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Kent County voters elect new leaders, decide judicial races and pass a fire millage

Races across Kent County included contested seats on the Board of Commissioners, a fire millage in Alpine Township and election cycles in Grand Rapids.
Credit: John Hogan
Kent County voters decided several local elections, including races for the Board of Commissioners.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Voters have added new faces to the Kent County Board of Commissioners, approved a fire millage in Alpine Township, elected new judges and moved Grand Rapids city elections to even years.

And, in an uncontested race, Plainfield Township voters returned incumbent treasurer William Brinkman, Jr. to office, cementing his presumptive title as the nation’s oldest serving municipal treasurer. Brinkman turns 90 next week.

Top county positions appear to have stayed in the hands of incumbents, including sheriff, clerk and drain commissioner.

The outcomes of the countywide contests are unofficial and reflect numbers last updated at 8:39 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4 with 100% of precincts reporting.

The Kent County Clerk’s Office reported 362,074 total voters, which represents a turnout of more than 72%. Kent County has 501,117 registered voters.

Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young, who was appointed to the position two years ago, won her contested race. LaJoye-Young had two challengers.

“I am honored and humbled by the support of my team at the sheriff’s department and I will continue to work hard to meet the needs of our community,’’ LaJoye-Young said in a statement.

Republican Peter MacGregor defeated Beth White in the race for Kent County treasurer. MacGregor will replace Ken Parrish, who declined to seek a seventh term.

Kent County Board of Commissioners

The Kent County Board of Commissioners will see a few fresh faces, including newcomers to replace incumbents who either opted not to run or were defeated in the August primary.

There were four open races.

In the 1st District, which encompasses Rockford and part of Plainfield Township, Ben Greene, a Republican, defeated Deb Havens for the open seat. Greene has served as a Plainfield Township trustee since 2016. He replaces outgoing Commissioner Ted Vonk.

In the 8th District, which covers the city of Wyoming, Dan Burrill, a Republican, defeated Sarah Chatterley, who ran as a Democrat. Burrill is an associate broker with Five Star Realty in Grandville. The winner replaces Harold Voorhees, who decided not to seek reelection.

In the 13th District, which represents nearly all of Kentwood, Democrat Michelle McCloud was the top vote-getter. She bested Levi Cipcic, a Republican. McCloud is an assistant dean at Grand Valley State University. The winner replaces Betsy Melton, who decided not to seek reelection.

In the 15th district, which encompasses portions of Grand Rapids, Democrat Melissa LaGrand knocked off Republican Brian Boersema. She earned a spot on Tuesday’s ballot by defeating incumbent James Talen in the August Democrat primary.

State House seat stays with Republicans: 

A state House seat will remain in the hands of Republicans with a victory by Bryan Posthumus. 

Posthumus defeated Bill Saxton, a Democrat. Posthumus, a fourth-generation Kent County farmer, received nearly 57% of the vote. He replaces Lynn Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids Township, who opted not to seek a second term.

The 73rd House District encompasses several Kent County townships and the city of East Grand Rapids. 

Judicial Races:

Kentwood District Court will have a new judge on the bench for the first time in decades with the retirement of William G. Kelly. Kelly has served as Kentwood’s one and only district court judge since 1979.

Amanda Sterkenburg appears to be Kelly's replacement, garnering 57% of the vote. As a private practice attorney, Sterkenburg has handled both criminal and civil cases, including landlord-tenant disputes.

Her opponent was Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Joe Jackson. His duties in the prosecutor’s office includes handling juvenile delinquency and abuse/neglect cases.

The position is a six-year term.

Kent County Circuit Court will see two new judges to replace incumbents who were unable to run again because of their age. Four candidates vied for the two positions.

The top vote-getters as of Wednesday afternoon were Scott A. Noto and Maureen A. Gottlieb. The winners will serve six-year terms in the circuit court family division.

Noto is a private practice attorney with 15 years of experience in civil and criminal cases, family law and real property disputes. He also served as an Army Judge Advocate for 11 years. He currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Gottlieb has worked as an attorney since 2006. She has served as a Kent County Circuit Court attorney/referee in the family division since 2017.  

Grand Rapids election cycles

A proposal to move elections of Grand Rapids city commissioners from odd years to even years appears to have passed as of Wednesday evening.

Under the proposal, the election cycle for commissioners will correspond with the presidential election or mid-term elections, which occur on even-numbered years.

A second proposal winning favor with voters eliminates a provision that allows candidates to be elected to city office through winning a certain percentage of votes in the August primary. Currently, if a candidate gets 50% of the vote plus one, they get the win without a November runoff.

Alpine Township

A millage request to fund the Alpine Township Fire Department was approved by a narrow margin. The vote Wednesday was 3,292 for and 3,090 against.

Voters were asked to approve 3.0208 mills to fund a new fire house, bolster staffing and upgrade equipment.

The need for additional staffing, equipment and a new fire station were addressed in a 2018 consultant’s report presented to the township.

It called for fulltime staff as well as paid on-call staff and a fire station that includes sleeping quarters. A larger station is needed to accommodate larger fire equipment, including the possibility of an aerial ladder.

The Alpine Township Fire Department has seen its call volume increase 20% since 2008. In 2019, the fire department ran 1,200 alarms.  

Plainfield Township

Bill Brinkman, who ran unopposed for Plainfield Township treasurer, garnered more than 15,200 votes on Tuesday.  More impressive is that Brinkman, who turns 90 next week, holds the unofficial title as oldest publicly-elected treasurer in Michigan – and perhaps beyond.  

Brinkman was first elected township treasurer in 2012. During a gathering of treasurers from across the state last year, Brinkman said he learned that he is the oldest person in Michigan to hold the elected office.

The Association of Public Treasurers of the United States and Canada does not maintain birth dates of associates, but in August acknowledged that Brinkman “may certainly be the most senior treasurer in the U.S.’’

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