Five of nine Genesee County Board of Commissioner seats contested in Nov. 3 election

FLINT, MI – At least three districts will have a new representative on the Genesee County Board of Commissioners next year, and other seats are also up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election.

In Districts 1 and 2, incumbent Bryant Nolden and Charles Winfrey — both Democrats — are unopposed and on the ballot. Newcomer Domonique Clemons, also a Democrat, is unopposed in District 4, and incumbent Shaun Shumaker, R-Fenton Twp., also has no opposition.

There are contested races in Districts 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9.

The nine-member county commission is the governing board and policy-making body of county government with each commissioner representing a specific area of the county. It is in charge of developing and approving county policy, including setting of the county’s budget.

This year, MLive Media Group partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information for readers. Each candidate was asked to outline their stances on a variety of public policy issues. Information on all state and federal races and many of Michigan’s county and local races is available at, an online voter guide created by the League of Women Voters.

The following background information was provided by each candidate in the five contested races.

In District 3, incumbent Ellen Ellenburg, D-Burton, is opposed by Gary Goetzinger, a high school administrator, the Republican candidate.

Ellenburg is a former Burton city councilwoman and is vice chairwoman of the county board and chairwoman of its Human Services Committee.

Goetzinger has a master’s degree from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree from Alma College, and has served as a city councilman.

In District 5, incumbent Mark Young, D-Grand Blanc, faces Republican challenger Sean Trowbridge.

Trowbridge is an Atlas Township resident and graduate of Goodrich High School and Central Michigan University. He founded and has managed a farm business in Goodrich for the past nine years while also working as an environmental scientist and residential mortgage lender.

Young has served four terms as a commissioner and chairman of the board in 2017 and 2018. He is a graduate of Baker College and is an Army veteran. He was a paramedic for the former Flint Osteopathic Hospital. He is a retired president of the Genesee County Deputy Sheriff’s Union.

In District 7, board Chairman Martin Cousineau, D-Thetford Twp., faces Republican challenger Meredith Davis.

Cousineau graduated from Clio High School, Michigan State University and the Palmer College of Chiropractic. He has been a county commissioner since 2016 and is a former Thetford Township trustee and is a past board member of the Clio Community Foundation, county Board of Health, Genesee Health System, and is past chairman of the Clio Downtown Development Authority.

Davis is from Flushing and has a bachelor’s agree from the University of Michigan-Flint. She works as a real estate marketing director and is involved in the Kiwanis Club of Flint, Ennis Center for Children, St Luke N.E.W. Life Center, Special Olympics, and Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

In District 8, incumbent Ted Henry, D-Clayton Twp., was defeated in the Democratic primary election by Debra Newman, who faces Republican Rod Shumaker.

Newman is a Swartz Creek resident who attended Mott Community College and Central Michigan University. She graduated from the Delta Community College Police Reserve Academy and has worked 18 years for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Shumaker graduated from Ainsworth High School and attended Ferris State and Michigan State universities. He is a former township supervisor in Flint and Clayton townships and was a member of the Mundy Township Board of Trustees and its planning commission.

In District 9, Commissioner David Martin, R-Davison, did not seek re-election. Republican Matthew Smith and Democrat Gary Peppin are seeking to replace Martin.

Peppin is from Davison and received an associate degree from Mott Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. He has worked as business manager of McNally Chevrolet/Buick, as a new car sales manager for Mike Young Buick/GMC, was a Davison city councilman and chairman of the Genesee County Small Cities & Villages Association.

Smith has attended Davison High School, Holy Rosary Catholic School, Mott Community College and the University of Michigan-Flint. He is a member of the Davison Board of Education and has worked as director of sales and marketing for Smith & Smith Carpet.

All responses in the voter guide were submitted directly by the candidates and have not been edited by the League of Women Voters, except for a necessary cut if a reply exceeded character limitations. Spelling and grammar were not corrected. Publication of candidate statements and opinions is solely in the interest of public service and should not be considered as an endorsement. The League never supports or opposes any candidates or political parties.

Here’s a look at how the candidates responded to questions on some key issues.

As a County Commissioner, which boards would you want to serve on and why?

