BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Some area residents recently expressed surprise and confusion to receive congratulatory notes from "Senator Jason Allen."
Allen, a Traverse City Republican, is a former state senator, but hasn't held that post since 2010.
He currently holds a state government post as Senior Deputy Director of Veteran Affairs, a job he's had for two years. A recent flurry of notes, digital messages and recorded calls from Allen to people around the community has proven puzzling to some.
"It's just odd," said Larry Inman, a Grand Traverse County commissioner. "He's not a state senator anymore."
State Sen. Howard Walker succeeded Allen, and said he wasn't aware of Allen's use of the title.
"I guess from my personal point of view that's his business; it doesn't grate on me," Walker said.
Allen initially defended his use of the title.
"I am a state senator," Allen said. "That is technically still my title."
Not so, said Robert Hickey, Deputy Director of the Protocol School of Washington, and author of one of the leading reference books on proper use of professional titles.
It's an acceptable courtesy to use former titles when the person clearly has retired, but not when they've traded one job for another, Hickey said.
"He's accepted a new job and his use of the old title is definitely misleading to the public," Hickey said.
Allen is not alone, Hickey said, noting Jennifer Granholm referred to herself as governor on a television show she hosted.
"There's only one governor and she's not it," Hickey said. "They are using the power of the office to get more attention, and that draws away from the people who are actually in office and their power to get done what we elected them to do."
Allen said no one previously had raised the issue with him. He said he'll stop referring to himself as Senator Allen.
Allen said he sends notes as a community courtesy, but some local Republicans contend he's setting the stage for another run for elected office.
The goal could well be a second stab at the 1st Congressional District seat in 2016, if U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek sticks to his plan to serve just six years.
"Jason Allen is starting to re-establish his political ties here ... and he's definitely going to try to succeed Benishek," said local Tea Party activist Jason Gillman.
Gillman, Inman, and Thomas Menzel, executive director of the Bay Area Transportation Authority, also think Allen might join the race for the open 104th state House seat that all three are eying in 2014.
"The House seat would position him to run when Benishek leaves," Inman said.
Allen, who's eligible to serve one more state House term, called the speculation "just a lot of idle chat."
He declined to discuss a future run for Congress and said his energy is focused on his current job.
"I'm very blessed to be here," Allen said. "We are changing people's lives."