. In fact my grandfather's name, Charles Dean, is engraved on the war memorial in front of the historic Howell courthouse because he died at the Battle of the Bulge defending our country in WWII. My roots are very deep in this community and as a councilwoman I will represent all of the residents of the City of Howell."

Regardless, Proctor said he had useful discussions with other candidates and all maintained commitments to non-partisanship, adding that he and his colleagues are convinced the candidates they’ve endorsed will remain nonpartisan.

The Mayors' letter is attached.