Ellenburg: My district is very diverse. From the City of Burton to the City of Flint to Genesee Township, I’ve worked with all stakeholders to make sure that their voices are included in the decision making process. In order to be successful in politics you have to build a wide and inclusive coalition of people to help enact your policies. I’ve done that and I’ll continue to be very deliberately inclusive in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion in order to provide that voice at the county level.

Goetzinger: I am a team player and plan to represent the needs and concerns of ALL citizens in my district. I will attempt to include as many people as possible and use their input to make my decisions and influence the entire board. I am your representative and servant. This county has a rich history and culture. It is time to unite all people for the good of our community. My goal is to use this history and its’ diverse population to move our county to new heights.

Trowbridge: I think it would be most import to focus on the central pieces of government that are vital for basic function that also help ensure a stable operating budget. I want to focus on a sustainable yet thriving Genesee County. This means community planning, a safe and well-educated community, utilization of existing infrastructure, preventing sprawl into our rural areas, incentivizing business to come invest in our communities, continually looking to the citizens for direction, and simplification and streamlining of government services to reduce costs to tax payers associated with the big bureaucracy of local government.

Young: As a County Commissioner, we have the opportunity to sit on committees, boards and commissions. The committees are used to review items in more detail before being brought back to the Regular Board Meeting. These committees include The Finance Committee, Community & Economic Development Committee, and Governmental Ops to name a few. The committees operate as “Committees of the Whole” and ALL of the Commissioners sit on these committees. The GC Commission also has seats on several boards/commissions in which the Commission may have a direct interest.

Cousineau: I would like to continue to serve as the chairman of the County Board of Commissioners. The chairman serves on all standing committees as a ex officio. As the present chair I have lead my colleagues developing budgets moving forward to a balanced budget during very challenging times. I also would like to continue to sit on the Metro Planning committee and the KWA committees. The planning committee overseas all federal money’s coming into the county. The KWA overseas the clean water supply into the County of Genesee. I also like to sit on the Finance, Public Works and the Board of Health Committees.

Davis: In this ongoing public health crisis, I’m interested in serving on the Genesee County Board of Health to remain involved in the decisions being made that impact our residents’ lives and livelihoods. I would also like to join the Community Development Allocation Committee to have a say in how community development dollars are shaping the economic growth of our county, creating jobs, and attracting investment.

Newman: I am interested in serving on the following committees: 1) Community & Economic Development Committee: the financial health of our county is dependent on developing local businesses and encouraging businesses to relocate. 2) Genesee County Parks & Recreation Commission: county residents have a jewel of a park system within minutes of their home. I frequently use our park system and took my kids to Crossroads Village when they were little. 3) Human Services Committee: the County Commission oversees departments that provide critical services to the most vulnerable in our community. As a Sheriff Deputy, I engaged with individuals who needed critical services.

Shumaker: First let me preface my answers; as a former Township Supervisor with over three decades of service there is, in my opinion, no better person to serve on the G.C. Commission (formally G.C. Board of ‘Supervisors’). As Township Supervisor, the duties and responsibilities put you in interactive relationships in the day to day workings with county agencies. As Supervisor you meet with Road Commission Management at roads and bridges; you interact with your garage foreman and ‘drive the roads’. As Supervisor you attend water and waste meetings, once again building relationships with elected leaderships and personnel. Working on bonds and major county master development.

Peppin: The Community and Economic Development Committee. I believe we have the components necessary and available for economic growth in our area. I co-chaired the Davison Main St. Widening Project and worked with the MEDC on façade improvement for our downtown merchants. I saw the pride that a thriving economy can bring to our community. The 2nd committee I would like to serve on is the Human Services Committee. It focuses on the health and wellbeing of constituents throughout the county. We need a healthy economy and healthy people, especially during times of crisis like the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Smith: It is my goal to take my real world experience combined with my current board experience and put it to use on the Board of Commission. I have interest in serving on the Economic Development Corporation because I understand that consumer spending and business investment is the key to boosting our local economy. I will work hard to attract new businesses to our community. In the process, we will address abandon homes that cause blight. I recognize the 9th District is home to the best and most beautiful parks in the County, and I would love to serve on the Parks and Recreation. The 9-1-1 Consortium and Senior Citizen safety boards are close to my heart, too.

As a County Commissioner, in a very diverse county, what is your plan for inclusive representation?

