SGA hosts annual candidates forum

Candidates for city commission, probate judge, prosecuting attorney spoke at the forum

Isabella County Probate Court Judge candidate Stuart Black speaks at the Student Government Association Candidates Forum on Oct. 15 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium.

In an effort to encourage civic engagement among students, Central Michigan University Student Government Association hosted its Annual Candidates Forum, inviting local candidates to speak about their platforms to CMU students and community members. 

Invited candidates included those running for Mount Pleasant city commission, Isabella County probate judge and Isabella County prosecuting attorney

The forum was held in place of SGA's general meeting Oct. 15 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium. 

Candidates were allotted time to discuss their platforms, as well as answer questions from the audience. 

Mt. Pleasant city commission candidates:

  • Barry Delau
  • Lori Gillis (seeking re-election)
  • Nicholas Madaj (seeking re-election)
  • Amy Perschbacher
  • Rick Rautanen
  • Petro Tolas

Isabella County probate judge candidates:

  • Stuart Black
  • Sara Spencer-Noggle

Isabella County prosecuting attorney candidates:

  • Larry King
  • David Barberi (not present at the forum)

For student voters, the event was an opportunity to get acquainted with local candidates, connecting faces with the names of those who will be chosen to represent the city and county.

Grand Rapids junior Gabrielle Mason said the forum helped her form her own opinions about how she will vote in the upcoming elections. A first-time voter, she is currently registered in Isabella County.

For Mason, commitment to diversity is a key factor that will determine who she will vote for on Nov. 6. During public questioning, she asked the candidates about their goals for ensuring more diversity and inclusivity in the city; however, she felt some candidates "tip-toed" around the topic. 

"I think the only candidates who really answered my question were the candidates for probate judge and prosecutor," she said. 

Mason said she resonated strongly with probate judge candidate Stuart Black, who explained his commitment to mental health resources in the court system. He is running against Sara Spencer-Noggle, who plans to expand the existing drug treatment resources in the courts. 

With the two of them running, Isabella County will either have its first African American or first female probate judge, a prospect which excited Mason as an African American female.

In addition to topics of diversity, candidates were also asked how they will improve the relationship between CMU and the community. Many candidates agreed there is a divide between the university and city, and the two entities must work together to create stronger connections. 

As both a full-time resident of Mount Pleasant and a CMU student, Shane Guenin said candidates must admit the city is a college town to address this divide.

"I really think we need to stop pretending that we don’t know we’re a university town," said the Mount Pleasant junior. "We have more students that go here than full-time residents. As a full-time resident and student, I think it’s a mindset we need to start considering."

But even for students not registered to vote in Mount Pleasant, the forum was an opportunity to think about how they will vote in their hometowns. 

"As a student voter, I believe that it's very important to have the local candidates communicate with students on their campaign issues and platforms," said Traverse City junior Jake Hendricks. 

As SGA President, Hendricks pushed civic engagement as a key part of his own platform when running for election.

"Connecting students to the candidates by bringing them to SGA is powerful, and shows the students that their voice matters," he said.

For each local candidate, the bottom line was the same: they want to see students go out and vote.

"Use your power at the polls," city commission candidate Lori Gillis urged voters at the end of the forum. "Be the future that you want to see."