2013-11-07 / News

Lapeer voters elect Elaine Gates to commission, approve three charter amendment proposals


Elaine Gates Elaine Gates LAPEER COUNTY — Voter turnout was light Tuesday across the western half of Lapeer County where there were ballot questions and a contested city commission race in Lapeer.

Most notable in Tuesday’s election was the unusual city commission race in Lapeer where incumbent commissioner Debbie Marquardt’s name was not on the ballot after an earlier decision not to seek re-election. She later changed her mind and chose to run as a write-in candidate.

On the ballot was Elaine Gates, 52, a paralegal with her husband’s law office in downtown Lapeer. In 2012, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Lapeer Community Schools Board of Education. In that five-person race she earned the third highest voter support.

Jamie Fricke, 33, a mother of three and an advocate for medical marijuana, also ran Tuesday as a write-in candidate.

Fricke, a state registered medical marijuana user and caretaker, hosts monthly meetings of the Lapeer Area Cannabis Network at Louie’s Sports Tavern in Lapeer. The group is a medical marijuana support group.

Gates was the easy victor Tuesday. Unofficial results, until verified Wednesday afternoon by the Lapeer County Board of Canvassers, saw Gates take 321 votes (67 percent) over Marquardt with 117 votes (24.5 percent), while Fricke earned 39 votes, or 8 percent.

“I’m shocked. I’m so happy ... I’m so happy the people of Lapeer believed in me,” said Gates around 11 p.m. after The County Press informed her of her election win. “It’s all positive. If you put your name out there as a write-in there are no losers.”

Gates will be sworn into office when the city commission meets next at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18.

Marquardt, while disappointed, commented, “I’m pleased that people came out to support me. It’s very hard as a write-in to win, but I gave it a shot. I will be still be active in the city and retain my other board seats.”

Similarly Fricke said, “It was fun. It was exciting and I enjoyed the experience. I’m glad to serve my hometown however I can.” On Monday, the Lapeer City Commission appointed her to serve on its Cable Advisory Board.

Lapeer Mayor Bill Sprague ran unopposed and earned 440 votes to win another four-year term. Sprague was appointed mayor in September 2006 after then-mayor Chuck Treece resigned, and has been re-elected twice since.

• Also in Lapeer, voters were asked to approve three city charter amendments.

Proposal 1 sought to take the special assessment process out of the city charter and place it into an ordinance. In short, by doing so would allow the administration to return owed money to residents or property owners much faster should a project financed through a special assessment be completed for less than expected. This proposal was approved 296 to 218.

Proposal 2 was approved 386 to 135. This proposal was to ensure recalls of all elected officials be conducted in the manner prescribed by state law. This proposal outlined that the deadline for nominating petitions of elected officials by adopted as prescribed under state law.

In the city of Lapeer, of the 5,727 registered voters 575 residents came out to vote Tuesday (10 percent). Three hundred and six absentee ballots were mailed out, with 257 returned.

• Lapeer Community Schools: District residents approved an 18- mill non-homestead property tax renewal by a margin of 2,481 to 1,427. Non-renewal of the millage proposal would have cost Lapeer County’s school district $6.1 million annually, approximately 13 percent of its annual budget.

• Mott Community College bond renewal: Lapeer County voters who live in portions of Elba, Hadley, Deerfield, Marathon and Oregon townships turned down a request to renew a 20- year, $50 million bond that raises money for maintenance and capital improvements to its facilities. Voters said “No” by 313 to 153 in favor.

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