Ellenburg: My district is very diverse. From the City of Burton to the City of Flint to Genesee Township, I’ve worked with all stakeholders to make sure that their voices are included in the decision making process. In order to be successful in politics you have to build a wide and inclusive coalition of people to help enact your policies. I’ve done that and I’ll continue to be very deliberately inclusive in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion in order to provide that voice at the county level.

Goetzinger: I am a team player and plan to represent the needs and concerns of ALL citizens in my district. I will attempt to include as many people as possible and use their input to make my decisions and influence the entire board. I am your representative and servant. This county has a rich history and culture. It is time to unite all people for the good of our community. My goal is to use this history and its’ diverse population to move our county to new heights.

Trowbridge: I will make a sincere effort to ensure all advisory boards include a diverse group of community members. I wont blame diversity shortfalls on current admin if there has been true effort to involve all groups of our community, however, if there is a disparaging lack of diversity better effort needs to be made NOW to commit to the importance that diversity and inclusion brings to our communities . We need to make sure our county is working for everyone, not just the “majority”. Refusing to put effort into better inclusion only causes more issues down the road when we don’t understand why certain programs or community campaigns are not effective or why we cannot draw new residents and business.

Young: Inclusion is more than just about creating additional “committees” for citizens to sit on or having required public comment during our Board meetings. The best way to include people is about community involvement. When I was the Chairman of the Board, one of the processes that I fought for, was to make sure that the Board of Commissioners had community outreach. We started by consolidating our public messaging under one banner so that the public would know that this was a County function. We then started increasing our presence on social media about various programs & resources available to our citizens. I know that this was just the first steps, but the feedback has been phenomenal.

Cousineau: As the board chair I have for the first time ever formed a diverse committee of my colleagues to vet all appointments of directors and appointees to the many different boards serving the Genesee County public. In the past all these appointments have been a very politically motivated process. I have challenged that committee and the Board of Commissioners to do their due diligence finding the most qualified people available from all sections of our society. I will not accept or tolerate the old way of appointing friends and family. Never again on my watch.

Davis: Genesee County is home to so many varied and vibrant locales, from rural communities to bustling downtowns. I’m committed to fairly representing all of these areas. I want to give voice to 7th district residents’ concerns, understanding that we must work as a team to move our county forward. City and suburb in Genesee County can and must work together to provide greater opportunities for the next generation.

Newman: Building a culture of inclusive representation starts with community engagement. The 8th District covers the gamut of diverse communities covering people living in rural, suburban and urban environments. While national news dominates local media, it is crucial that residents understand the important services the County provides on a daily basis. My plan to develop a culture of inclusive representation would be to engage with residents through community organizations that serve the 8th District. I am in favor of establishing a dedicated YouTube channel in which County-level activities are recapped so residents have multimedia options for which to consume information.

Shumaker: I have always and in my decades long record of reducing my wages as Flint Twp. Supervisor, creating and paying for the only Mobile Township Hall, after work, watching and always working to provide a safe, quality and efficient environment, with the priorities always being; Safety in the home and Safety in the street. I have, while Supervisor, been awarded recognition of these efforts. Every community I have served, with wonderful support of the boards, and team leaders, has been improved; whether it’s reduction in millage, increasing services and accessibility second to none.

Peppin: As a County Commissioner, it would be my responsibility to provide services to those who are most in need whether it be the elderly, physically/mentally/emotionally disabled, or our youth. We must look at ways to be efficient and effective in allocating funds to do so. As a community, we need leadership that is able to offer outreach programs and will be part of the dialogue to help not just our districts, but the county as a whole.

Smith: As a current elected official on the Davison Board of Education, I have always treated every student, district employee, parent and taxpayer equally, and with respect. I have fought to ensure every student gets the same quality education, regardless of where they came from. If i have the opportunity to expand my public service to the County level, I will treat every citizen and county employee with the respect they deserve. I will have an open door policy in which any resident can visit my office anytime to share their ideas and concerns with me. On the Board of Education, I’ve set policy that is in the best interest of the people, on the Board of Commission, I will keep it up.

As a Commissioner, you will have responsibility to manage financial resources of the citizens, as well as those of special voter-approved taxes. Do you feel that monies are allocated and managed appropriately? Please explain.

