TRAVERSE CITY —
Neil Elmer complained to a Grand Traverse County Commissioner about how the board spends money, and was told if he didn't like it he should run for office.
So he did.
Elmer collected signatures over the weekend and joined dozens of first-time candidates and some old hands who waited to file candidacy paperwork on Tuesday prior to the 4 p.m. deadline. The Republicans and Democrats will appear on the Aug. 7 primary. Independent and third party candidates don't have to file until the summer.
"Obviously because of the way our economy is going, people like me are getting off their duff and doing something about it," said Elmer, a Long Lake Township resident who will take on incumbent Addison Wheelock Jr. "I'm retired now and I have the time to do this, and I should be doing something."
Open seats on two other county boards in the area also attracted a significant number of candidates.
Benzie County officials said candidates made Tuesday a busy day in the county clerk's office as they rushed to beat the deadline. Three county commissioners won't seek re-election, and eight new candidates will battle with the four incumbents to fill seats on the seven-member board.
Leelanau County will lose three commissioners. David Marshall, Richard Schmuckal and David Shiflett did not file for re-election to the seven-member board, said Clerk Michelle Crocker.
The open seat in District 6, now held by Marshall, attracted a crowded five-candidate field, including four Republicans and one Democrat.
Clayton Ball, a self-described "tea party" Republican from Cedar seeking the District 6 seat, said he wants the county to become more fiscally conservative.
"It seems like a lot of the spending just isn't controlled," he said.
Several other Leelanau commission districts are also contested, as is the treasurer, drain commissioner and county prosecutor.
All nine county commissioners in Antrim County will run again, and just three in districts 6, 7 and 9 will face challengers.
In Kalkaska County, Commissioner Stuart McKinnon survived a recall attempt last week and will face opposition in August, as do two other incumbents.
But one seat, now held by Commissioner Craig Wood, came up empty. No one filed to run in his district.
"Hopefully there's a write-in candidate, or it could be filled by someone with no party affiliation," said Kalkaska County Clerk Deborah Hill.
Grand Traverse County almost had an open county board seat when Commissioner Rob Hentschel jumped to the county treasurer race.
Charlie Renny of Paradise Township stepped in and won't have a challenger.
"I was a little surprised by that," Renny said.
Hentschel will join a crowded field of four Republicans seeking the $78,000 a year county treasurer's position.
There are also three candidates running for clerk, sheriff, and county drain commissioner. Two candidates each will face-off for register of deeds and county surveyor, while Bob Cooney emerged as the lone candidate for county prosecutor.
Commissioner Herb Lemcool of Garfield Township was the other member of the county board without a declared challenger.
Lizbeth Webster, a tea party-leaning Republican from East Bay Township who just wants to "stand up and be heard," will take on board chairman Larry Inman of Acme.
Commissioner Christine Maxbauer will face fellow Traverse City resident Ellen Koenig, and Commissioner Dick Thomas will have a challenge from Phil Scott of Mayfield Township.
Republicans Tom Kachadurian and Dan Lathrop will battle in District 1 for the right to take on Democratic incumbent Ross Richardson in November.
Kachadurian said he wants to help commissioners make tough financial decisions.
"They seem a little timid to me, and I'm not a timid guy," the Peninsula Township Republican said.
Staff writers Vanessa McCray and James Russell contributed to this report.