Ellenburg: Our budget is stretched thin. This global pandemic has forced us to look at government in a new light. Promises that were made long ago are coming due and I have committed to making sure that we meet them. I don’t see these financial issues as a negative. I’m excited to find new ways to provide essential services that our residents expect. That doesn’t always mean we will do what we have always done. I’ll work with my colleagues to develop priorities and work hard to finance those priorities. I’ve always been an advocate for financial accountability. I have fought hard to ensure that every millage that has been voted in by our residents is spent wisely. I’ll continue that work if reelected.

Goetzinger: It is very premature for me to say that monies are allocated and managed appropriately or inappropriately. I will say this however, I will closely monitor all monies to insure they are allocated and managed in a fair and equitable manner. I will do my due diligence to be sure our county receives, allocates, and manages all possible monies to increase opportunities for all citizens in our county.

Trowbridge: I do have concerns that some tax payers may not be getting a fair share of the services they are paying for. For example, are district five residents paying more than their fare share for community programs that are being consumed disproportionately by other districts in Genesee County? This is something I feel needs to have a more thorough review. Overall, I think financial resource management is a process that is never perfect. Changes in community situations or newly presented financial burdens for example, keep “successful management” a moving target. While there has been much effort towards curbing a devastating financial shortfall in the coming years, there seems to be plenty room for improvement.

Young: Some yes and some no. One of the responsibilities of the Board of Commissioners is to set the Budget for county operations. The total annual county budget is currently over $300,000,000.00. The majority of these funds are “restricted” to be used for a specific purpose. These include Grants (received from Federal, State, & various foundations), internal millages such as the Paramedic & Senior Services Millage, and external millages such as the Genesee Health Plan and the Cultural Center Millage. The funds that the County controls (restricted, internal millages, & general operations (non-restricted)) are subject to strict ANNUAL AUDITS & filing and review with the State Treasurer.

Cousineau: In many cases there needs to be Improvement. These last two years I have spent the majority of my time working with the Board of Commissioners, department heads and the other elected officials finding ways to eliminate waste and developing ways to be more efficient especially through technology improvements. Over the past decades the county has been extremely inefficient in the way that it buys healthcare for the employees and retirees. We are in the process of changing how we purchase Healthcare in the future. This will save the county tens of millions of dollars moving forward. We can no longer continue to do business as usual. I am seeking re-election to continue to make these positive changes.

Davis: Taxpayers in Genesee County work hard and they pay their fair share. They expect and deserve representation in county government that uses their tax dollars wisely and provides the greatest benefit to the community. At the same time, we have a responsibility to our county retirees who were promised a fair deal. Right now, Genesee County is facing a looming budget shortfall in unfunded retiree health care liabilities, due to years of inadequate planning and “kicking the can down the road.” Our commissioners will soon be forced to make some tough choices. As commissioner, I will not approve a single line item that does not strictly pertain to critical county services or keeping our promises to retirees.

Newman: Past Board Chairs of the Genesee County Commission has strong financial acumen. As our community addresses the fallout of COVID-19, it is crucial to have active leadership monitor the financial health of the county. As County Commissioner for the 8th District, my main focus is to fund budgets that provide critical services to all residents especially the vulnerable.

Shumaker: I only know that you can’t keep spending and drawing from savings. Even today many entities in Michigan have billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities because many elected officials can’t or won’t acknowledge the economic realities. Public safety on the street, home and in our courts, should be priority one. Their frivolous spending or unnecessary spending of the past should be scrutinized and reacted to at a time of flat or reduced revenue.

Peppin: While property values continue to rise, property taxes have not mirrored their increase leaving us at tax revenue levels still below the 2008 recession. State Appropriations were also reduced during this time. Meanwhile, the cost of doing business has continued to rise. We are working with what we have, not what we need. Nonetheless, budgets are about our values as a community. The Genesee County retiree health benefit program (VEBA) must be adequately funded annually to guarantee future solvency so the obligations the Board made to its employees may be met.

Smith: One of the many reasons I decided to run for this office is because I want to make sure Genesee County is solvent for future generations to live, work and play. After we graduate our children from our school system, I want them to stay local in a thriving County for generations to come. The only way that will happen is if we address our County debt crisis. Nearly one of every three dollars slated to be spent in the current $113.7 million dollar budget is taken up by fringe benefits for our current and retired workers. We must work in a bipartisan fashion to get Genesee County back on track financially.

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